Being An Animal Owner

Or a pet owner or the parent of a ‘fur baby’or ‘feather baby’ isn’t always easy.  It isn’t always cute pictures of cute babies or funny stories of their fur/feathered antics.

This week has been a hard one in our household.

In addition to Abby losing one of her little Easter Egger babies,  another of my chickens, a Rhode Island Red named Riley, and our house cat Rama, are also sick.

Rama is a six year old black and white “tuxedo cat” we adopted as a kitten from the SPCA.  He has never been sick before, so last month when he started randomly vomiting all over the place, it was a thing of great concern.  He spent a week in the vet and came home with antibiotics that didn’t help him. Two more trips to the vet later, we discovered that his intestines were completed blocked.   He had to have surgery, and the doctor removed a portion of his intestines.

He may or may not come home tomorrow.

The doctor sent some samples out to biopsied.   The mass that blocked his intestines may or may not be cancer.   We won’t know until later this week.

And then, there is poor Riley.

She was sickly this summer, when the heat was so bad.  But then she rebounded and was still laying eggs, until she started molting, so I didn’t think much about her being sick this summer.  She’s always been one of the tamer, calmer,quieter birds and in a flock as big a mine, I just figured she was lower in the pecking order than others.  She has always hung back,gotten food after the others, etc.

About mid-week last week, I noticed that she’s been hanging back more. Not acting remotely normal. Walking slower, not making noise.  Still eating, but not a lot.

Thursday night, she didn’t go into the coop with everyone else.  I found her outside in the dark and had to pick her up and carry her into the coop.  I put her the bed and that’s where I found her Saturday.

I decided to put her in the dog crate I use for broody breaking and quarantining, and did some asking on my favorite chicken forum to find out what I could do for her, given her symptoms.

This was Riley on Friday. I gave her scrambled eggs to eat,which she gobbled down and some water with vitamin B 12 to help boost her immune system.   A friend on my forum suggested Neomycin, thinking that it was a bacterial infection.

On Saturday morning, I let her out with the flock for sunshine while I cleaned her cage and freshened her food and water.  She was moving around, acting more perky,but still not like herself.  I gave her boiled eggs twice that day and she gobbled them down.

I was encouraged, hoping she might bounce back given a couple more days.

Over night, things changed drastically. Literally.

First, the temperatures dropped from the 60’s to the 30’s and it snowed.

This morning, Riley was standing up and I let her out in the barn, cleaned her cage, gave her fresh food with the Neomycin and vitamin B 12, and then I went about my day.  I’ve been checking in on the chickens frequently during the day, and have been saddened because Riley seems to be failing where yesterday she was not.

The barn itself is not cold. It was mid-forties tonight at lock up, but since Riley is ‘in quarantine’ she is not snuggling with the others.

I put her in our brooder box, with a heat lamp,but she isn’t eating, and I feel that she may not survive the morning.

I gave her a good cuddle tonight at bedtime, but my heart is heavy today.

MORNING UPDATE:   😦   I was right, she did pass in the night.  I expected as much, but it is still a sad thing. 😦



Rainy Day Friday

It’s Friday the 13 and here in north central Pennsylvania, it is raining. 

For the Littles, this was their first experience with water falling from the sky.  

Five of the smarter ones high-tailed it back into the coop, but the bulk of them, as you can see, remained in the tunnels, huddling together for the most part.  

They weren’t the only ones.  Pip and Julia alone braved the water pelting mercilessly on their backs while the rest of the older flock followed their fearless leader back inside.  

Meanwhile inside the coop… 

Claire has been sitting on a nest since Wednesday, May 11.  She’s got four eggs under her.  Two are hers, two she ‘acquired’ by unknown means.  

As I no longer believe that breaking a broody is a good idea, we are now on Broody Watch.  

I am apprehensive about this one.  Claire is not mild mannered, like Abby.  When Abby was broody, she let me pet her, feed her by hand and take pictures.  Claire is one of my ‘dragon ladies’ who roar like dragons when they are laying.  She bites if you try to reach in and count/take eggs.  

She’s a ‘witch’ in the nest, in other words.  

I have a few of these ‘dragons ladies.’  All are Rhode Island Reds, so I assume this is a personality/behavioral trait of their breed.  

But even they don’t bite like Claire does.  

So yeah… Broody Watch has begun.  Hatch date, June 1-2.  

As with Abby, I will be taking a ‘hands off approach.’  I won’t be candling, no matter how tempting it is.  I don’t even own a candling light.  And unless she proves to be an unfit momma, I’m leaving the rearing of the babies to her.  

And lastly… some pics of life around the coop. 

Riley with her new apron. Both Pip and Dots jave taken a shine to her and its wearing a spot in her saddle feather. What do you think- is blue her color?
Black Jack getting love on this rainy morning. He’s one of the ones who stayed in the coop
Riley playing peek-a-boo in the nest

Easter Weekend, The A-Versaries, and Update on The Fence

To everyone who celebrates – have a Happy and Blessed Easter Weekend.   We’ll be spending ours having an Easter Egg hunt on the farm for the kids (mine and some of my nieces and nephews) and a dinner in the early part of the evening.  I don’t know if all the prep for that will be conductive to us going to church, but if we do, our church has a sunrise service every Easter.

And I may make scrambled eggs for the spoiled birds, because they love it so much.

Speaking of spoiled birds… yesterday marked the Australorps and Orpingtons 3rd week in our care.

Week 3 – We’re looking scruffy, too!

IF you click on the image above and look real closely, it looks like I’ve got 4 baby roos and 2 little hennies out of both groups.  I could be wrong (hopefully I AM) but some of those combs look very pronounced.  Some of them certainly act like roos.  They rush each other and chest butt each other.  Yeah, there’s roos in this brooder bunch.  I’m just hoping there’s hennies as well.

Across the way in the coop, Pip turned 17 Weeks today.

For comparison’s sake, here he is as a day-old chick we dubbed ‘Pip the Cute & Fluffy.’  He’s still a cutie, but not so much with the fluffy anymore.

These days, Pip spends a lot of time in the coop, either in the window or in the roosts.  When he ventures outside, his papa (Dots, our rooster), chases him away mostly with a look and a growl.  They have not butted heads yet (or claws/beaks) but Dots is definitely establishing some kind of New World Order for Pip to follow.

No eating where we eat.

No bothering my hens.

And you can only roost with us at night if you sleep next to your Momma.

*sigh*  Yes, the only time Pip sleeps on the roosts (as opposed to the window ledge) is when he sleeps next to Abby.  She still tolerates him at night.  Abby is a good momma.

Pip,however, is finding it difficult to follow all of his Papa’s rules.  He’s developed a bit of a crush/fixation on one of the hens.


This little lady is Riley. She’s the girl that Pip is infatuated with.

He’s made several attempts in the last couple of weeks to mate with her.

They are clumsy, awkward attempts that involve chasing and the pulling of feathers.

She bit him last week after one said attempt.  He sulked.

This morning I witnessed him actually make it on top of her, only to wobbly off before something could happen.  Mostly because, instead of crouching to submit, Riley stood up and Pip lost his balance.  Riley is, actually, one of my bigger hens.  I haven’t weighed her with a scale, but I pick up as many of my birds as I can every day, and she definitely feels heavier than most in my arms.  At any rate, she’s bigger than him by a long shot.

So Riley stands up, Pip loses his balance and rolls off over the top of her head.

I laughed, because what else can you do?  She didn’t bite him this time, but honestly, look at that face?  Is that the face of a happily woo’ed woman?

Finally… The Fence Is Happening!!!!

It’s spring, the ground is thawed enough and our income tax money is ours to spend.  DH started the fence last week with material we already have, and picked up the rest of it today.  Hopefully, it won’t be too much longer and my little birds can roam free without me fearing their lives to the road.  Squashed, mangled bodies and bloody feathers floating on the wind is nothing I want to live through AGAIN.

Of course, The Fence means no more ‘free range chickens.’  I’ll have to start calling them ‘pasture raised’ or ‘pasture fed’ or something with a pasture in the name… but that’s a small price to pay to keep them all relatively safe.