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*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘backyard chickens

Cooling Off

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Despite the wise recommendations toward supporting our broody hens in following their natural instincts, we have chosen to proceed with the process of reorienting them. We want them back with the flock, scouring our acres to control pesky flies and ticks, and providing unequaled eggs as an added benefit.

It’s what these girls were raised to do.

Based on all those images of “Broody Breakers” I viewed on Friday, and seeing the costs for a new crate to do the job, I figured we had enough raw material lying around to make one ourselves. I’ve still got leftover scrap lumber from when we took apart scores of pallets to build the chicken coop.

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First, I built a frame for legs, then we folded up some fencing that we reclaimed from around the willow tree in the paddock, where it had been protecting the bark from gnawing horses.

As I understand it, the goal is to bring the hen’s body temperature back to normal, which will swing their hormones out of the broody drive and get them back to their old selves. The open bottom and sides allow maximum air to flow, which is purported to do the trick after about two days of caged confinement.

They only got a short visit yesterday, before we had to return them to the coop for the night, but it went reasonably well, for a couple of hens who wanted nothing but to return to the nest box each had claimed, whether it had eggs, or not.

This morning, they seemed noticeably more accepting of their temporary confines. They had more interest in the food today, which is something they tend to forego when in the brood.

It will be very satisfying when we are finally able to put them out with the rest of the hens and not have them immediately bolt for the coop. Every time they try to return, it will cost them another day in the broody breaker.

It seems like a sad way to treat hens that are behaving maternally on Mother’s Day, but at the same time, it is Cyndie’s maternal instinct that has us working to cool them off.

Here’s to the mother of my children, and to all mothers today, for the love you shower upon your children (and pets), and for also sharing that love with the rest of the world!

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Written by johnwhays

May 12, 2019 at 8:47 am

New Focus

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We have something new to focus on today: altering the natural instinct of two broody hens. It is interesting to discover we are far from alone. It appears that the primary method is to put the hen in “jail” for a couple days. A cage lacking in a cozy place to settle, elevated to allow air cooling from below, seems to be the go-to solution.

Something along the lines of a rabbit hutch or a dog crate is common. I did an image search and discovered a remarkable number of people have documented their version of a ‘broody breaker.’

I was thinking about making something out of material I have stacked in the shop garage, but the lure of a quick purchase to get the ideal cage is a strong temptation. I wish we weren’t dealing with two at once.

That actually fuels our interest in breaking this habit as swiftly as possible, as the information we have read indicates the behavior is contagious.

Two days ago, I was oblivious to the syndrome of a broody hen. After reading on the topic, I suddenly feel included in a group of many people raising backyard chickens. There are so many versions of the same story, with the common thread on the internet revealing folks in search of details on how to deal with it.

This reminds me of the first time I discovered a massive magazine display at a bookstore. I had no idea there were so many publications. Growing up, I was exposed to a tiny subset: Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, and Popular Science were of particular interest, among several others that made their way into our house over the years.

Standing in front of a wall display featuring magazines covering more lifestyles and hobbies than I realized existed was a real eye opener for me. Had I known at the time, I could have picked up whatever the backyard chicken mag of the time was, and read all about it.

I haven’t been to a bookstore in a while, but I bet that magazine rack isn’t nearly as impressive. It is probably a single tablet device connected to the internet with links to every imaginable topic. There, you can find pictures of innumerable versions of solutions to whatever new problem you have stumbled upon.

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Written by johnwhays

May 11, 2019 at 8:48 am

Bird Bath

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So much for letting nature take its course. Cyndie decided to try a little intervention on our ailing Wyandotte. Looking up the hen’s symptoms online pointed to the possibility of her being egg bound. That meant a trip to purchase some supplies and then redecorating the downstairs bathroom into a triage and recovery center.

A twenty-minute soak in epsom salts treats a myriad of afflictions. Even if it doesn’t help, there’s not too much threat of causing harm.

Well, Cyndie’s efforts didn’t produce definitive results, so we are pretty much back to letting time be the arbiter for an outcome.

It’s tough, because you want to help. We don’t want the poor hen to suffer, but we are both¬†disinclined to take this to a level of seeking professional examination and treatment. Our chickens could be considered a hobby at this point, and as such, they end up receiving hobby-level vet care.

We are not real doctors.

Meanwhile, our cat, Pequenita, is vying for attention by throwing up three times this morning. My hobby-vet analysis points to the fact that I caught her violating house rules overnight, on the island countertop, chomping on Cyndie’s flower display.

I think we should give her a bath in epsom salts.

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Written by johnwhays

May 4, 2019 at 8:37 am

Daytime Sighting

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Our dog, Delilah, has so many episodes of freaking out over something she sees or hears through our doors and windows that we have grown numb to her outbursts. It is rare that I bother looking anymore to see what squirrel/rabbit/bird is triggering her tizzy.

Of course, there was the time last summer when we finally checked and discovered she was barking about that group of 10 cows that had found their way up near our bedroom window. Her reaction that time was totally justified.

Last night, we were up in the loft when she revved up over something she spotted in the back yard through the French doors. Since I had a similar view without needing to get up, I turned to check it out.

There was a raccoon sauntering across our yard in broad daylight, unfortunately, directly toward the chicken coop. I rushed down to track its path and was able to see it climb up a large tree and disappear, high up inside the main trunk. Just a short distance further ahead, the chickens were calmly combing the deep leaves on the ground among the trees.

Our chicken coop, when buttoned up for the night, is well secured against raccoon intrusion. Regular readers may recall we got duped by a possum that snuck inside during the day and killed one of our hens over night after we shut the door at sunset.

Now we check all the nooks when we count the chickens and close the door for the night. The usual evening report used to simply list the number of hens secured, but now it always includes the affirmation of the coop being predator-free, as well.

Unfortunately, since we have chosen to free-range our chickens, they are easy prey during daylight hours. One reason a raccoon will be out during the daytime (other than maybe being sick with rabies or dysentery) is because of hunger. That is not a good omen in such close proximity to where our chickens hang out.

I tossed a treat of dried mealworms in the pan of feed yesterday afternoon.

It was a BIG hit. They came after me looking for more:

We collected seven new home-laid eggs yesterday.

At least the hens are putting those worms to good use.

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