Monday, December 31, 2012

Food Allergies in Housecat

Jack and Shadow

Who would have even thought that a house cat could have food allergies.  When we adopted Shadow several years ago, she was a wild stray who lived outside, eating whatever she could find.  Since then she's become a loving and sweet indoor-only house cat.  She's all black, but with a chocolate shine.  I love her black nose and toes. 

We discovered that Shadow got sick (vomited) whenever we fed her beef canned act food or gave her a piece of beef from our table.  She can eat any flavor dry cat food, dry food didn't seem to bother her before.  When she does eat beef or beef canned food, she immediately throws it up.  However, beef is one of her favorite things.  She's quick to steal steak right off our plates if we're eating in the living room and leave our plate unattended (such as if we go back into the kitchen for something).

Strange.  So, no beef for Shadow.  No biggie.

Then around Thanksgiving this year, I visited a new friend and met her two cats who are beautiful and slender.  She told me she only feeds them Buffalo Blue all natural dry food.  I thought about my three fat indoor cats who only seem to be getting fatter, and decided to put them on an all-natural, gluten-free, healthy diet of Buffalo Blue Wilderness cat food, too.  I tried multiple favors, including duck, chicken, salmon, and the one for mature cats. 

 Shortly after Thanksgiving I realized that Shadow started getting terribly sick, vomiting a lot.  This was much worse than when she ate beef.  But I wasn't letting her have any beef.  Hmmm.  When she vomited, she foamed from the mouth.  She heaved and vomited and continue to throw up white foam even after her stomach was long empty.  However, she didn't lose her appetite from being sick.  A few hours after being sick she'd go back and eat again.  I worried terribly about her.  Not to mention that I hated cleaning up after her.  During this time I swapped out the different flavors of Buffalo Blue Wilderness cat food, letting the cats try the different ones.  I was about to take Shadow to the vet, where I'm sure they would have done tests and x-rays and charged a pretty penny, but she wasn't sick all the time, it was just random, but frequent.  Definitely not normal.

And then finally, last night I realized that Shadow is allergic to the Buffalo Blue Wilderness Duck flavor food.  I watched her eat it and immediately get sick.  Before she gets sick her tongue gets "puffy" or numb or strange feeling, and she sticks her tongue out and makes strange noises with her tongue.  Evidently her tongue and probably throat swells just like a person with food allergies.  And then the horrible constant vomiting and foaming and gagging starts.  I quickly grabbed up the bowl of dry food.  None of the other cats are bothered by it.  Shadow likes it's flavor, just like she likes the flavor of beef.

Who knew that cats can have food allergies?  Evidently Shadow is allergic to beef and duck.  None of the other flavors of the Buffalo Blue cat food bothered her, and they seem to have many of the same ingredients, other than duck.  Shadow hasn't gotten sick at all today.  Eventually I'm going to re-introduce the other flavors of the Buffalo Blue cat food to her and see how she reacts.

I thought I'd share this realization that cats can have food allergies with my online friends, maybe this information can help someone else down the road.   

I hope everyone has a great year in 2013 and I hope we all continue to learn from our online community.  Thanks everyone for helping me so much in 2012!
Happy New Year! 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Leggy the Big-Combed Rooster

You know Sherlock and Errol, Lord B and Tuesday,
Don Juan and Muffin, Leopold and Hector,
But do you recall?
The most famous rooster of all? 

Leggy the Big-Combed Rooster
Had a very large comb.
Some say Leggy's not that bright,
Some even call him dumb.
All of the other chickens
Used to laugh and call him names;
They never let poor Leggy
Join in any chicken games.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve,
Santa came to say,
Leggy with your comb so large,
Won't you guide my sleigh tonight?

Then how the chickens loved him
The guineas also cried with glee,
Leggy the Big-Combed Rooster,
You'll go down in history.

For you see dear Leggy
Had a very magic comb
It had it's own GPS
To guide Santa's sleigh right home! 

Then how the chickens loved him,
The guineas also cried with glee,
Leggy the Big-Combed Rooster,
You'll go down in history!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Chicken with a broken neck?

Last night Cinnamon the hen wanted to sleep in the nest box.  But she's not broody.  She seemed to want to be warm and separate from the other birds, so I let her be.  This morning I noticed that she was standing off by herself in the pen and was listless.  I brought her inside and inspected her.  I think she has a broken neck!!!!

Her neck has a kink in it that didn't use to be there!  In the photo above she has her head and neck all down low so you can't see it.  She doesn't have much appetite, but she has eaten some canned cat food (seafood flavor).  Then after eating it appeared the food got stuck in her neck, didn't make it to her crop.  She straightened her head and neck and wiggled the neck and it has a huge kink that she wiggles around.  It's quite strange.  She's not dead, but appears to have a broken neck.

I massaged the neck, which she disliked.  I can feel a kink.  She will not drink, so I put her head down to a bowl of water and she threw up a little when I lowered her head.  Not doing that again.  Now I put droplets of water on her beak and she swallows it.  She's still eating, although not much.  We'll see how much longer she lives.  I'm giving her aspirin water and food and keeping her inside so the roosters don't try to take advantage of her.

Whatever you do, don't google image  chicken with a broken neck.  I got all sorts of photos about how to break a chicken's neck.

Many of my hens are getting old, so I expect to lose many of them in 2013, but I didn't expect them to be injured and die.  Such is life with chickens, I guess.  The rest of them appear to be doing well, other than Cinnamon.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 17, 2012

T'was the week before Christmas and all thru the farm...

So much time has passed since I last posted.  So much has been going on.  I work a day job, in addition to managing the farm.  And sometimes the farm takes second fiddle to the job that brings in the mortgage payment.  Luckily my husband is usually around to take care of the farm, in addition to his day job.

Since I last posted I traveled to three continents for work.  My job is very interesting and I love what I do.  And the travel is a bonus.  Right now I'm loving Italy, the food, the outgoing people.  I will never have pizza as good as real Italian pizza.

And then I returned to the farm, where the work awaits.  I found that Bonnie, one of the shelter hens, had a huge mass of poop stuck to her rear.  What the heck causes that?  It was hard and dried and huge.  I scooped her up, realized that she is one overweight chicken, and lugged her into the house.  She was obese when we got her from the shelter.  And so Bonnie had a bath in the sink.  A good long soak for 30 minutes.  She napped, she liked the warm water.  But the dried poop didn't come off, so I had to cut it off.  Now her soft and fuzzy butt feathers are all chopped. I'm not good at cutting feathers evenly.  But she's clean at least.  Immediately after I cleaned her she pooped a normal but large poop on my bathroom floor. That's her way of saying Thanks!

While I was dealing with Bonnie my sister Cheryl called, wanted to know how the overseas trips went.  I told her I had a hen on the bathroom floor who was needing a blowdry before returning to the coop.  She knows my passion for my birds.

Chloe hen is broody.  She had a good molt in the fall, then turned broody.  I have a welt on the back of my hand from pulling eggs out from under her yesterday.  I'm not letting her raise chicks right now, it's too cold for chicks.

The hens are laying good again, after most of them molted.  We're averaging 6 eggs a day.  Most of our hens are older now and are slowing down with the laying.  The 2 shelter hens are our best layers.  I'll have to check back and see if the shelter has anymore hens!

The guineas are all doing fine.  Today Randy had company, the and guineas enjoyed scoping out a new truck in the driveway.  Randy and the guys who were visiting went out in ATVs, leaving their white truck behind.  The guineas checked themselves out in the white shiny paint.  They love reflective surfaces so they can see themselves.  They inspected the wheels.  They circled the truck and announced it's presence.  Finally they accepted the truck and wandered off, although they didn't go far from the new visiting truck.  They wanted to keep their eye on it.

Last night the guineas decided they wanted to change roosting trees.  They chose an overgrown bush in the backyard to roost, right over top of a fox hole.  It was getting dark and they were all out in the bush singing their nighttime squawks.  I quickly went out with a flashlight and shooed them back to the big pine tree, which is much safer than the bush.  They are just not that smart.  The bush is not safe, provides no protecting from owls or hawks or raccoons, and the foxes will be waiting for them to fly down.

Randy starting putting birdseed outside on one of the windowsills to attract birds so the inside cats can watch.  The cats love to watch the birds during the day and the mice that come up to the outside sill at nighttime! 

Well, Christmas is literally around the corner.  I'm off to start writing out cards.  I'm so late this year!

I'll have to make a "T'was the night before Christmas" poem about the farm as my next post!  Stay tuned!  I have lots of ideas!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The answer is NO

Nope.  It didn't happen.
I was hoping to lose weight over Thanksgiving week.  What WASSS I thinking???
And so it didn't happen.  But, however, on a good note, I didn't gain any weight over the week either.  Yeah!  My mass remained the same.

And, I even baked these little lovely cupcakes...

[Insert picture of chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream icing]

Alas, I cannot upload anymore pictures.  Google has cut me off again.  I have been resizing my photos so that they are way tiny (in KBs) for like a year now, but I still cannot even upload a tiny photo anymore.

So you'll just have to trust me on the cupcakes, they were awesome.  I normally don't like chocolate, I'm not a huge chocolate fan.  I know, I'm nuts.  But this time I made chocolate and loved it.

And I made the Thanksgiving dinner, and pumpkin pie, which was yummy.  And apple crisp, which was even yummier.

I've been attempting to keep my portion sizes down, so I'm still eating like crazy, just not eating too much.  And this week I'm attempting to lose 2 pounds.  Maybe 3.  I always say that.  Maybe this week it will happen.

...Or maybe not.  No biggie.  I've got to have my goals!

Now I'm going to see how to increase my capacity with Google, so that I can upload photos to this blog again.  I've been watching others struggle with this, and watching how they've all succeeded.  My turn, I guess, to make this hurdle. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Is it possible to lose weight over Thanksgiving?

I recently returned from yet another trip.  I didn't think I ate terribly during the trip; however, the scale, my enemy, tells me I gained 2 pounds.  What's up with that?  I tell you, that ramen was worth it...

And now I'm facing Thanksgiving this week.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, in case I forget to say it later!

So, is it possible to actually lose weight this week?  Yes, I celebrate the traditional Thanksgiving, with turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes and pies and the whole nine yards.  I love Thanksgiving.  What can I do?  I don't think it's possible to not gain weight this week.  So I'll just have to work harder next week to lose it, right?

But I'd like to attempt to lose 2 pounds this week.  I don't like to procrastinate.  I want to get started right now on this weight loss thing.  I have been working on losing about 15 pounds forever, for at least a year, maybe longer.  I lose maybe 5 or ten pounds, but then I gain it all back.  I go on crazy diets, remember my fruit and veggie diet?  And then I eventually quit the diet and eat too many desserts.  I love desserts.  I love to bake, I love to eat them.  It's my downfall.

I even am doing Insanity, a cardio weight loss program.  I love it!  I'm not losing weight, but I am getting in better shape, better condition, if I can stick to it.  But when I do Insanity, I need to eat more for energy, if I don't eat I get very tired.  When I first started Insanity I thought it's ok to eat anything, I'm working out like crazy.  But a month later I found that's not true, I still need to watch my diet.  I actually gained weight while doing Insanity.  So now I'm doing Insanity and attempting to eat healthy.  It's tough.

Those KitKats are always calling to me.  Did you know they have over 200 flavors of KitKats in Japan?  My goal is to try them all...  Orange/citrus is my favorite, with hotcakes coming in second. 

See?  There's my problem, I love sweets!  I was raised with Tastykakes (sorry Hostess, I don't love you, goodbye).    I love to bake cupcakes and other desserts, I love to try out new recipes.  And that means I need to eat the desserts, just to taste them, you see.

Do other people out there have this problem?  Should I just stop baking?  Baking makes me happy.  I've slowed down drastically with baking, but Christmas is just around the corner, I see it coming fast.  That means making Christmas cookies...  There's so many kinds, I need to make them all, to see how they turn out...  It cannot be avoided.

Is it possible to lose 2 pounds over Thanksgiving week?  I'll let you know.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The case of the new washer and the lost septic tank

A little while ago I got a new washing machine.  Yeah!  Life is good.  However, when it drained, it drained all over the floor!  Not so good.  It was installed properly.  Hmmm.  A plumber was contacted and came out.  His diagnosis was that the septic tank must be full.  It was just a coincidence that this happened at the same time that we got a new washer.  Bazaar.

And so Randy rigged the washer to drain outside.  A long pipe now runs from the washer out a window to the backyard.  You must be a redneck if your washing machine drains into your backyard...  At least I was able to wash clothes.  Thank goodness I have no neighbors.  There were no other plumbing issues other than the drainage of the washing machine. Toilets all flush fine, showers don't back up, dishwasher doesn't back up. 

Our house is a few hundred years old.  Who knows when the septic tank and plumbing was installed; it wasn't built with the house but installed "aftermarket".  All we know is that it has probably never been cleaned and now it was due for a good cleaning.  We looked all around the house for the septic tank, of course there were no drains, no nothing symbolizing a tank was there.  We heard many stories - people told us we'd see the outline of the tank in the grass, the grass wouldn't grow well overtop the tank, or the grass would grow very well in the area.  So we looked for areas with lots of green grass or little green grass, for an outline of the tank in the grass.  There was nothing like that- the grass was even in the entire yard.

So we called a septic tank specialist - he advertised that he specialized in locating lost septic tanks.  He looked in the basement where the plumbing pipes run underground.  We determined they run directly underneath the back porch, then, who knows where they go.  He walked around the backyard with a drill with a very long, very big drill bit, and drilled all around.  An hour later he gave up on locating the lost septic tank.  He explained it could be anywhere in the backyard, even in the woods.  He said the septic tank was probably installed by the homeowners and neighbors at the time.  He recommended we start digging up the backyard with a tractor to find it.  Great. 

So, we started digging in our spare time after our work was done at our jobs.  Now that the sun sets so early this meant digging in the yard in the dark.  We didn't use the tractor, just a shovel.  We started digging small holes all around the back porch, looking for pipes or the tank itself.  Eventually we found a plumbing pipe about 2 feet down.  Then we had to follow the pipe, and it led to the discovery of the missing septic tank!  Yeah!!  The tank is made of concrete, and luckily it has a small lid that can removed for cleaning out the tank.  We didn't unearth the entire septic tank, just enough to expose the lid.  We called the septic tank specialist back; he was excited to hear about the discovery of the missing tank and is coming out tomorrow to clean it.  I guess we'll have to mark the area where the lid is located for future cleaning.  

And tomorrow I will hook up my washing machine again.  Who knew that getting a new washing machine would lead to such work.  Such is life in an old house.  Next I'll have to tell you about how the well ran out of water one day a few weeks ago...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Post Hurricane Post

This week's Hurricane Sandy visit certainly wasn't planned, but the farm survived with minimum damage.  We weren't in the direct path of the hurricane, as we are located in MD and the storm directly hit NJ, but it was a large storm and the hurricane force winds and rains certainly hit us.

Before the storm I went up to NJ to pick up my mother, who was in the direct storm path.  Mom could have stayed with my sister, but Barb had a full house and I had an empty house.  And Barb was also directly in the storm's path.  And so we all hunkered down last Monday waiting for the storm to hit us.  We prepared with lots of food and water and flashlights.  The animals and humans, too, were all fed early so no one would have to eat dinner in the dark - in case we lost power.

The full force of the storm started hitting us in the late afternoon, early evening on Monday night.  It had been raining sheets of rain off and on all day.  Then the winds really started rolling all the trees around.  We live in the midst of the woods, so we were concerned about trees falling.

Benjamin the outside cat was very upset all day on Monday.  He was running around like crazy all day, he wouldn't settle down.  Mon afternoon he wouldn't eat his dinner.  Brindle the other outside cat didn't show up for dinner Mon afternoon.  She must have been hunkered down somewhere in the woods.  Benjamin slept on our side porch that night, staying dry and safe.

The chickens were soaked from being out in the rain all day.  I cleaned their coop Monday and turned on the heat lamp inside the coop to dry them.  They all came inside the coop and lined up on the roost underneath the heat lamp, loving the warmth and the clean straw.  The temperatures had really dropped and it was downright chilly, especially when you were wet.  The hurricane force winds and rain were blowing into the little chicken door, the door going outside to the chicken pen.  I hurried Penny hen into the coop - she's always the last one in - and closed the little chicken door, keeping the wind and rain out.  Penny was soaked to the bone, but she quickly settled down on a roost.  Penny is the most animated chicken these days, she always makes me laugh.

The guineas were my biggest concern.  They all flew up into the little red maple tree - their current nighttime roosting tree.  At 8pm I went out into the storm to check on them.  The trees were all whipping with the gusting winds, the rain was cold and was driven sideways by the wind.  I could see the guineas clinging for all their lives to the tree branches as the wind whipped and the rain pelted them.  Guineas look so small when they are soaking wet.  The branches were flying up and down, the guineas were hanging on, heads down and straight forward.  It looked like they were riding a roller coaster.  Sometimes the branches even flipped upside down in the wind, birds clinging only with their feet.  The poor guineas got no sleep that night!

I found several guineas who fell out of the tree during the storm.  They were walking round on the ground in the dark.  If a fox were to find them they'd be goners.  Although a fox was unlikely to be walking by during a hurricane!  I grabbed them one by one, they screamed bloody murder and fought to get away.  I hung onto them and put them into the empty side of the chicken coop.  At least those guineas had a quiet and dry night in the coop.   I checked on the guineas several times throughout the night, looking for birds that fell out of the tree, but everyone else managed to hang on.

Come morning, the winds had quieted and the guineas all flew down to the ground.  I let the cooped birds outside.  The ones who stayed outside all night were still soaking wet and looked totally exhausted.  They barely walked.  The ones who slept inside were all refreshed and excited, but they stayed close to their brothers and sisters.  The guinea flock stayed real close to the house that day after the storm, recovering from riding roller coasters all night long.

We never even lost power from Hurricane Sandy, so we were very blessed and happy.  All the guineas survived, and Brindle returned the next morning, wet but hungry. Such is life on this little farm in the woods.

Friday, October 26, 2012

RIP Tommy

Too much has been going on here, too much to keep up with these days, it seems.  I'll jump right in...

This is a teary post, just a warning...

Well, I have some very sad news.  Its really hard to talk about still.  I had one of the stray cats, Tommy, put down this morning.  I took him to the vet for shots and a check-up - it appeared he had a cold.  He started sneezing.  The vet tested him and found him to have feline AIDS.  The vet explained that feline AIDS is like human AIDS, but only can be transferred to other cats.  She called it the fighting disease; she said it's most likely transferred when a cat is bitten.  Terribly, Tommy was bitten by Benji, another outside stray.  We had Benji tested when we got him his shots and Benji was negative for all diseases back then.  But if Benji bit Tommy, who had feline AIDS, then the vet said there's s good chance Benji will got gotten it.

Tommy was an amazing cat.  He was lean and tall, 11 pounds, all long legs and long tail.  He was jet black, shiny pretty black.  I called him Tommy Long-Legs.  I always said he was a black Siamese cat, as he looked Siamese, but was pure black with large slanted yellow eyes.  The vet said he was approx 5 years old, which was older than we thought.  He was such a calm cat, so gentle, so sweet.  He sat purring on my lap in the vet room as we waited for the test results.  He was calm as a cucumber.  The vet came back with the test kit that showed positive and explained my options as I cried.  She said we could keep a cat with feline AIDS, but it can spread to other cats by saliva and/or biting.  One of our indoor cats, Bobby, always plays rough with the other indoor cats, and Bobby has been known to bite them in his play.  And Benji the outside only farm cat always attacks Tommy and bites him.  the disease was bound to spread.  The best option was to have sweet Tommy Long Legs put to sleep.  I didn't want him to suffer for the remainder of his life.

The vet left and checked her databases for anyone who wanted a single cat.  A cat with feline AIDS can live happily in a single cat household.  I didn't remind her at that time that Tommy had a cold of some sort that probably was never going to get better.  Regardless, they could not come up for a home for Tommy.  And so I held Tommy while he was euthanized.  I rubbed his throat and he purred contently when he laid his head down on my hand.  I felt him purring as he stopped breathing.  It was one of the saddest things I've done.  Tonight when Randy comes home we will bury him.  Rest in peace, Tommy.

And next Benji will have to be tested again.  The stray cats keep showing up here, we don't ask for them.  Wish me luck in the future with Benji and Brindle.  And I promise my next post will be happy.  I'll talk about the chickens or something.  Or maybe I'll discuss the upcoming hurricane, or our well that recently broke and had to be replaced.  So much has been going on... 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

October Already!


There's always lots to discuss about life here on the farm, and I'm always short on time to talk, it seems!  So most likely this blog post will include lots of topics!

Guess what???  Remember that big fat hen that I got from the local shelter?  I named her Bonnie.  Big Bonnie.  She's laying eggs now!  Yeah for Bonnie!  Bonnie was abused before being picked up by animal control in the city.  I determined originally she was a farm hen, who was caged in the city.  Then she was let loose to wander the city streets.  Only thing, she was caged without being able to stand or walk and she lost the ability to walk much, she lost her muscle ability of her legs!  And animal control called me, and I took her home to my farm.  She loves the other chickens, she fit in well, easily accepting status as the lowest hen in the pecking order.  Thing is, she didn't care.  They picked on her, she just turned away.  She's not really even part of the pecking order.  She learned how to walk and even waddles a funny-looking run sometimes.  And the other hens stopped picking on her.  She eats side-by-side with the other hens and has gained enough strength to sit on the roost at nighttime with the other hens.  She's lost some weight.  And now, dear Bonnie has started laying eggs!  I thought she was too old.  I guess not, I guess she was too unhappy.  Now she's a happy bird and lays a medium-colored brown egg every day.  I'm so glad to have rescued Bonnie.


Pennie was the other shelter hen we rescued.  Only she was someone's spoiled house chicken.  She still loves to come into the house.  I used to bring her in the kitchen every now and then for an hour or so while I cooked.  She'd walk around, talking the entire time, would spill the cat's dry food bowls and drink the cat's water.  Only, last time I brought her in she ran from me when I attempted to catch her.  It was terrible.   It took me a very long time to catch her.  She didn't want to go back outside and fought me terribly to be free in the kitchen.  I felt bad for her.  She doesn't act sad to be outside with the other chickens, but she prefers to be inside the house, and that's not gonna happen, sorry Penny.  And so I stopped bringing her inside, it was just too hard to catch her last time.  I thought she was going to break a leg running from me!  She was slipping on the ceramic floor and sliding across the kitchen in her hurry to escape my grasp.  It would have been just terrible if she hurt herself trying to run from me!  Dear spoiled Penny.  Penny also lays a medium-colored brown egg every day out in the chicken coop.  Yes, Penny, you really are a chicken.

Tommy Cat

I saved the best news for last.  Tommy Cat has returned!  He was an outdoor cat who disappeared for months.  We thought he was dead, killed by a fox or hawk.  I searched the local shelter, no Tommy.  Then one day Randy saw Tommy come sneaking out of the woods, sneaking to the front porch, and the other stray male cat, Benjamin, attacked Tommy, making Tommy run away.  Randy realized that Tommy left because of Benji.  Benji must chase him away whenever he comes to eat.  Tommy is a lover, not a fighter.  Benji is more wild and doesn't like to be pet or hugged much.  Tommy prefers hugs and pets to food, and runs from Benji.  Hmmm, Benji is a guard cat, it seems.  It's good that he'll keep all the other stray cats away.  Benji likes Brindle, the female stray, but that's it; he only tolerates Brindle and nobody else.  Too bad for Tommy Cat.

And so Randy went out into the trees where he saw Tommy, and Tommy of course came to him for pets.  And the rest is history.  Tommy Cat now lives inside, away from mean Benji.  Every day Randy brings Benji in and locks Tommy and Benji together in the bathroom, often letting Benji stay in overnight - both cats locked in the small bathroom together.  He's trying to make them be friends - both are fixed male cats.  We don't plan on keeping Tommy inside forever, but I cannot imagine putting him back out in the cold at this time.  I really don't know what we are doing with Tommy, but I know Tommy loves being inside, he loves the attention, loves to sleep on the bed, and has made a fast adjustment from outside stray to inside spoiled cat.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Out of Space?

I've been attempting to post some photos lately, and Google now tells me I've used all my allotted space, and I must purchase more space on their servers to post more photos! 
What's up with that?
I figured I'd see if others had this issue, and what did you do about it? 
Previously I went back and deleted some photos from the blog to fix this problem...but this takes time.
To me, blogging is a way of sharing information with people that have the same interests or have had the same problems.  I've gotten so much guidance from others here, and I hope that I have provided guidance to others, too.
And then, of course, my problem is always time.  I don't post on the blog nearly as much as I'd like because I just don't have much time to spare. 
And now if I have to pay to blog, well, I just don't see that happening....

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Chloe's close call and Tommy update

In the last post I mentioned that Chloe the hen wasn't doing well.  Chloe was our lead hen.  She was #1 at the top of the pecking order before.  But now, not so much...

She had an almost white brittle comb that had flopped over, and her waddle was light-colored, too.  Her waddle and comb should be bright red.  She wasn't eating or drinking.  She stood off by herself all puffed up.  From the looks of her, I didn't think she was going to live much longer. 

I quickly brought her into the bathroom inside the house and lavished her with food and water and she had lots of rest time.  She chose to nest in a small space between a short trash can and the sink cabinet.  She spent much time in her improvised nest spot, and eventually laid a very weird egg shell mass.  I didn't get a photo of the mass; I wish I had photographed it now.  It was about 4 inches long and rubbery.  We cut it open - it was made of layers of rubbery egg shells.  My guess is that she was having laying problems and that mass got stuck inside her reproductive system and she couldn't pass it.  She's starting to go through the chicken change of life, and she isn't laying much if at all anymore.

Once she laid that egg shell mass, she immediately became perky and started doing better.  Her comb and waddle started turning red again.  She walked around much more and stopped being all puffy.  Two days after she was well enough to return to the flock. 

Many of our older hens have stopped laying now.  We have 15 hens and get 4 eggs a day.  These older hens will live out the rest of their lives here on the farm in peace.  They have become like pets, I cannot put them down just because they stopped laying. 

Chloe on the road to recovery
Tommy update ~
 This week I went to the local animal shelter to see if our missing stray cat, Tommy, may have been picked up.  I seriously doubted that he'd be there, Tommy never wandered far from the farm.  I asked to see all their cats to look for Tommy.  I was led to room after room of cats. All the cats were separated into different areas for different reasons.  The cats were all calling out to me, begging me to choose them.  I spoke to them all.  I saw cats that were in the sick room, with runny eyes and noses.  They didn't feel good and didn't care about being friendly to me.  I saw cats that were awaiting medical attention, who were in cages in the hallway outside the clinic.  I saw the cats who had just been picked up and brought to the shelter, they were scared and hiding.  I saw cats who had been there a while - they begged for attention and rolled upside down so I'd laugh and reached out their paws to grab me.  I visited the cats in the front room, a room where the lucky cats get to roam free and people can enter and play with them.  I saw the kittens, some kittens were so tiny they needed a mama cat, but they had none.  There were so many cats of all kinds and colors, it was amazing.  But - there was no Tommy. 

I left the shelter with a respect for the people that run it and work there.  There were so many cats.  And I just looked at cats.  I bet there were just as many dogs, but they were all totally separate from the cats.  Everything was clean and the place was so organized.  It broke my heart, I couldn't work there, but I have a renewed respect for the caring people who do work there.

I also checked the chicken section - no chickens at the shelter right now!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Update on travels and farm activities

I have been away on travel for my job recently, just returned last night.  Guess where I went?  I wont keep you guessing this time...  The following info is from a quick Wikipedia check, along with photos that I took.

Here's Zoltar the fortune teller, made famous in the Big movie.  But this one wasn't in NJ like in the movie, it was on the Venice Pier in Venice, Los Angeles, CA.

Venice is a beachfront neighborhood on the Westside of Los Angeles, California. It is known for its canals, beaches and circus-like Ocean Front Walk, a two-and-a-half mile pedestrian-only promenade that features performers, fortune-tellers, artists, and vendors. Venice was home to some of Los Angeles' early beat poets and artists and has served as an important cultural center of the city.

Here's the intersection of Hollywood Blvd. and Vine Street.  The intersection in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, became famous in the 1920s for its concentration of radio and movie-related businesses. The Hollywood Walk of Fame is centered on the intersection.  Today, not many production facilities are located in the immediate area. One of the few remaining is the Capitol Records Tower to the north of the intersection.
The intersection is located in ZIP code 90028.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame consists of more than 2,400 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalks along fifteen blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street in Hollywood, California. The stars are permanent public monuments to achievement in the entertainment industry, bearing the names of a mix of actors, musicians, directors, producers, musical and theatrical groups, fictional characters, and others.

Here's John Wayne's star:

And Michael Jackson's star.

I have more photos, but I wont bore you with all the Hollywood glitz.  It was a fun trip, but alas, now I'm back on the farm, where nothing slows down just for a second.
Latest news: FOUR, yes 4, of our dark colored baby guineas have been killed by what we believe is a a Northern Goshawk.  We now have 14 baby guineas and 5 adults.  Some of the babies are as big as adults now.  The Northern Goshawk is a type of hawk, and very sadly, is listed as endangered in the state of Maryland.  Randy finally saw the hawk this morning hunting the smaller guineas.  It only kills the smaller ones and takes away their bodies, it does not eat on site.  I don't know what to do about this situation.  
On yet another sad note, our stray cat named Tommy hasn't been sighted in 4 days.  He used to eat at our house twice a day every day.  Now we only have Benjamin and Brindle and occasionally Jerry visit, who are all stray cats.  Tommy was my favorite outside cat, he was so sweet and calm and loved to be pet and sit in laps.  I was planning on finding a home for him before winter, as he would have made a great housecat.  
Here are some photos I took last June of Brindle and Tommy drinking milk and Tommy in the yard.  I miss that TommyCat.  He is tall and slender, has an Egyptian cat face.  I thought he was beautiful. 

Chloe the hen isn't acting right, she's been standing off by herself.  Our hens are getting older and I don't expect a few of the older ones to make it through the winter this year.  I'll have to give Chloe some extra treats tonight.
And to attempt to end this post on a cheerful note...This afternoon I was out with the chickens and I had a Diet Pepsi can in my hand.  All the hens begged to peck the shiny can.  And then, although I knew I shouldn't, I poured some diet Pepsi on the ground and made a small puddle of Pepsi. All the hens had to taste it, and they all ran off shaking their heads in disgust.  Except for Penny, the former house hen.  She gobbled the Diet Pepsi, she couldn't get enough of it.  She wasn't able to drink much before it was absorbed into the ground, but she loved what little taste she got.  She's such a goofball.  Maybe her former owners fed her soda, as she was a house hen, after all.  Who knows with her, I bet she lived off McDonald's scraps and Pepsi.  She lived in the city in someone's house in her former life and even still she prefers to be inside the house with me than outside with the other chickens.  Silly bird.         

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Guinea Keets are Free!

On Labor Day Monday we released our 18 young guineas into the wilds.

Young Guinea Flock

Previously the young guinea keets were penned with the chickens, where they were raised.  The 5 adult guineas roamed free.  It was time for the baby guineas to roam free and eat bugs, too.  The adult guineas had been spending a lot of time at the chicken pen fences watching the babies.  The babies are teenagers now.  Some of them are pretty large, and some are pretty small in size still.  We noticed the adult guineas and the babies were talking back and forth through the fence; they all seemed to get along.

This sounded really simple.  We opened the chicken pen gate and let the young guineas walk out.  The adult guineas were there to greet them.  However, it wasn't a happy greeting.  The adults chased and attacked the babies and bit them.  Quickly they separated, babies on one side of the yard, adults on the other.  The adults males kept running to the baby guinea side and randomly attacking babies.  The adult guineas wouldn't let the young guineas anywhere near the guinea feeding/watering area. 

The young guineas were very excited to roam free and attempted to ignore the adults.  They mostly stayed in a flock of 18, all walking around as one, in a tight group.  Sometimes a few would wander from the flock as they ate bugs, and as soon as they realized they were separated they would scream and the other young guineas in the flock returned their screams and they found each other.  They will not leave even one guinea behind, away from the flock of 18.  I like how they look out for each other.

The baby guineas scream all the time.  A guinea scream is loud and annoying.  The babies scream at everything, as they are learning what is safe and what is not.  Our property is very loud now.  I have no idea if a fox is out attacking them, because it always sounds like a fox is out there, with all the screaming.  Maybe the noise has kept away predators, as we have not lost any guineas this week!

The first night the guinea babies were free we herded them into the chicken pen in the evening and all was quiet.  On the second night it was pure chaos at nighttime.  I rushed home from work a little late, and when I got here the adult guineas were chasing the babies all over the yard, running like crazy.  The sun was setting, I didn't have any time to waste, I had less than 30 minutes.  Once it got dark I'd never find the babies and they'd spend the night in the woods on the ground, very easy prey for night monsters.  I had assumed the babies would fly into a tree to roost, but I guess they didn't get that message.  They forgot they can fly.

The babies were all separated, two here in front of the chicken coop, three there beside the chicken pen, a few way behind the chicken pen, a few in random bushes around the yard, and the rest running like cheetahs as an adult guinea chased them back and forth across the yard and down the street.  Everyone was screaming as loud as they could.  As it got darker and darker out the guinea babies got more and more hysterical.  They were scared, panic-stricken, out of control.  I caught a few guinea babies by hand, which is very hard to do, and threw them in the chicken pen.  One of them bit me.  Hard.  He was hysterical, thought I was killing him, I guess.  It was getting dark and they are blind in darkness.  Some of them who were near the chicken pen gate I herded into the chicken pen.  I climbed through heavy vines in my work clothes and shoes and gathered up the keets who were lost in the thick woods and herded them up to the chicken pen gate and got them in.  And then I had to ambush the ones that were being chased by adult guineas.  I had to wait until they were dashing by at a million miles an hour, dive out from behind a bush between the adult and the baby, separating them and distracting them from their concentrated chase.  And then I'd herd the hysterical baby guinea into the chicken pen.  The babies lost their minds, they thought they were going to die, they were running head-first into fences, not doing anything rationally.  If only they knew they could fly, but they forgot, it seemed.  Finally I got all the babies into the chicken pen shortly after it got super dark outside.  I was using a flashlight.  Chaos.  The adult guineas quickly flew up into their roosting tree all happy.  Damn birds!  I was not happy.  I was sweating like a pig underneath my business suit, which was covered in mud and spiders (spiders make their webs in the evenings in the woods) and my work shoes were covered in mud.

The next night and all subsequent nights the baby guineas were all waiting calmly nearby the chicken pen gate, and it was easy to herd them in.  One of us makes sure we are home before it gets too dark, before chaos begins.  Now the guinea babies spend nights in the chicken pen and days as free birds in a flock of 18.  Slowly it seems the adult guineas are accepting the babies more.  One of the male adult guineas stays with the baby flock much of the time, only chasing occasionally.  If only everyone can get along!    

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Update on shelter hen

Bonnie in the center, with guinea keet on left and Muffin on right

The new shelter chicken has officially been named - - - - - Bonnie! 

Let me back up in case you don't know who I'm talking about.  Bonnie is a hen we adopted from the local animal shelter a week ago.  She was in the shelter in a large cage for a week before we picked her up.  The cage was large enough for her to walk around in - a person could walk around in there.  But when we got her, Bonnie could hardly walk.

It seems Bonnie was confined and was not allowed to walk at her last home.  And then for some unknown reason she was released into the city streets of Washington DC to wander free.  And she was picked up by animal control.  Because of her confinement, Bonnie lost all her foot and leg strength.  Obviously her owners only wanted her for her eggs.  Also because she got zero exercise, Bonnie was terribly overweight.  She wore out quickly after little exertion.

Bonnie in center

After 2 weeks of being able to walk around, Bonnie is gaining some strength in her legs and feet and wears out less quickly.  She has great willpower.  For the last week she sat by a fenced door looking out into the chicken pen, watching the other chickens, talking to them.  All she wanted was to be with them.  I carried Bonnie out to the chicken pen a few times and let her attempt to walk around, and she did fine around the other birds.  Friday I carried her out and was letting her get some exercise, and she was doing so well and seems so happy that I decided to let her stay outside in the chicken pen with the other chickens and guinea keets.  I was going to wait until nighttime and let her roost with the other chickens and release her Saturday morning, but Bonnie really wanted to stay free. 

And - this is where it gets really sad.  I quickly realized that before Bonnie was confined to a caged prison where she couldn't move for a very long time (I'm thinking she was locked up many months or even a year to get in such bad shape!), she was with other chickens and was in a coop and walked free.  Bonnie totally got along with the other chickens.  She saw holes in the dirt and instantly knew to roll in the dirt without hesitation.  She walked up the little ramp into the chicken coop as soon as she saw it.  Other chickens had to be taught to walk up the ramp.  Bonnie knew what the ramp was.  She happily got up on a roost in the chicken coop before bedtime.  She knew to go into the coop at nighttime and knew what a roost was.

Bonnie in center, Freckles right

I'm comparing Bonnie's behavior to the other shelter hen, Penny.  Penny never was around other chickens and it was obvious.  She struggled learning the basics, like how to roost, how to walk up the ramp, how to just be around other birds.  She still prefers to be alone.  Bonnie is just the opposite of Penny.

This is sad.  This means this was a normal free chicken that someone took from a farm and caged and abused.  I'm wondering if she stopped laying and that's why she was released.  She hasn't laid an egg in over 2 weeks now.  Worse, was she replaced?  Is there another poor hen in a cage right now?  The shelter staff didn't know where Bonnie came from, just knew the neighborhood where she was found.   

I really like Bonnie hen now that I've gotten to know her, and it breaks my heart that anyone would abuse a living creature.  I guess, what did I expect getting animals from the local shelter?  Of course they may have been abused.  I was lucky that the first hen I got (Penny)  was someone's inside pet and was spoiled rotten.  Now Bonnie will live the rest of her life at our farm, never to be caged again.  Poor Bonnie has had a tough life for a chicken. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Chicken Update


Penny the former house chicken is doing fine. She gets along fine with all the other chickens. She has no problem standing side-by-side with them when I give them treats. She still lays an egg every single day, has never skipped even one day. She comes running right to me when I go out to the chicken pen, begging me to pick her up. She's used to attention. And I spoil her. I pick her up and bring her into the kitchen when I have time, which makes her very happy. She looks at everything on the floor to determine if it's edible. If it was up to her she'd live in the house without any other chickens.
New Hen
The new shelter hen, who still is nameless, is also doing fine.  I call her Big Girl.  Surprisingly, she appears to have lost some weight in the past week since she's lived with us.  She's been locked in the infirmary coop; we haven't let her loose with the other chickens because we wanted to ensure she was healthy first.  She had a very hard time walking when we got her.  She would only take a few steps before she had to stop.  But now she's walking normally all over her coop.  She's now able to jump up into nestboxes.  But she has not laid even one egg.  I gave her another chicken's egg, which made her very happy.  She looked and looked at it, turning her head around to look at it with the other eye.  She made happy chicken sounds when she was looking at the egg.  I put a couple plastic eggs in the nestbox that she sits in every day to encourage her to lay.  Maybe she's too old to lay?  Maybe that's why her former owners let her loose into the city streets?  She has learned to eat chicken food.  The first couple days she wouldn't eat, but now she eats just fine.

New hen looking outside at other birds and Virginia in the nest box

We bring in other birds to visit the shelter hen.  One of our hens, Virginia, really gets along with the new girl just fine, so Virginia has spent a few days in the coop with her.  We are planning on putting the new hen into the coop tonight to roost with all the chickens, and letting her live with the other chickens starting tomorrow.  I'll have to keep a close eye on her to ensure she isn't picked on too much and I'm sure I'll have to assist her with the chicken proceedings, like how to leave the coop out the little chicken door in the mornings and how to come back into the coop in the evenings.  And then we'll have to work out an overnight roost spot for the new girl. 

Every chicken has a specific spot where they like to roost at night.  We have roosting posts put up in the chicken coop where all the chickens sleeps.  Muffin the lead rooster calls everyone into the coop when the sun goes down, and everyone gets onto their roost spot.  Only Penny stays out until the last minute, rushing into the coop after it's already dark outside.  Penny had a tough time picking out her own spot on her first night in the coop, I had to choose a roost spot for her, and she still always sleeps in that same spot.  Penny is such a good girl - she appears to be so smart, repeating what I show her immediately.  Hopefully it all goes as smooth for the new hen. 

While I was outside taking these photos of the chickens the adult guineas came running to greet me, so I had to photograph at least one of them.  This is our white male guinea.

At last but not least, here's Benji, who followed me to the chicken coop.  He was watching over my actions and watching over the guineas and chickens, as he the lead farm cat around here now.  When I took this photo Benji was watching the white guinea.  The guineas like to chase Benji.  They chase everything.  They even try to chase me.  Benji waits until the last second to run from the guineas.  As soon as I walked away the white guinea chased Benji and Benji ran up to the house beside me.