Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chicken surprise

Yesterday was market day, and I am out at the break of dawn taking care of the animals.  I'm always in a hurry because I have to wait for daylight to open the Moop, but the market opens at 7 am and I like to get there as early as possible with the raw milk deliveries. 

When I got home from market late afternoon yesterday, I saw that the lid from the plastic tote holding the chicken feed was flipped onto the ground.  There were chicken tracks in the feed, and a couple of droppings that I had to remove.  Then when I walked over to the feeders, I realized that I had forgotten to add feed to them in my rush to get chores done that morning. 

What I want to know is how a bunch of chickens managed to get that tote lid off.  It was a snap on lid.  All I can figure is that Androo, my new intern, didn't snap it on tightly when he closed it up on Friday morning.  I just cannot believe that a three pound chicken could get that lid up any other way.  And even then, what a feat!  My chickens are truly super chickens - surviving Tashi attacks, kestrel attacks and a forgetful mother!!

And to my delight, I found six - count 'em, SIX - eggs in the nest.  That is six eggs from 10 hens.  It is the first time they have laid at a rate higher than 50%.  Shall I let them self feed from the tote on a daily basis?  Maybe I have something here!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


My cousins and sister from Chicago came out to visit on Monday.  I didn't know what they would think of my lifestyle.  We were all raised on farms, but the two cousins live in beautiful houses, very neat and clean.  There is no way I can make this place look neat and clean, even for a six hour visit!  Just too much going on here.  But my worries about what they would think were ill founded.  I forgot how important eating is to all of us.

The centerpiece of my kitchen is a butcherblock counter with four stools around it.  I was laying out the stuff for lunch bit by bit, and was going to clean the dining room table of seed packets and catalogs and lay out my great grandmother's Limoges china for our lunch.  The potato soup had just started to simmer - potatoes and onions from my garden, milk and cream from the cows, homemade butter.  There were deviled eggs, the hens' contribution, circling pickled hot peppers that I canned in September.  Two bottles of wine were breathing, and the homemade Gouda and Colby cheeses were coming to room temp on the cheese board.  Homemade Boursin cheese was ready to go.  And have you ever added a dollop of sweet, hot jalapeno jelly on creamy herb and garlic filled Boursin, liberally spread on homemade crostini?

In came sister Kay, Sharon and Ruth Ellen.  They did not make it past the butcher block.  They sat down and started tucking in.  Soup came later, when it was finally done, and I remembered to cut some thick slices of deer sausage, made from a deer that lived here on this farm, to complete our lunch.

For dessert, we had home canned apple slices and pears topped with Greek yogurt.  Add a sprinkle of cinnamon and some walnuts, and it's the food of the gods.

We did eat on Great Grandma Ploch's china, but it was as we sat on the stools in the kitchen.  The seeds never did get moved from the dining room table, and no one cared.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Not Tashi - at least not all of them

I just scared off a kestrel that was attacking a hen.  The hawk was smaller than the hen, but fierce!  I was almost on top of him before he let her go and flew off.  Buster (the rooster) alerted me that something was wrong or he would have finished her off for sure.  The chicken he was attacking is in the cage in the basement, but she looks pretty bad.  I don't know if she will make it.  So much death.   I will try my best to save her. 

Yes, Tashi got a couple, but not all.  Tashi is doing very well around the chickens.  I am letting her out alone (with the shock collar on) a couple of times a day.  Of course, she is always where I can see her.  I think she will be able to stay here with us on the farm.

My free range chicken experiment will have to cease.  Not much I can do in this weather, but I am going to have to build a permanent pen for them.  I viewed them as fly eradicators when I got them, but I feel so differently about them now.  The thing I like best is how chatty they are, with me and with each other.  I will do what I have to do to make a home for them. 


I just checked the hen.  She is on her feet and clucking, but there is a lot of blood.  I gave her some vinegar water.  That is all I can do for now.  Buster started squawking again and I went outside in time to see the hawk flying away.  I did a head count and could only find nine.  There should be ten, plus the one in the pen downstairs.  It was hard to believe he could have carried one off, but I couldn't find her.  They wandered back to the Moop and into the trees that surround it, where I know they will be safe.  When I went into the Moop to finish my count, there was #10, inside.  And three eggs in a nest.  She must have been inside doing her thing while all of the excitement was happening in the yard by the garden.

Another update:

The kestrel was back for a third time.  I was out in the barn helping with Lucy when I heard Buster squawking again.  I ran out of the barn in time to see the hawk on top of a chicken.  He flew off.  What am I going to do?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tashi training

Today Tashi goes to the vet for her shots.  She has been accepted by an animal rescue group who will take her.  She will run with a pack, and they have a lot of freedom.  The dogs sleep unsupervised at night in their little cabins with their pack.  I was worried about Tashi being an Alpha dog, but Kayla told me that they will muzzle dogs who get a little too enthusiastic.  They are a "no kill" operation, and their adoption requirements are very high, so I am assured that she will go to a good home.

However . . .

I have gotten plenty of advice on how to break her, and one woman who trains Australian shepherds says she has broken them of killing chickens.  Here is the hopeless optimist coming to the fore.  I am giving it one more try.  She said to take a spritz bottle of vinegar water out with her, keeping her on a very long leash so that she can get close to the chickens without realizing she is on the leash.  Then if she makes a move towards them, you yell "leave it" and spritz her in the face with the vinegar water.  Alternatively you can throw a beanbag at her head while you yell "leave it."  I asked about using my shock collar.  She was against it, said they know you are pushing the button.  What, she won't know I spritzed vinegar water in her face?  Or what about the beanbag?  Anyone who has watched me toss a ball would know that the odds of the beanbag landing on her head are about one in a thousand.  Again, she wouldn't know I tossed the beanbag?  And if I missed her, she would think it was a game - let's pick up the beanbag and take it back to mom so she can toss it again!  Yay, what fun!!

Are you following me on this?  The shock collar is out of the cupboard and around her neck.  She is on a long leash, and we are going outside with shock collar on.  But it wouldn't matter if that leash was a hundred feet long - when she is on a leash, she is not going ANYWHERE near those chickens!  She has gotten the message!!  So I have not had the opportunity to call out "leave it," the magic words.  Obviously I don't want to say them when she isn't heading towards a chicken!

This afternoon I am taking her out with the collar but no leash, when the chickens are close to the house.  Hopefully I will have the opportunity to use the "leave it" command and reinforce it with a teeny tiny shock if she does not immediately respond.  And if she does, then the treats are in my pocket.

Tashi and I are going to work through this.  Wish us luck.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The continuing saga of Tashi

So far, I have not had a taker for Tashi.  We have gotten into a routine, and it is one that I am wondering if I could live with.  Tashi is a house dog during daylight hours, but while the chickens are buttoned up in the Moop, she is free to roam.  This evening she went all the way down the lane to the neighbor's house and was gone about a half hour.  I guess she needed to run - she is a fast dog, and one that likes to be busy.  So she made the most of her time outside.  I had a meeting this evening, and when I got home and opened the door, she wandered outside for just a few minutes, then came back in.

I still have hopes the a proper home will come available for her.  Someone suggested offering her on Freecycle, but I don't think I can do that.  I want to know the family who takes her, and trust that they will continue with her annual shots, give her her heartworm pill monthly and apply her tick medicine during tick season.  If the person who takes her is a total stranger, not a friend of a friend, not someone who might let me visit her from time to time, than how can I be sure of her care?  I can't bear the thought of her living on the end of a chain.  That is something I have never understood - why do people have a dog if they are not allowed to communicate with their owners - or if they don't want a house dog, then why the chain?  Put up a fence and let them roam free, even if it is just in a small backyard.

Tashi needs wide open spaces.  I wish it had worked out here.  She loves this farm, swims in the pond, wades through the little river to roam the 15 acre wood at the back of my property.  How I wish she had not added herding chickens - and playing with them until they are dead - to her list of things to do.  Sigh . . .

Maybe tomorrow the right person will contact me.  In the meantime, I am loving her to pieces while I still have her.  Double sigh . . .

Tonight, there are still 11 chickens, and by the way, egg production has doubled since Tashi is not allowed outside while they are roaming around.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I am hopeful . . .

I've been advertising my Tashi everywhere I could think to do so.  There have been several nibbles, and a couple in particular that I think would provide great homes for her.

I know she needs to go.  She is very unhappy having to be inside all day.  Since she can only go out when the chickens are buttoned up in the Moop, she doesn't get to run around in daylight hours.  She doesn't stay out long in the dark.

Tonight, she decided to sit on my lap and lick my hand.  She has never done this.   Dogs are intuitive, and I fear she knows I am giving her away.  How I wish I could keep her, but some things just cannot be . . .

Friday, January 15, 2010

I am heart sick . . .

I am putting out an appeal in the hopes of finding Tashi a new home.  I've posted to the many boards I am on, and was so hoping I would find good news when I opened my email this morning.  I got many notes from people saying how they would love to take her, what a great dog she is, but . . .

Tashi killed another chicken yesterday, almost got two more.  One chicken escaped into the calf pen.  Tashi can't live here anymore.  Everything I read says she has become a full-fledged chicken killer, and she will not be changed.  She is a great dog, just not in a family with chickens.  My friend Kayla works with animal rescuers and is working through her network to see what she can find.  In the meantime, my poor Tashi has become a 24/7 house dog.  My anger towards her is gone.  I am just holding her and petting her and telling her she is going to get to go to a new home. 

I just put the chicken she mauled yesterday into the compost heap, after trying to revive her last night.  I kept her wrapped in warm towels, thought I saw some eye movement, but she was probably already dead before I went to bed. 

I am a hopeless optimist, not just with reviving chickens, but also about finding Tashi a home.  Maybe one of you readers know of someone who might be looking for a loving dog.  Here is more about her. Tashi

I am so hoping she finds a loving home.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Where does the time go?

Every day I think that I will get that blog entry written.  I guess thinking I'm going to do it somehow equates with having done it.  Here it is already the 12th of January, and I have only written three entries for the month.

It isn't because I don't have anything to write about.  Lots happening here.  I guess that is sort of like the time/money thing - when you have money, you are usually working so hard you don't have time to enjoy it, and when you have time on your hands, it just may be because you got laid off and don't have any money.  Around here, when things are hopping and there is much to write about, I don't have the time - unless insomnia sets in - and when I have extra time on my hands, it is because nothing is going on, at least nothing worth writing about.

So this morning, instead of getting through a list of printing that I need to get done, I'm writing to all of you about what is happening here.

Weather - The snow is coming down, just like last winter, but so far without the subzero temperatures, for which I am VERY thankful.  The cold snap that was forecast for Saturday and Sunday just didn't happen.  :)  But that snow!  I go out to the Moop several times a day, and now it is extra work because of wading through a foot of snow.  It is a little better now that the chickens and I have cut a path through it.  Three of the chickens use it to get to the garage as soon as they hear the garage door go up!  One of them, I am quite sure, is Henny Penny.

Chickens - Have you ever tried to herd a hen?  In the snow?  A hen that wants to stay just where she is?  Last Friday I wanted to get to our women's potluck at a reasonable time - you know, 15 minutes late instead of 45.  All of the chickens were in the Moop save one.  I found her in the garage, of course.  Another  Chicken Merry-Go-Round !  We went round and round the Prius, until finally I got her on her way towards the Moop.  Did she take the nice beaten down path?  Of course not!  She went through small trees and snow that was over the top of my boots.  She had the advantage of being able to fly when it got too deep for her, but several times she sank a good foot deep into the light snow.  Finally, with much clucking and indignation, she got into the Moop.  I was a little over a half hour late for the potluck, but what's new?

Cows - Lucy is doing so much better, but it is very slow going.  She was really swollen this time.  The affected quarter of her udder was as tight as a drum.  Last night I was so gratified to feel it loosening up a bit.  I could feel many lumps, which is to be expected given her condition, and it meant that the overall swelling was down enough to make them detectable.  But it is going to be many more weeks of hand milking her at night, I think, until that quarter is ready to be machine milked again.  And of course it means we are losing that milk every day.  The main thing, though, is keeping it milking.

Pets - Tashi is doing well with the chickens.  I suppose I will get some pushback from a reader or two, but I got out the shock collar.  I took her on the leash to the Moop, and when she got close to the door, I commanded "Stop!" and used the collar.  Just once.  And the only time the word "stop" is used is when she is anywhere near the Moop or a chicken.  I am pleased to say that she is walking through the garage when there are chickens in it and leaving them entirely alone.  I still put the collar on her when she goes out, and I check her from the window from time to time, but all seems to be well.  And I have only had to use the "stop" command on her twice.  She responded immediately both times.  She also is quick to do "down" now, something that she always hesitated to do on command.  Bear is hanging in there, amazingly, happy and a joy to me in her 16th year.  Ayn Chee is behaving better after some time in the "time out" cage.  Holly Berry is on a tear!  Don't quite know what her problem is, but she is definitely in attack mode!  Her mom was a feral cat, and even though Holly was taken from her when only six weeks old, I fear there is some genetic stuff going on.  She is also having fun opening the automatic door.  When I am working in the soap room, I hear that thing opening again and again!  She goes outside, then immediately comes back in.  She ran it so many times when I first got her that she broke the pulley!  I fear it is on its way to happening again.  Sigh, cats do require a little extra entertainment!!

Well, that's about it from the farm today.  Hope I haven't bored you with all these little details of my life, but they are what keep me so busy.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Lucy update - third edition, and other stuff

Lucy milked the best tonight that she has since this latest incidence.  I was despairing of seeing a good stream of milk - and then all of a sudden she started to milk out.  Her udder is feeling slightly softer, too, so that is good news.

The chickens had their first zero egg day.  It's been colder than it was today.  I don't know what their problem is.  Maybe this is in protest of what Tashi did to one of the girls.  I told them to get with the program!!

I took it easy today, stayed away from my business paperwork, read through a couple of low carb books - old news, but I often need reminding.  The holidays presented too many temptations, and I succumbed - frequently. 

My back bedroom finally got emptied out - I sold a set of bunk beds that were not getting used - and I set up my gym.  No excuses now!  I get a lot of exercise, but it is not always well balanced, so now the weight bench is there, and the Nordic Track is set up, and my pilates trainer is pulled out from under the bed.  Like I said, no excuses!! 

Friday, January 8, 2010

Lucy update - second edition

Lucy is not doing at all well.  She has developed an infection in the quarter with the injured teat.  Lucy's injury  I have been hand milking that quarter each morning, with Kathy's help.  She gets Aspercream on that quarter as well as organic yarrow cream on the end of the teat.  I've given her a couple of Vitamin C shots, but she is not like Rosie, and after two broken needles (thank goodness they didn't break in her flesh), I am giving up.  That is about the only care we can give her.  I think we may lose that quarter after all.  It is slow going, and the quarter just isn't loosening up.

I am milking her in the afternoons only now, since it doesn't seem to make much difference, and she milks a little better when the milker is on her.  No  "auto milking" like she did a few weeks after all this happened.  It was too far gone before we noticed it this time.

It makes me sad that we worked so hard with her and saved a quarter that every farmer I talked to told me never happens, only to have this flare up.

Henny Penny is doing fine.  Tashi chased chickens again yesterday.  We are working on it.  I found a good site on the internet about training dogs not to kill chickens.  She is a good dog.  It isn't as if she is a wholesale killer.  I read about dogs that killed 35 chickens, things like that!  That is not my Tashi.  We will work this out so that she can live in harmony with them.  I fear that my loss of three chickens was not from being egg bound - well, perhaps one of the three.  It appears it may have been Tashi.  Sigh  . . .

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Henny Penny & Tashi

Henny Penny?  Who is Henny Penny?

If you've been reading my blog, you know who Tashi is - a mixed breed dog that definitely has some Australian Shepherd in her.  She loves to herd the cows.  Once she saw me shooing the chickens out of the garage, she made it her mission to keep them out.

She has chased chickens ever since she laid eyes on them, but she gets within ten feet of them and calls it a day.  She is quite satisfied if she can get them excited enough to fly up in a tree.

But I noticed that she has become a little more aggressive lately.  Monday evening, when Lyn stopped to get her milk, she told me she had rescued a chicken from Tashi.  I pooh-poohed it, telling her she does it all the time, and that she won't hurt them.  I went back to milking.

About a half hour later, Kathy, who was there helping me to deal with Lucy - and that story is for another day - said to me, "Susan, Tashi has a chicken."  I looked out and there was a chicken lying dead in the drive.  I was furious with the dog, and furious with myself for not listening to Lyn.

I picked up the chicken by one leg and thought, "Do I have the guts to butcher her, or shall I just throw her on the compost pile, along with the two I lost a couple of weeks ago?"  Then I noticed one foot move slightly.  She was alive.  I put her in a cage in the house and went back to the barn to finish up the chores.  When I went back inside, she was lying on her side, wet and limp.  I wrapped her in a bath towel and held her on my lap.  Pretty soon her head came up.  She was very calm.  I couldn't tell if a wing or leg was broken.  But she wasn't moving, not at all.  I felt under the towel and it was very wet, so I got a second bath towel and traded it for the wet one.  We remained on the sofa.  Tashi and Bear ignored me, but Ayn Chee jumped up on the sofa, a bundle of curiosity.  She didn't make any move for the chicken, so I let her be.  Finally, I got a third towel and wrapped her in that for another ten minutes or so.  Then I felt under the towel and she seemed pretty dry and warm.

I put a fresh towel in the cage while I held her under my arm.  The fact that she was so calm made me worry.  Not like a chicken, at least not like a Campine, to remain so calm while being held.  Once the cage was ready, I put her in with a bowl of water and covered the cage with blankets.  I went upstairs and figured I would have a dead hen in the morning.  Before I went to bed, I just had to check on her one more time, and she had obviously moved a few inches.  That was good news, and I went to bed feeling a little more hopeful.

Tuesday morning she had moved all the way to the back of the cage.  I began calling her Henny Penny.  Hey You just didn't seem appropriate for such a little fighter!  I went outside to get Henny Penny some feed.  Then the "bedding" had to be replaced with another old bath towel.  In the midst of all this, she stood up!

When I got home from market, I rushed downstairs to see how she was doing.  She clucked at me when I stuck my head in the cage.  She was still very docile, not really a good sign, but she had scratched around in her food, and her water dish was empty.  A friend told me to give her electrolytes, and another friend said cider vinegar would do.  So I had a dish with plain water, another with a few drops of vinegar in it, and she had finished the vinegar water.  I guess they know what they need.

Again, I ran downstairs before bedtime just to check on her.  By now I was very hopeful that she was going to make it.  When I bent down to cover the cage, she was standing by the door talking to me, and I am pretty sure she was saying, "Get me out of here!"

This morning while it was still dark, I took Henny Penny to the Moop, opened the door and put her on the top perch with the rest of the chickens.  I had a couple of concerns - first, that the others would attack her because she had been AWOL for two days, and second that it would be too cold for her after living in a cage just a few feet from the wood stove.  I closed the door and went back inside to wait for daylight.

At 8:00 I was back out at the Moop with fresh water.  I opened the door and all was well.  I went out twice today to count, and all 12 were there - Buster and the 11 hens.

There was one hen hanging around my garage door off and on today.  She was waiting by the door every time I went outside.  She hasn't yet knocked on the door and asked to come in, but I'm thinking that it is Henny Penny, and she wouldn't mind another vacation in that warm hotel!