Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chickens

Impressive Results

with 2 comments

I found myself inexplicably overjoyed upon reading news from Cyndie yesterday morning that “all [eight] hens ran out of coop” together when she opened the hatch. A short time later, she found them all still together, hanging out in our woods. Just as we had read would happen, after a mere two days in the “broody breaker” cage we built, the uncontrolled urge to constantly lay in a nest box has been dispatched. It worked!

The two Golden Laced Wyandottes who went all broody on us are once again foraging along with the rest of the flock.

We couldn’t be happier over the results.

If only we could enjoy success like this when trying to adjust Delilah’s behavior.

Unrelated to any behavior concerns for our almost perfect pooch, I got my thumb bitten more painfully than ever a few days ago, when trying to wrangle a pull toy out of her mouth in her favorite game of tug-of-war.

She didn’t notice she got me, which I am happy about, because it wasn’t her fault at all and I didn’t want her to feel bad. I just had my thumb in the wrong place at the wrong time and it cost me one heck of a bruise, right at the nail bed. I get a frequent reminder when I type.

Luckily, the pressure didn’t break the skin.

I certainly learned of the impressive results of her bite, though.

.

.

 

Written by johnwhays

May 15, 2019 at 6:00 am

Cooling Off

with 2 comments

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.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

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!

.

.

 

 

Written by johnwhays

May 12, 2019 at 8:47 am

New Focus

with 2 comments

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.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

May 11, 2019 at 8:48 am

Not Sick

with 8 comments

Cyndie figured out that the behavior we are seeing in our Wyandotte –well, unfortunately, now two Wyandottes– is a case of them going “broody.” They want to hatch eggs. From what we have learned, reading up on the subject, Wyandottes have a noteworthy tendency for becoming broody.

The vision of that first hen splayed out in the nest box, when I initially spotted her there, looked completely different than normal. She seemed like a big water balloon, the way she spread out. Knowing now that she was trying to incubate eggs, it makes perfect sense.

Looks like we will have our work cut out for us to break the hens of the broody behavior. That mothering instinct kicks in and changes their hormones. Since there are no fertilized eggs to be hatched, there is the possibility that broodiness will continue beyond the average 21 days, given no reward of chicks.

Prior to kicking into gear with some of the more involved re-training suggestions, Cyndie has tried simply removing the hens from the nest boxes and putting them out with the others. Our second brooder grumpily sat right down on the ground and refused to join in the frivolity of a mealworm snack.

Her loss.

Discovering that they aren’t sick has been a relief, but there are still reasons for concern. We certainly enjoy getting eggs from our hens, but if one stops laying for a time, it’s not a serious problem. However, if the broody hen doesn’t get back to her normal self, it can be hard on her health over time.

Of even more concern to me is that going broody can get to be contagious, certainly supported by our recent evidence of the second Wyandotte taking to similar behavior in another nest box.

We’ll be intensifying our efforts to interfere with their brooding instincts until we can get things back to usual.

Just when it was feeling like we were getting the hang of this chicken rearing, another new lesson pops up to remind us how little we actually know.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

May 10, 2019 at 6:00 am

Yes Indeed

leave a comment »

It might be cold outside still, but that isn’t stopping Cyndie from forging ahead with her great wardrobe transition to the warm season. After work yesterday, I walked in on a disaster in the bedroom. It looked like the dresser had gotten sick and thrown up.

I don’t understand how that drawer ever contained all of the contents that were now unceremoniously regurgitated up out of it and spilled onto the floor.

Yes, indeed, warm weather can’t be far off now. Winter socks are getting stowed, and shorts and t-shirts will soon find a place in these drawers.

*************

In an update on our oddly behaving Wyandotte, Cyndie reports the hen is agreeing to take sips of electrolyte-enhanced water, but otherwise still chooses to isolate herself in a nest box. She doesn’t appear to be getting any worse, so we are continuing to let her be and will watch to see what each new day brings.

If she hangs on long enough, maybe she will be able to come out and enjoy a period of several warm days in a row. I saw a prediction that it might happen as soon as next week.

We are looking forward to that. Yes, indeed.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

May 8, 2019 at 6:00 am

Bird Bath

with 2 comments

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.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

May 4, 2019 at 8:37 am

Egg Failure

leave a comment »

Someone in our chicken family isn’t feeling like her old self lately. We weren’t completely certain which one, so all of them will receive the benefit of some supplements in their diet.

There were some hints in the last couple of weeks when, twice, we found an egg with an incomplete shell in the nest boxes. At first, I wasn’t sure whether one of the hens had pecked the egg, or just laid one with an incomplete shell. Later, we found an egg that was complete, but it had a flat side.

It struck me that the egg that looked pecked was lacking the classic egg symmetry, too. That was enough to establish a trend. Unfortunately, it got worse before it got better.

Yesterday, Cyndie found that an egg failure didn’t even make it to the nest box. The poop board under the roost held evidence of an egg-saster.

Didn’t take long after that for Cyndie to make her way to Fleet Farm for an oyster shell calcium supplement. Will it be enough?

Last night, when Cyndie closed the chicken door on the coop, she found a wyandotte had chosen a nest box, instead of the roost. She had seen a wyandotte in the nest box other times this week, without getting an egg. We think this is the hen having a problem. She was making some unusual sounds.

We’ll keep an eye on her, as much as possible. Generally, we are inclined to let nature take its course, which ended well enough for our buff orpington earlier in the year. Hopefully, the extra calcium will prove helpful, and the wyandotte will ultimately have a good outcome, as well.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

May 1, 2019 at 6:00 am