Adventures in Chicken Feed.

I obsess about chicken feed.  I know you find that hard to believe (<—sarcasm).  I’m always looking for some kind of wonder-feed that will make my chickens big, shiny, happy and able to bench press a Dodge Ram.  It’s sort of ironic, because my daughter, who’s ten, basically survives on pizza and chicken nuggets and the occasional cereal bar.  She’s one of those kids who decided at some point in her infancy that food with any kind of nutritional value must be avoided at all costs.  At some point I just gave up getting her to try new things because the drama was just too much.  The chickens on the other hand will inhale anything I give them which balances out the feeling that I’m the “WORST PARENT IN THE WORLD” because Emma won’t eat anything green…or anything else for that matter.

square eggs and iI’ve been buying feed for the chickens at a local farm supply store.  I even found non-GMO, organic feed at said farm supply store.  I even went so far as to buy a bag.  However, it did not deter me from my course in finding the BEST CHICKEN FOOD ON THE PLANET.   I have no idea how to judge whether or not it’s the best chicken food on the planet, but I’ll figure that out…or I’ll just buy the kind that looks prettiest.  Which is basically how I make choices about a lot of things.

Yesterday, after Tom’s little stint to the doctor’s office, we came home and hung out for a while.  I have this weird problem with anxiety.  Everything can be perfectly fine and I get so anxious that I’m unable to do anything productive and I sort of spin my wheels and agonize about things that really don’t matter a whole lot.  Tom has come to the point where he can see when I’m getting a little bit too wound up about dumb stuff and he knows that if he gets me out of the house, I’ll calm down because I’m distracted by shiny things.  I also have a tendency to spend money online when I’m anxious, so when he saw me shopping for chickens online he suggested that we go for a ride somewhere and then in the next sentence he said “We could go find that feed store you’ve been talking about.”

Feed store?  I had my flip-flops on and was waiting in the truck before he could find his sun glasses.

I’ve been to a few feed stores recently in the search for the perfect chicken chow.  Last Saturday we went to a local feed store that I’ve never been to before and found that it was a MECCA for animal stuff.  Especially horse stuff.  I used to show horses and had a big beautiful Arabian gelding.  Tom went to the men’s room while I was in this feed store and when he returned I’d already picked out Ariat riding boots, several pieces of tack and was talking to the clerk about fancy over reach boots.  Tom pointed out that I didn’t have a horse and wasn’t getting one.  Thank you Tommy Buzzkill.  So I asked the lady behind the counter (who was totally frazzled because the computer was down and she was having to figure tax on purchases with a calculator) where all the chicken stuff was.  She looked confused and said “We have chicken FOOD…what else do they need?”

Obviously, she knows nothing about chickens.

So we set out for this other feed store yesterday.  I had no idea where it was, but I had an address.  I thought it shouldn’t be too hard to find and I knew that this chain of feed stores had locations all over the south, just not in Indiana…which means we had to drive to Kentucky which really is just over the river from where we live.  I assumed that the feed store would be in the town of Henderson because the address is Henderson.  Let’s just say…I was wrong.  After a half hour of driving in the wilds of Kentucky (it really wasn’t that wild, but it was the middle of nowhere) we finally drove up to the store which was essentially a huge pole building with ten thousand anhydrous ammonia tanks parked outside.  I said something witty like “Look!  They make meth here!” as we pulled into a parking space and then I rocketed out of the truck because I get really excited at new stores.

As we went into the store, a bell rang signaling that a customer (us) had arrived.  There didn’t appear to be anyone around that worked there.  I was instantly disappointed because I really thought it would be a cool feed store.  In the store portion of the building, which was just a fraction of the whole building…and I mean a TINY fraction, there was a big gun safe, a generator and a lot of fly spray on display.  Welcome to Kentucky.  That pretty much sums up the state right there (sorry Kentucky people).  About that time, a short, round, greasy looking guy in a seed corn hat that looked like it had been dipped in grease shuffled out of the back room followed by a woman in a monogrammed company smock and another guy that looked like he lived under a tractor.  I asked if they had organic, non GMO chicken feed.  The round greasy seed corn hat guy chuckled.  The lady told me that she could order it, but it was THIRTY-SEVEN DOLLARS a bag and then she waited for me to be aghast at the price.  I just replied “yep…it can be pricey”.  Greasy Seed Corn Hat said “Jest puttem outside and they’ll find what they need…you don’t need no fancy food.”  I laughed and shot him a death glare at the same time and replied “They’re home eating a yellow watermelon right now.”  Greasy Seed Corn Hat said something he thought was funny that I don’t remember and Living Under a Tractor guy roared with laughter.  I rolled my eyes and thanked them and we were out the door and back in the truck and on our way home. The whole thing took less than 5 minutes.

So the adventure was a total bust.  I continue to seek out the world’s finest chicken chow, which I could totally order online, but shipping is outrageous for a 40 pound bag of chicken feed.  The stuff I have is perfectly fine, non-GMO, organic feed and they love it BUT!  I will not rest until I find them the PRETTIEST non-GMO, organic chicken feed.

You know I’m kidding, right?  As long as they eat it, are healthy, happy and can bench press that Dodge Ram, I don’t care how it looks.

And now…for your listening pleasure….I give you….Cluckzilla (insert applause here)

 

I shared this post on the Backyard Farming Connection Hop #85!

 

 

Birds, Bees and Chickens.

The chickens are approaching the age of 16 weeks old.  That means that the long-awaited EGGS are practically right around the corner…or not…I’m told that they typically start laying at around the age of 20 weeks…which means I still have a month to go.  That doesn’t stop me from hanging around the chicken coop with a catcher’s mitt waiting for that first egg to shoot out of a pullet though!

small blog logoI’ve noticed some…um…maturing happening with the chickens.  When I went out to the coop last night, Vinnie’s comb was six times the size it had been that morning…well, maybe not six times, but it was definitely bigger.  In the half awake state that I see the chickens in when I go to let them out in the morning, I couldn’t even tell you if they even HAVE combs.  Cluck and Vinnie both, have MUCH larger combs though.  Vinnie’s wattles have gotten very large and long and are very red.  He thinks he’s a pretty big deal.  Cluck doesn’t really have wattles, but his comb has grown to this weird-looking wad of red flesh on his head.  Not very attractive, but then I’m not a female chicken, so what do I know?  At any rate, the boys are looking pretty darn “manly” these days.

The  pullets are changing too.  The Wyandottes look like they’ve taken make-up lessons from a drag queen.  WAY too much blush.   Their faces are bright red and their rose combs are growing quickly too.  Same with the black sex links.  Suddenly, all of the girls have wattles except for Roseanna (the crazy one) and Gloria.  Both of them are Ameraucanas.  I’m assuming they mature later than the others.  Sweet Opal, a Buff Orpington), previously had a very pale face and comb…it’s now bright pink with touches of red that seem to darken daily.

My babies are growing up.

Remember in grade school when they separated the boys and the girls and gave us “THE TALK”?  I think I was in fifth grade and they gave us a little book called “Growing Up and Liking It”.  I read that thing cover to cover.  I recently found a copy online and read the darn thing again. Dumbest thing I’ve ever read.  I was going to try to find a hard copy to leave in the chicken coop, but it looks like I’ll just have to do “The Talk” myself.

chicken talkYou know I’m kidding, right?

Because I’d totally make Tom do it.

Last night, I was hanging out by the chicken run and the flock was snarfing down a pile of fresh chickweed that I’d picked for them.  They eat that stuff faster than it grows, by the way.  Anyway,  Cluckzilla glided over to Opal and her freshly pink face and comb and stood next to her for a moment.  She kept pecking the ground for invisible scratch and didn’t seem to notice him.  He leaned over and softly pecked her back.  No response.  So, Cluck must have thought he was being too subtle and he pecked her on the back and then on the head and then he just stood there.  Opal, who I’ve noticed doesn’t put up with much nonsense, squealed and pecked him in the throat.  Cluck, of course, panicked and ran for the hills…which means he only ran to the end of the run and went to hide in the coop to nurse his hurt feelings.  At this point, I had no idea what was going on.  Opal resumed her scratching for scratch and pretty soon, Cluck returned.

Cluck stood a little distance away from Opal.  He just watched her and sort of inched himself closer and closer.  He delivered a peck to her back and this time Opal FREAKED OUT and went after him.

You lose a lot of your rooster machismo when you run like a fraidy-chicken.

Since it had happened twice, and I’m fascinated by chicken behavior and I had my phone with me as usual, I looked up what this behavior might mean.  The article that I read from some learned poultry person said that often, just prior to mating the rooster signals the hen that she should squat down for some “lovin'” by pecking her on the back and head.  They usually only do this if they can sense that the female has reached a point where she’s fertile and about to lay an egg.  Hmmm….Cluck only did this to Opal.  Was that because he’s just horny and she’s cute (because, you know, she’s the Cutest Chicken in the LAND), or was her new pink face and possibly chicken pheromones the answer?  They’re JUST sixteen weeks old, but I suppose the teenage chicken hormones could be raging as they rocket along through chicken puberty.

I think I might install the nest boxes this week and stand next to them with my catcher’s mitt and egg basket.

Vinnie, by the way, other than having that crazy red comb, face and wattles, has not made any overtures to any of the females.  He’d rather search for snacks and push other chickens off of perches or disrupt everyone’s dust bathing by stampeding through The Dust Bowl.  I’d say that he’s the subordinate rooster, but Cluck is SUCH a cream puff!

One evening I was sitting next to the run…with my phone…you never know when you might need to take a photo.  I pulled up a rooster crowing on Youtube.   As usual, everyone froze and just listened.  Vinnie chicken footed it over to where I was sitting and I turned the screen so that he could watch the rooster crow.  He shoved one eye up against the fencing so that he could see and I watched his pupils dilate and contract, dilate and contract while the rooster crowed on the screen.  I finally just stopped letting him watch because his eye was freaking me out.  He has these weird yellow eyes anyway.  He stood there and clucked and made a weird “RAAAAWRRRRRR” noise under his breath.  I told him he’d had enough computer time and to get lost.  Because he has the attention span of a gnat, he wandered away to watch for leaves falling from the hackberry tree next to the run.  He’s currently obsessed with eating the fallen leaves…which keeps him busy.  Occasionally I’ll hold a leaf about three feet above his head and he’ll jump for it like a dolphin.  Endlessly amusing.

So, if you need me this weekend, I’ll be sprucing up nesting boxes, oiling my catcher’s mitt and hanging out in the chicken coop.  I’m endlessly optimistic…and totally naïve…and possibly a fool.

I just want to make sure I order that “WELCOME EGG” cake and get the party decorations up.  I’m sure you’ll hear me screeching from wherever you are if an egg happens to make its appearance.  If it doesn’t happen to show up and you don’t hear from me, you might want to get a hold of Tom and send him out to the coop.  I’ll be the one face-down in the shavings, sound asleep from my egg vigil and wearing a catcher’s mitt.

 

I shared this post on Simple Saturdays Blog Hop!

 

Pasta.

I took a few days off from writing for the Memorial Day holiday.  It really was a lovely weekend.  Perfect weather, great food, and of course my family and chickens provided enough blog fodder for the rest of the millennium.

For some reason, I’ve been on this cooking spree.  Some people go on crime sprees and break into cars, I go on cooking sprees and try new recipes that call for ingredients that I don’t have and sometimes haven’t heard of, which necessitates 137 trips to several local grocery stores by Tom.  He usually forgets half the supplies that I need and ends up going back at least once.  He usually never grumbles about it because he, like the chickens, is motivated by food.  I’m fine with that.

I had found a tasty looking recipe on Pinterest for Chicken Marsala.  Let’s just give a brief “HOORAY” for Pinterest, shall we?  I spend most of my time there surfing around for ideas and recipes while Tom watches programs about aliens, Sasquatches, and mountain monsters.  I’ll find a really great idea for something and when I’m laying on the sofa it’s really easy to think “I CAN DO THAT!!!”  when in reality I’m more likely to print off the instructions and give them to Tom and say “will you make this for me?” while batting my eye lashes.   In this case, when I found the Chicken Marsala recipe, Tom offered to cook it up on Saturday.

So I took him up on that offer.  Because I’m not THAT insane that I’m going to say “No, that’s okay” when my husband offers to make dinner.

Tom went out to get mushrooms, dry sherry and sweet Marsala wine and a few other things for a dessert that I was making that involved fresh strawberries and a ridiculous amount of butter.  He was gone FOREVER.  He finally arrived home carrying an assortment of grocery bags and brown bags.  Apparently, the Tri-State area is not really into sweet Marsala wine and he’d had to check all the grocery stores on the west side of town and a couple of liquor stores where he finally ended up finding it which is typical, it seems, for the things that I pick off of Pinterest that I think are “doable”.

flowersSo he made dinner and we’ll just skip to the part where we ate it.  DELICIOUS.  Totally worth combing the area for Marsala wine and if they don’t have it where you live, I recommend that you  move someplace that does have it because this Chicken Marsala was the absolute BOMB.  I try not to eat carbohydrates, so when he served it over pasta, I just had mine without it.  STILL delicious.  I’ll post the recipe HERE because you really should try it.  Or make your husband cook it for you…and definitely make him shop for ingredients.

After dinner, we had a lot of pasta left.  I remembered that CHICKENS like SPAGHETTI!!  Yes, yes…I know it should be whole grain.  Just pretend that it was…because it wasn’t…but it WAS plain..no sauce and no butter.  Also, before you start writing your reply about what a bad chicken mom I am, I know that they shouldn’t have it very often because it’s bad for them and they’ll get fat.  At the time, I was bored, I knew they’d like it and so I packed up a bowl of it and headed for the coop.

The run was empty.  I LOVE it when they aren’t out in the run and I bring a treat to them because I get to yell “CHICKENS!!!!!!” and they all come barreling out of the coop like they’ve been shot out of a cannon.  Have you ever really watched a chicken running toward you?  It KILLS ME.  Vinnie is the only one in the group with school bus yellow feet and when he runs his feet and legs are REALLY noticeable and I find myself laughing at him every single time…which I’m sure isn’t good for his self-esteem, but hey…if you’ve got school bus yellow legs and feet, be prepared for a few giggles when you run.

They had no idea what I had in the bowl, but I’m sure in their tiny chicken brains, there’s a picture of a bowl with a smiling chicken next to it which means “BOWL=FOOD”.  They danced around in the run and pecked at my new floral Toms through the fence wire.  I had to convince a couple of them that the shoes were not the treat.  I threw an experimental piece of spaghetti into the run which, of course, was met with absolute hysteria because OH MY GOD SOMETHING IS FALLING FROM THE SKY!!!

The pasta just laid there while they got their acts together.  Finally, Vinnie, self-appointed “TRYER OF ALL NEW THINGS” came over to look at it with one eye.  He decided it was treasure and grabbed it and ran off which, of course, started a game of Chicken Keep Away and it was nine against one.  Vinnie raced around the run with the prized piece of pasta hanging out of his beak, a wild look in his eye and his yellow feet and legs just a blur.  I let them chase him around a little, and then I threw in more pasta.

Hysteria. This time, shorter lived as the others forgot about Vinnie and his treasure and were more interested in the pile of pasta on the ground.  They walked around it and on it, looked at it with one eye, and pecked at it a little.

Meanwhile, Vinnie had set his down and was looking at it again.  He pinched off a piece and tasted it and then another piece and another and suddenly, he just gulped the whole thing down and raced back to the pile for more.  He grabbed another piece and raced to the other end of the run, yellow legs flying, while he snarfed down pasta.  Apparently it was “To go” pasta.

The others noticed that he was EATING it and they became more interested in it and gave it a try.  As soon as they finished a strand of spaghetti, they’d race back to the pile for more.

Vinnie was frantic.  He’d take a piece and gulp it down and then notice a piece hanging out of another’s beak and he’d try to take that too.  He had a piece of pasta hanging out of one side of his beak and the other corner of his beak had pasta stuck in it.  He was carrying a piece, trying to take pieces from others and generally was out of his mind because…

HE WANTED IT ALLLLLLLLLLLLLL!

I watched them for quite a while.  Most entertaining thing I’d seen since the Mixed Vegetable Incident of 2014.  Even Cluck Norris was scarfing down spaghetti and looking for more.  Every one of them was happily clucking and eating and wiping their beaks on logs.  Vinnie wasn’t worried about wiping his beak at ALL and would run up to one of them that was working on a piece of pasta and try to swipe it.  He was completely obsessed.  He didn’t know whether to steal someone’s, go get his own, or scratch in the dust to make sure that none had been dropped.

So he tried all three simultaneously.  Which lead to me going to get a chair to sit in because I was laughing so hard.

The pasta was finally consumed although Vinnie couldn’t be convinced and continued to check everyone else’s beaks and scratch through the dust in the run, just in case.  He found a few bits here and there and vacuumed them up while the rest contentedly took part in a group Preening Party.  He finally decided that there was no more and came over and whistled at me and cocked his head because I was still holding the bowl.  I showed him the empty bowl through the fence and brought it close enough so that he could see inside and he pecked it through the wire and then wandered away to join the rest at the Preening Party.  I watched them a while longer and since the Pasta Show was over, I finally went back up to the house.

vinnie restingI genuinely feel bad for people who don’t interact with their flock.  I understand they are farm animals, but they are fascinating creatures to watch.  Recently, there have been many people who have sort of poked fun at me for the things that I do in the name of “enjoying” my chickens.  I can’t even begin to describe the happiness they bring me.  I love to watch them, I love to provide a clean environment and good food (I know…not the pasta), and clean cool water.  I love to provide places to roost and new things for them to experience.  People say “I grew up on a farm…they’re CHICKENS and they’re dirty and mean.”

If that’s how one feels about their experience with chickens, then I would say to them…

Chickens…you’re doing it wrong.

 

I shared this post on the Backyard Farming Connection Hop #82!

Off.

I had the day off today because my daughter had an appointment for root canal this morning.  She’s eleven.  I didn’t even know eleven year olds were capable of having a problem that would even require root canal, but I’m completely phobic about anything to do with dentists so what do I know?

About an hour before we left for the appointment, the doctor had us give her two Valium.  Those started to work in about 20 minutes and I thought we were going to have to carry her in a bucket to the appointment because she was so relaxed.  I, on the other hand, made Tom go into the procedure with her because the sound of a dentist’s drill causes me to lose consciousness.  Sometimes, if it SMELLS like a dental office, I can’t even go inside…you know…that dentisty smell.  Fortunately, this place didn’t have that strong smell and I wasn’t forced to puke into my purse for the hour and a half that I waited in the waiting room while being tortured by The Disney Junior channel.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for pediatric oral surgeons.  This guy was a gem.  However, when I’m the only one in the waiting area and I have to listen to the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse “HOTDOG” song a couple of times, I begin to wish for either the remote to change the channel or for a speeding truck to come through the waiting room to put me out of my misery.

I finally went to the window and they told me I could go back to the room if I wanted.   I didn’t hear any drills, so a grabbed my stuff and headed back to where I could see Tom sitting in a room.  When I came through the door, Emma was lying on a reclining chair, covered with a satin and minky blanket, watching TV on the ceiling and wearing the nitrous oxide mask.  She waved at me like she was on a float at the Rose Parade.  I couldn’t believe it.  When I went to the dentist as a kid, the guy practically put his foot on my chest and was not exactly pleasant.  There definitely was no TV on the ceiling at the office that I went to.  They finished up with the procedure and took off the mask and Emma sat up and giggled.  In fact, she laughed all the way home and then passed out in bed for two hours.

purplecircle

So, I think that was much better than I predicted.  I was sure that Tom would be dragging me unconscious to the truck with a puke filled purse.  I was SURE that Emma would throw up all the way home and that there would be screams of pain from the room while they did the procedure.  Instead, she laughed at everything she saw on the way home and babbled on about people who have phobias about ducks and people who have phobias about phobias and people who have phobias about big words.  She even used the word “paradox” in a sentence and I know sober adults who can’t do that.

Dental science has apparently come a long way.

It rained ALL day yesterday and by “RAINED”, I mean it was pretty much a constant torrential downpour.  I had let the chickens out in the morning during a brief period of drizzle and they’d all merrily scooted out into the run to have their morning round of “I’M IN CHARGE…NO, I’M IN CHARGE” with each other.  Every morning…same thing….they all run outside and then spend 15 minutes trying to prove to each other how big and bad they are.   I usually just stand there and watch and it always ends up the same way with Cluck Norris reminding each one of them that HE is in charge and then they all settle down and look for delicacies on the ground that might have appeared overnight but usually haven’t.

When I came home from work in the afternoon, it was simply POURING.  Thankfully, the chickens had decided that the 2 inches of water in their run was not any fun to stand around in and the run was vacant.  I waited until there was a slight break in the rain and put on my coop shoes and dashed out to the chicken coop.  When I swung open the barn doors, they were all huddled together in the shavings looking a bit damp and decidedly forlorn.  Nobody likes a wet chicken…even wet chickens.

Since they were all inside, I thought I’d just shut the run door since it was supposed to rain heavily through the rest of the afternoon and evening.  Of course, when I entered their enclosure, they all got up and stampeded out the door clucking wildly which sounded oddly like they were laughing at me for thinking that I could close the door and keep them inside so early in the day.  I yelled “You aren’t going to LIKE IT out there!”

Did I mention it was POURING again?  So I just stood there and waited.

chickens

They were outside for all of two seconds before they all stampeded back inside.

I tell them and tell them things and they just don’t listen.

They stood around looking indignant and shaking their feathers to rid them of the raindrops.  I felt sorry for them and gave them a bunch of scratch to dig for in the shavings and when I left, they were happily scratching in the shavings already having forgotten that they needed pontoons on their feet if they wanted to go out into the run at any time in the near future.

This morning, the 2 inches of water in the run was gone and they were able to stampede through the run door and into the watery sunshine that had finally made an appearance.  The run was a little bit wet, but covered with green fallen leaves which they sorted through and checked for tastiness.   I watched the daily argument about who was in charge which was quickly ended by Cluck, who I think is a little over the whole thing happening every day.  When I walked back up the path to the house, I could hear them happily clucking to themselves with an occasional “peep-peep” from big, bad Cluck.

Thank goodness…back to business as usual…which is good for me because I don’t know how to put pontoons on chickens.

 

Salmonella.

If you follow the world of poultry at all, you’ll know that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have recently issued an advisory statement regarding a particular hatchery’s chicks being infected with Salmonella.  It’s been very difficult for those who have found that their chicks originated from that particular hatchery and emotions, fear and denial have been running fairly high at many of the popular internet chicken water coolers.

The backyard chicken movement across the country is exploding.  People are understanding the value and joy of keeping a small flock of birds for their own use or perhaps to share eggs with the community that are local in origin and humanely obtained.  With the spread of the popularity of backyard chickens, also comes a lot of new folks who not only aren’t knowledgeable about backyard chicken raising, but also do not have the knowledge to follow biological safety.  It’s not their fault.  They simply don’t know what they don’t know.

germ

In one of my previous positions, I was an infectious disease physician extender meaning that I rounded for the physician and saw his patients, evaluated their status and lab results and wrote progress notes that were later confirmed and signed off on by the attending doctor.  During that time, I learned quite a bit about infectious disease, but I’m certainly not an expert and I’ll be honest about that right now.  However, being in healthcare in general, you learn a tremendous amount about how disease is transmitted and what should be done to avoid that from happening.  I thought I’d take a moment and list some friendly tips and some information about Salmonella.

Salmonella is an equal opportunity bacterium.  It would like to live in you and if it decides that you’re a cool place to hang out, you’ll know about it.  Gut-wrenching abdominal cramps, unbelievable diarrhea and fever are the typical symptoms.  Someone on another page that I was reading mentioned that it’s not that common and you might not even know you have it. 1.2 MILLION cases are reported every year.  Some of those people do okay, some are hospitalized because they are so severely dehydrated, some have lasting effects like joint pain and other damage to their bodies and some, frankly, die.   I assure you, you’ll know you have it and so will everyone else at your house and maybe everyone else in your area because you’ll be doubled over on the commode yelling about your abdominal pain while your body tries to purge every molecule of water from it through your backside.  This isn’t one of those overnight stomach bugs.  This is one of those fluid and electrolyte draining, dehydrating, miserable situations that at some point during which you’re sure you’re dying.  Salmonella and Salmonellosis is not anything to take lightly.

Prevention is the key when dealing with a bacterium like Salmonella.  There is no cure other than supportive care and antibiotics are not always helpful because the darn bacterium keep figuring out ways to be resistant to the antibiotics that we’ve over used over the years.  It’s not enough to say “well…it’s just diarrhea…it’s not going to kill you”, because it most certainly CAN kill a human especially if they are a child, elderly or immunosuppressed.

In order to prevent something from occurring, you have to understand how it occurs.  Salmonella bacteria live in the GI tracts of animals.  Those animals aren’t necessarily sick, but they are carriers and at various times, shed the bacteria through their feces.  Humans encounter that feces in a variety of ways, none of which you want to think about too terribly much, because you are, after all, eating poop in order to come in contact with the bacteria.  It can also spread through dust and animal dander and if you’ve ever been around a chicken, you know that not only are they atomic poop machines but they also are dusty, dandery and well, lets just be honest…downright dirty. Without going into too many details about how the condition is spread…because I’ll start screaming…let’s move on with tips on how to minimize your risk for contracting and spreading Salmonellosis or as I like to call it…common sense.

WASH YOUR HANDS

Every time you touch a chicken, touch anything in the coop, open the coop door, change water, add food to the feeder you’re at risk for picking up bacteria.  I shouldn’t even have to tell you to wash your hands.  Many people think a quick rinse under the kitchen sink is washing their hands.  NO.  Let me say that again…NO.  When you utilize your kitchen sink to wash your grubby chicken poopy paws, you’re just introducing that bacteria into the area where you cook and wash dishes.  STOP IT.  Either keep hand sanitizer in your pocket to use on your way to the house (and you should do it before you touch that back door handle, by the way) OR keep antibacterial soap outside of the house near a water source and wash your hands before entering your home.  When you wash your hands, you should do it long enough that you can sing the entire ABC song that you learned in kindergarten while you do it.  Get under your nails with a scrub brush, do the backs of your hands and wrists because bacteria are sneaky.  If you’ve only used hand sanitizer, you’ll still want to get under your nails and wash well with soap and water.  Washing your hands is the number one single thing that you can do to protect yourself and your family.  Make your children and your hubby or wife wash their hands often.  You have no idea if they’ve been out petting chickens or giving them treats or maybe they found a hidden cache of eggs in the sandbox.  You can not expect to stay healthy if you do not wash your hands.  If you know your hands are contaminated by chickens…touch NOTHING in the house until you’ve washed your hands.  You don’t want to be the one with chicken poop under your nails from cleaning up one of your girl’s dirty, poopy vents and then come into the house and answer the phone.  Don’t take anything into the coop that you do not want contaminated.  That includes your children and your dog that likes to eat chicken poop and then kiss you on the lips.  Use bleach wipes to regularly disinfect the area around your sink and your door knobs on entrances and exits that are high traffic for your family.  Using that rich chicken poop compost in your garden?  Make SURE you’ve washed your hands and under your nails after you’ve worked in the garden and wash any food from the garden before you consume it.  You’ll thank me later.

COOP SHOES.

For Pete’s sake, don’t wear your good shoes that you want to wear anyplace else into the chicken coop or anyplace else for that matter where the chickens are leaving precious chicken poop presents for you.  I have three pairs of shoes/boots that are chicken coop only footwear.  I don’t wear them into the house and I don’t wear them in public and it’s not because they’re ugly, it’s because I’ve been walking around in chicken bedding and they aren’t fussy about where they poop and when you’re chasing a chicken in the coop, you aren’t fussy about where you step.  Get yourself some ugly shoes from the discount store and a pair of boots and make those your permanent coop shoes.  Take them off before you go into the house and leave them in the garage on newspaper or on something that you can disinfect.  Tracking chicken poop all over your living quarters is inevitable if you wear your coop shoes into the house…and we all know what that means.  Even though you don’t see it, it’s on the floor.  Let’s say you set your purse or gym bag on the floor or your child’s back pack and then unthinking, you pick it up and put it on the counter or the table.  The bottom of your purse and bags that you set down in public places are simply filthy.  Hang them from the back of a chair instead of throwing them on the floor where someone (probably your kids) have walked and probably tracked in chicken poop that they stepped in outside.  Educate your children.  They don’t want to get sick either and it’s never too early to learn common sense sanitation practices.

WEAR AN APRON.

Cover up your clothes if you’re going to be working in close contact with your flock.  An apron can save you from chicken poopy clothes and from dander and dust.  They aren’t a perfect solution, but unless you like doing laundry and changing your clothes every time you come back to the house, they are helpful and will save you a ton of time in the laundry room.  Wash them frequently in hot soapy water and you might want to just do a chicken clothes load of laundry.  Just a suggestion.  Your family will give you grief about the apron and when they do tell them you’re doing it so they don’t get flaming diarrhea and leave it at that.  “YOU CAN JUST THANK THIS APRON FOR NOT HAVING FLAMING DIARRHEA” and then spin on your heel and leave the room.  That usually gets them.

LEAVE THEM OUTSIDE.

As much as I love my chickens, and I really do love them, they are NOT allowed in the house.  They never were kept in the house and I would no more consider allowing them to live in the house at any age, than I would consider living in their house.  Chickens are carriers for many things that make humans sick.  They don’t belong in your living environment.  They are animals and they aren’t clean animals.  They are indiscriminate poopers and they belong in an environment where they can indiscriminately poop.  You can argue with me until you’re blue…chickens need to be outside or outside of your living area anyway, from the DAY you bring them home or they hatch.  They are not clean animals.  You will get sick in some form or another and your feathered room mates will probably be somehow involved with that.  Trust me…you don’t want to hear my “I Told You So” song…because it also comes with a dance.

STOP KISSING THEM.

Really?  Do I have to tell you that?  Come on…they sleep in their own poop…they walk in their own poop and then they scratch their face with their scaly poopy foot.  Do I really need to tell you not to kiss them on their darling cheek?

KIDS!!

Alright.  Your kids are cute, the chickens are cute…look how cute they are together….AWWWWW.  Little Susan likes to kiss the chickens and play with them outside…and oh look…she’s eating a cookie.  Do you see where I’m going with this?  Children should be taught proper hand washing so that they know every time they’ve touched the chickens or been outside that they should wash their hands.  They probably have learned about singing the ABC’s while they wash their hands at school.  Ask them…they’ll teach you.  And make them leave their shoes in the garage!  If they’ve been running around where your chickens free range, those shoes are most likely stomping on poop while they’re outside.  Common sense stuff.  Shoes….in the garage…clothes…changed when you come in…hands….WASHED before you do ANYTHING else.  Those should be the rules for children in your home.  And tell them to leave the chickens alone if they don’t understand.  Kids are not nearly as cute when they are spewing poop and crying from stomach pain or lying in a hospital bed.

I’m glad that I have chickens, but I’ve been vigilant about germs from the first moment we set eyes on them at the farm store.  I just hate stomach ailments.  I’d rather chew tinfoil than throw-up or have nausea.  Being an RN, I’m a bit of a freak about it, but I’ve just given you some easy things that you can do to minimize your risk for illness.  If you purchased your chicks from this hatchery with the Salmonella contamination, I would recommend that you contact your local farm extension office for advice regarding their future with you.  I don’t want to sound callous, because I would be devastated if it were my  birds, but if yours test positive for Salmonella you are endangering not only yourself and your own family, but you’re endangering any human who might come in contact with you,  your flock, and your eggs.

The Centers for Disease Control have a great website that can educate you about preventing disease.  I was also on the The Chicken Whisperer’s page today and he’s been doing radio shows with scholars and veterinarians and I understand that tomorrow the hatchery owner of the place with contamination may be joining the show as well as someone from chain of farm stores that sold chicks from this hatchery.  You can find information here about The Chicken Whisperer’s live radio program.

Just use common sense.  Stay healthy.  And for Pete’s sake go wash your hands.

 

 

Mwahaha.

It feels like it’s been raining here for WEEKS.  Actually, it’s only been for the past week.  Now that I think about it, the weather was fine until Greg rototilled up that garden.  Ever since then, we’ve had several downpours a day…which is great if you’re trying to grow your own tropical rainforest.  It’s not so great if you’re trying to put a garden in or doing other simple tasks like just walking to the car.

Everything FEELS wet because the humidity is somewhere between “I can’t breathe” and “hey…just a second, I need to wring out my shirt”.  I don’t like it.  It makes me cranky and everything smells….and it’s not good smells either.

This morning as I was talking myself into going to work, I went into the hall bathroom to find towels to steal so that I could take a shower so that I at least smelled better even though my hair would make it look like I was wearing a bush on my head.  I had been smelling something like mildew in the house and I figured it was just the humidity.  I think everything smells moldy when it’s humid.  I think I inherited my super smell skills from my mom who would sniff a piece of bread that LOOKED perfectly fine, but she would declare “MOLDY!!” and toss it.  It’s one of those gifts… sort of like The Long Island Medium, but with mold.  square eggs and i

Anyway, I went into the hall bathroom to get those towels and when I opened the door to the linen closet the moldy smell reached out and slapped me in the face…which isn’t very nice.  Confused, I started rifling through the contents of the closet and everything seemed okay.  Maybe I was just insane (maybe?).  I reached for a couple of towels that were on the shelf, making a mental note to tell my daughter NOT to wad them up when she put the clean towels away, and my hand encountered something wet.

She’d put wet towels…and I mean SOAKING wet…that she’d apparently used for her shower, back in the linen closet.  Not just one…but TWO.  She neatly rolled them up (10 points to Gryffindor), and had just put them back in the linen closet. WET.

I pulled the sodden towels out and was nearly knocked out by the smell of mildew.  Holy Mother of All Things MOLDY!!!!  That wasn’t the worst, though.  I tossed the towels into a pile waiting to be taken to the laundry room  and as they flew through the air, they unfurled and OH MY GOSH!!!  The reeking stink of mold just filled the room.  She’s going to be ELEVEN.  How did this even make sense in her head?  I was ranting about towels and mildew and sanitizing and selling her to gypsies and Tom just finally came and got the towels and took them down to the laundry to room to start the DECON cycle of the washer…also known as “WASH WITH LAVA HOT WATER”.

I just don’t understand.  I just don’t get it.  How was putting wet towels in the linen closet a good idea on ANY level??  Usually she leaves them on the floor like any other normal kid and I pick them up and put them in the laundry or  Tom shoves them in a corner of the bathroom…and I pick them up and take them to the laundry.

This is why I have grey hair.

The humidity also brings bugs that need an aircraft carrier in order to land and take off.  The May flies are still around and last night when Emma went to take her shower, there was one hovering around the bathtub.   She came rocketing out of the bathroom, wrapped in a towel, proclaiming that there was a BUG in the TUB.  May fly.  Tom, being the great white hunter, went in and saved the day by smashing and flushing.  Drama mitigated.

We’ve also been having problems with wasps and other unidentified flying, stinging things.  Greg had a wasp get into his apartment, so he did what any other brave man would do and screamed while he sucked it off the light fixture with the vacuum cleaner.  One day I was surfing Pinterest (where all genius ideas live) and I found a do it yourself project to make a wasp catcher!  YAY!  It involved an empty two liter soda bottle, some sugar syrup and some wire.  I would show you a picture of it, but…um…it’s not pretty and I’d have to go out in the rain to take one…so just forget it.  Long story short, all I’ve caught is a mosquito, a stick and some mold.  However, I DID have a moment of intense pride when I first hung it up because I’d recycled an empty soda bottle into something seemingly useful…or at least something that the neighbors can talk about at their next meeting to discuss ousting me from the neighborhood.

The chickens are fairing pretty well with all the rain.  This morning, I opened the door to let them out into the run and they all scurried out as usual.  As I was leaving to go back to the house, they were happily munching leaves that had fallen from the trees over their run…which, with my luck, instantly will kill a chicken.  Nobody fell over dead, so I figured the leaves must not be toxic, at least not right away.  As I was closing the door to the coop, I glanced down and there…in the crack of the door jamb was a ROACH.

I didn’t scream…which is good because it was early.  The roach scuttled off to somewhere unknown, but I have a feeling I know where they are living.  The people who lived in the house prior to us buying it had wood stacked along the back of the property.  I think they must have stacked in sometime in the 18th century because now it’s just a decaying pile of something that looks like firewood, but if you touch it, disintegrates into a pile of decayed wood chunks.  When we were making the chicken run, I thought a few logs would be nice for them to perch on and when I tried to pick one up, I found myself holding just a piece of bark while the rest of the log fell apart.  The inside was FULL of termites and peppered with a healthy dose of roaches with a few roly poly bugs thrown in for variety.  While that is surely everything that chickens dream about, it just made me scream a lot.cockroach

I stood there absolutely STRICKEN because there were ROACHES at the door of my CHICKEN COOP.  I knew I couldn’t spray anything…but WAIT…I had diatomaceous earth!!!!  A whole bottle of it was stored in the cabinet in the coop and I’d just been reading the other day how it interferes with a bug’s exoskeleton and turns them into bug jerky!

I got out the diatomaceous earth and gleefully sprinkled it around the coop and in the door jamb and I might have even laughed out loud while I did it…which is going to further unnerve our neighbor Steve and his wife, who think I’m a bat to begin with and won’t even wave at me anymore, when they hear “MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH” coming from behind our garage at 7:30 in the morning.

Thinking I had most likely saved all chicken kind from roaches, I stood back and admired my dusty work.  I could just picture them creepy crawling back to the coop and then encountering the diatomaceous earth and then their legs would just….fall off…or something…I really didn’t care…they just need to DIE!!!!!

Now…about that wood pile.  I’m going to need a backhoe full of diatomaceous earth.  When I dump that baby on that wood pile, there’s going to be the biggest pile of bug jerky and legless crawly things that you’ve ever seen.

I’ll bet I should call Anderson Cooper, because CNN is DEFINITELY going to want to cover this.

 

******  This post is part of The Homestead Barn Hop and The Down Home Blog Hop!

Uh oh.

I’m out of scratch.  I know that puts me on the list of “WORST CHICKEN KEEPERS EVER”.  Actually, I didn’t know that until the chickens pointed it out.

Last night, when we went out to try to convince the chickens that it was time to go inside for the night, we did our usual routine.  I went into coop yelling “CHICK CHICK CHICK!!!  COME ON GUYS!” in my ridiculously high-pitched, sing-song voice and sat down on my usual spot on an upside down livestock waterer that we placed in the corner of the run to put nesting boxes on.   The chickens, came barreling into the coop (most of them anyway, a few INSIST on being holdouts) and led by the incorrigible Vinnie.   Vinnie looked at me with one eye and came waddling over to see what treat I had for them.  Usually, I sit there with a container of scratch or snacks to entice the little darlings to move their fluffy butts and get inside before they’re eaten by a Sasquatch.  Vinnie came over and looked at me expectantly and chortled and whistled.  I held out my empty hands which he inspected thoroughly with one eye and then he looked at me again like he couldn’t believe it.  By this time, I had several others waiting for treats too. They stretched their necks out very long and it was quite obvious that they knew it should be treat time and WHY didn’t I have any?  Vinnie pecked at my rings a few times, whistled and muttered to himself and finally went to check out the feeder because SURELY I had put something delicious in there because darn it…IT’S TREAT TIME.

No treats.  Out of scratch.  I tried to explain it to Opal the Buff Orpington who seemed to be watching and listening intently.  She finally gave a half-hearted few peep/clucks and she too wandered away to check the feeder.

It seemed that disappointment was hanging thick in the air.

I tried to explain and one by one, they all went back outside, completely disregarding my repeated “I’M SORRY!!!!”.

Apparently being eaten by a Sasquatch is better than not getting a treat.

So, I’m sitting in the coop…all by myself at this point…looking at my phone and trying to figure out how I was going to redeem myself and how I could convince them that they should come inside.  Tom walked into the coop as I was sitting there…with the place completely void of chickens…and kind of looked at me like I’d lost my mind because I was sitting in a chicken coop in a corner reading Facebook.  Hey…there’s important stuff on there…I have to keep up.

I explained the scratch dilemma and he went outside to suggest that they come (read as: SCARE THEM) back into the coop.

No dice. They merrily flapped and ran around the run.  No treat…no bedtime is apparently the thought process.   Can I use “thought process” in a sentence about chickens?  I’m not sure they HAVE a process for thinking.  I think they just have a big picture of a bag of scratch in their heads.

Anyway, I remembered a big bag of frozen mixed vegetables in the freezer.  Hmmmm….I mentioned it to Tom that maybe they’d like some vegetables!  I bet they come right in!  Tom stood there for a minute and then said

“Do you want me to go make them vegetables?”

“Oh…you don’t have to do that…”

And he trudged back to the house because he’s the worlds best husband (Hi, Honey!!).

I filled the plates with vegetables, so incredibly proud of myself for remembering that we had such a nice treat in the freezer and making a mental note to pick 543 more bags of vegetables.  I set the plates on the floor and resumed my “CHICK CHICK CHICK”ing…(maybe it annoys them too…maybe it’s not just the neighbors thinking a cat is being killed in their yard).

Nothing happened.  I looked at Tom, he looked at me.  I PROMISED him that once they saw the heaping plates of vegetables they’d scoot right inside.

Nothing.

Finally Vinnie stuck his head in the door and chortled with a question mark at the end. You know what I mean, right?  He spied the full plates and made another noise in his throat and eight chickens showed up and all tried to squeeze into the coop at once.

YESSSSSS!  I knew the other four would follow once these clowns came in.

They all stood in the doorway, crammed together, looking at the plates.  Vinnie took one step and suddenly became the world’s tallest, skinniest chicken.

I like to change the words of songs so they fit situations.  When we first got the chicks, we noticed that whenever they’re afraid, they get VERY tall and skinny, so I replaced the words to “If You’re Happy and You Know it” with the following:  (please sing along)

If your neck is long and skinny, you’re afraid.

If your neck is long and skinny, you’re afraid.

If your neck is long and skinny and your eyes are small and beady,

If your neck is long and skinny you’re afraid!!

My daughter thinks I’m a musical genius.  You should hear what I do with Pharrell’s “Happy”.

Vinnie eyed the vegetables suspiciously and took a step again while viewing the vegetables with one eye and whistling softly to himself.  The rest of the chickens that had followed him inside were also very tall and skinny and took a step toward the vegetables too…practically in unison.

chicken veg 1

They were AFRAID of the vegetables.

I couldn’t believe it.  I expected full-on chicken mayhem when they saw them and all they could do was view them from a distance so that they didn’t pass out from terror.  They circled the plates, edging ever closer…and closer…and then someone would move too fast and they’d all get tall and skinny again.  Sigh.  Always the weird animals.  Always ME.

I kept encouraging and coaxing and finally Vinnie stepped all the way up to a plate and got a good close-up look.  Hmmm…he took a corn kernel and scurried away. I watched him as he dropped it and looked at it with one eye and then tasted it again and dropped it and he soon had the undivided attention of the rest of the flock.  He munched it up with his beak and swallowed.  I held my breath.  He cocked his head back at the plate and went back to check it out again…hmmmm…he tried a carrot..and another piece of corn…and then more corn.   Maybe these weren’t the killer vegetables that he’d heard about after all.

The other chicks were now a little frantic because they were afraid of the new vegetables but Vinnie seemed to be enjoying them and WHAT the HECK should they do about that?  Finally, they all approached cautiously and started tasting vegetables.

chicken veg 2

What followed was like a scene from Hitchcock’s The Birds.  Absolute chicken hysteria.  They pounced on the plate like they’d never seen food before and that this was likely the LAST time they’d get any.  Corn, peas and carrots were flying, everyone was whistling, clucking and peeping, and if one ran away with a choice piece of the snack, you’d better believe there were two or three hot on the trail.  The other plate sat largely untouched because they were SO obsessed with this plate, that they hadn’t even noticed there were two.  I moved the second plate so that it was in view of the run door because there were still a few outside that were defying the odds that they’d be eaten by a Sasquatch.

All of sudden, a beak and two beady eyes appeared at the doorway, followed by the others in the run.  They watched the vegetable carnage occurring in the coop and didn’t take much convincing that they’d better hustle their downy butts inside RIGHT NOW or they weren’t getting any of WHATEVER that scary stuff was.  The vegetable madness continued (I was proud of myself for thinking of the vegetables and was all puffed up like a toad) and the others leapt right into the fray.  Carrots seemed to be the prized item from the piles of vegetables and so there was quite a bit of arguing about who got them…even though there were TONS of them still on the plate, obviously the BEST one is being held in the beak of someone else who is running away like their feathers are on fire.

As the last one stepped its scaly toes into the run, Tom quickly closed the run door.

AHA!  I triumphantly ran over to close the door tightly and the chickens realized for a moment that they’d been had and then went back to the carrot argument.  They were completely obsessed with the plates of vegetables.

We’d gotten them in early, actually, so we watched them for a bit as they careened around the coop chasing each other to try to steal each other’s carrots.

I’m always happy and content when I put them to bed at night.  I could have sat in the coop watching them for hours, but Tom reminded me that when we’d left the house, Emma was in the shower and by this time she most probably had used half the water in Evansville.  We gathered up the empty vegetable container and as I was leaving the coop, I took one last look back to where they were squabbling at each other about carrots and sucking down green beans.

I’m buying those things by the PALLET.

**********

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Sneaky.

I always seem to get animals that have some sort of personality issue.  I was going to write “disorder”, but they aren’t really problems, they’re just….eccentricities.  Or, as my husband likes to call them “WEIRD”.

For example, I used have a show horse named Apollo that was the son of a world champion Arabian stallion.  Apollo was big and goofy, was afraid of mushrooms growing in the arena footing, and when we went to horse shows, he would get all freaky and need to have his tongue held.  No, no, you didn’t read that wrong.  He wanted me to hold his tongue.  He’d stand in his stall at the show with his tongue hanging out and he’d push his face against you until you held his tongue.  He’d then sigh deeply and close his eyes half-way in relief.  So there I’d be…standing next to the stall holding his tongue.  Son of a world champion…complete wuss.

We have a variety of dogs with odd behaviors too.  One insists on chewing on the strings of your workout pants and will basically drive you INSANE until you either change pants or give her what she wants.  This is why my pants that are supposed to have draw string waists, don’t have draw strings anymore.   Another not only insists on being carried to bed (thank goodness she’s a chihuahua) but then when you put her on the bed, she drags her back legs around like she’s paralyzed.  Not a thing wrong with her.  Just WEIRD.  I could go on, but you see where I’m going here.  We have our own little animal “group home”.

This morning (Monday…ruining my life since 1964), it was incredibly hard to get out of bed.  It’s only because I had to go to work which instantly saps me of any shred of motivation that I might have had left over from the weekend.  I walked around and drank Diet Pepsi and whined for a while and then figured that since there was no giant snowstorm predicted (that’s the only reason work would close and tell us to stay home) and the likelihood of one forming in ten minutes in 72 degree temperatures was remote, that I’d better get hopping if I wanted to make it to work by my usual 20 minutes late.

I scuffed out to the chicken coop, because I KNEW that they were in there standing and staring at the door to the run and wondering where the hole went that they normally went through to get outside.  I don’t think they completely comprehend the concept of a DOOR.  Yesterday while I was cleaning the coop, I locked them all outside and they stood there dumbfounded that the HOLE was gone and pretty soon they were all trying to stand on the ramp and pecking at the door itself as if that was some sort of chicken “OPEN SESAME” trick.

It was another gorgeous morning here, a few clouds, perfect temperatures, nice breeze.  I was sort of enjoying the short walk to the coop.  I’m sure the neighbors were enjoying it too because I was wearing black and white leopard print pajama shorts, purple Crocs and a Jimmy Buffett t-shirt.  I like to think I’m their morning comedic relief.  I sort of see it as a public service.

Anyway, the coop doors were all closed and locked, the run was empty and I always check for evidence of predators trying to get into the run or possible holes they may have made trying to get into said run and everything looked pretty good.  The ground surface of the run looks like the surface of the moon after being scoured by 12 chickens, but I told them they had to make the weeds last, so if they chose not to listen, not a thing I can do about that.  They were warned.

I opened the door to the coop and my jaw dropped.

coop

When we built the interior of the coop, we built a four-foot fence to separate my little work and sitting area from the area where the chickens hang out.  They’ve been out there for several weeks now and everything has been going very well…except for the preponderance of wasps or some sort of flying bad thing that seems to think the rafters of the coop would be a great place to set up shop for a nest.  I’m totally getting a Waspinator…look it up on Google…I had no idea…again someone is raking in tons of cash from an oddball invention, while I slave away in my office and losing every hint of color to my skin.  Anyway, nothing has been bothering the coop.  That wasn’t what I found when I swung open the door.

I unlocked the door, swung it open while singing “GOOD MORNING!” in my high-pitched chicken voice (the neighbors ADORE me) and there standing on the rail of the four-foot fence, looking EXTREMELY proud of himself was Vinnie…that darn Barred Rock.

Remember how the other chickens can’t even figure out how to get to the roosts and we went through “Roost School” (read the whole blog…it’s in there) one night?  Everybody kept falling off and acting like they were 100 feet in the air instead of just TWO feet?  Yeah.  I remember it.  That’s when I thought that perhaps I’d gotten a group of chicks that had been deprived of oxygen in the incubator at the hatchery.  You know, the hatchery worker just said “OOPS!  This group is going to be extra-stupid, but no one will know the difference because…well…chickens aren’t rocket scientists to begin with” (although it’s rumored).

Anyway, Vinnie strutted back and forth on the rail while I stood there with my mouth hanging open.  He fluffed his feathers, stretched one wing and foot at the same time, and whistled and chortled happily like he’d done something REALLY COOL.  He was more like “Aren’t you PROUD of me MOM???” instead of “UH-OH…busted”, which he most assuredly WAS.

All I said was “VINCENT MORTIMER” (that’s his full name).  He did a couple of gymnast-like maneuvers and whistled happily because he was SURE I’d give him a treat.  Then he fluffed his feathers again and sat down.  Like he was staying there.  Because he’s cool…and he obviously thought that I thought he was cool.

WRONG.  I snatched him off the rail and gave him a gentle scolding while he whistled and pecked at the “MARGARITAVILLE” on my t-shirt.  I placed him back in the coop with the herd of water buffalo…I mean, CHICKENS…who were preparing to stampede out into the run when I made the hole in the wall reappear by opening the door.  After the dust settled and they were all outside, I tried to figure out what he’d done to get up there, because FLYING is not his strong suit…neither is anything else, now that I think about it.

Vinnie 1

Last night, when we were turning off their fan and tucking them in for the night, Vinnie had shown a little extra effort and had jumped up on the roost bar…just two feet…I wasn’t as impressed as he thought I should be apparently.  We stood and watched them for a while and noticed that Vinnie seemed to be listening to the sounds of the toads drifting in through the open window which is covered with screen.  He walked back and forth on the roost bar and right about as we were ready to go back to the house for the night…in fact, I was walking out of the coop…we heard a crash and looked at the window and there was Vinnie, smashed up against the screen, standing on the window sill looking triumphant.

TAHDAH!!

For PETE’S SAKE.  I went back into the chicken area, scooped him off the window sill and dropped him next to a pile of scratch.  He quickly seemed to forget about his circus career as a high-window-sill walker and happily whistled while he stole all the sunflower seeds from the pile.  It all seemed under control…probably just a fluke that he ended up on the window sill…so we locked up and went back to the house.  I can see now, what he did. He got on the roost…flew to the window…and then hopped to the top of the fence rail.  I don’t think it was an escape attempt…although he does have a blue print of the coop tattooed on his skin (reference: Prison Break”)…I think he just thought it was something entertaining to do.

vinnie proof

So, now we’re going to take that fencing all the way to the ceiling.  In the meantime, we’ve done some emergency “engineering” and have put up this classy, Vinnie-barricade, because I KNOW he’ll do it again and not only will he do it again, but those other chickens are total lemmings and next thing you know, I’ll go to open the coop in the morning and they’ll all greet me at the big doors instead of being OCD about where the hole in the wall that used to be the run door went.

Apparently, when they were deprived of oxygen at the hatchery, Vinnie must have gotten ahold of a tiny, beak shaped oxygen mask because this was not the action of a dumb chicken.  This actually showed a little thought…and absolutely NO forethought on the part of the stupid humans who thought none of them would ever make it to the top of that four foot wall.

That’s a little scary.  I’m completely denying his request for internet access and a cell phone…I don’t need any international events started by a chicken and I’ve clearly underestimated Vinnie’s abilities.  I’m working on his Yale application right now.

 

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This blog is part of  The Homestead Barn Hop #158

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