Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Ugly Underbelly: Heat, Molting and Snakes, Oh My!

Ok, 66 days of more than 100 degrees in Austin this summer. It is past ridiculous. Those 100+ degrees days aren't like a tepid 101 degrees; they are 104 to 106 degrees and let me tell you, that is really hot!

The girls are just plum tuckered out. Eggs only once or twice a week despite our best efforts to cool them, offer ice water, feed them the good stuff.

But I have to tell you, I completely freaked out this morning. Hazel began losing some feathers on her head a few months ago and it didn't get worse, nor did it get better. I dusted for mites and thought, "Oh well." But today I picked her up to give her a once over because her head looked raggedy and noticed something very wrong with her underside.

Familiar with molting? Well, according to my friends at www.BackyardChickens.com, I think this is it:

Yuck. I have found many similar pictures of molting via google images. Not pretty, but normal. I had no idea those were new feathers. In fact, I didn't really want to look too hard.

Now for the snake. I think I know why my girls prefer not to go to their coop on their own anymore. I found a five foot Texas Rat Snake in my yard one evening walking from their coop.
Check this out!
I mentioned in an earlier post that my girls were laying all over the place, well my neighbors two year old discovered six eggs in the corner of my yard and I am certain that is where they moved after Mr. Snake came around. I don't mind the snake, in fact I think they are really cool, but I don't like my eggs being stolen.

I ate store eggs out of desperation and they were so bland.

Anyway, found a nice wine crate and put a decoy egg inside with some fluff and Myrtle has been laying there ever since. Hazel is busy molting. Can't wait for that to stop.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

That Screeching Sends Me Running for my Babies!

We've got Redtailed-Hawks, at least two and maybe a family of three, as one seems smaller than the other.
I hear them screeching and I can't stop myself from running into the backyard to make sure my hens are smart enough to be under the patio, a tree or their favorite hideout, the picnic table.
They usually are under cover with lots of big trees in the back yard, but when you see two hawks take flight out of one of them, you can't help but worry.
I am exquisitely interested in whether on not the hawks are watching my girls. Hunting them. Why else are they roosting in the trees behind my yard?
I wonder if they can maneuver through the branches of my rotting 65 year-old cottonwood tree to snatch up one of my girls. Is that a worthy risk? I would suspect that they would prefer prey in the open, which I why I run to the backyard and make sure my girls are hidden.
Perhaps it doesn't matter where my hens are. They'll get snatched if the hawk's deem the reward worth the risk.
They have been circling for months, maybe they nested in the Post Oaks in the neighborhood behind us early this spring.
I remember driving out of my neighborhood and I looked north to see one of them circling over what looked like my part of the block. I called home and asked my husband to check on the girls. He just laughed and said, "They're fine, honey."
We have raccoons, possums, rats, armadillos and probably a host of other critters that I am completely unconcerned about, but the screeching of the hawks makes my hair stand on end.

Mrytle is Fine. Best Advice was to Trust Your Instincts

Myrtle fractured her leg. I discovered that some bone was poking through, so I cleaned it, feed her water by dropped with aspirin and kept her in her coop for three days. We then kept her in her coop for most the morning, but opened the door mid-day and she would hope out on one leg.

It took about two weeks before she would put pressure on it, but she only has a slight limp now. She has a bump that has totally healed on her leg, but she is doing great.

Egg production has slowed. Both chickens are laying all over the place; under tables, under the oak tree, behind my treadmill. The have made a nest out the the plastic bag that holds the pine shavings for their coop and are laying there. I know Hazel is doing that, but I haven't witnessed Myrtle laying at all. I actually wondered if she is laying period. She must be, although our eggs have been markedly Hazelesque recently; browner with speckles.

I referenced the Backyard Chickens forum for help when she was injured and I got great advice. She nice and knowledgeable people who said to just trust your instinct on how to treat her. It was good to hear that because I couldn't do much else. I made sure she got plenty of water, aspirin for pain and cleaned her injury.

We are pretty sure that she fell or something fell on her, becuase if a racoon got her, he would have eaten her.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Myrtle is Hurt

I'm not sure what happened, but I think a raccoon might have tried to get Myrtle. It may have been a freak fall or something, but she has a very hurt left leg. It isn't messy, just a small abrasion, but she will not put her foot down. She won't flex her toes and she has seemed to be in pain.

I fed her water with aspirin yesterday afternoon for the pain and kept her in her coop most of the day. The temp hit 95 degrees, so Marshall took her out and put her in the shade. She rested for awhile and then decided to hop around and look for bugs, but she won't let that foot touch the ground.

I'm considering a sling. Seems kinda silly, but her leg kinda dangles and if it hits the ground she pulls it up really quickly, so I thought giving her the option to just let it rest in the sling might be more comfortable. Still deciding about that.

Hazel is pretty distressed that she isn't feeling well; she stays close.

I'm going to put her to bed early tonight and hope for the best.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Still layin' and playin'

Been a long time and since the zillion 100 degree days of summer, but the chickens are happier, laying more eggs and pickin' the yard clean of bugs.

Today my family ate lunch outside and the chickens and dog wrestled over fallen french fries. Hazel is fast, Myrtle always misses out and Max is totally intimidated by both hens.
This is my lovely girl with my other lovely girls!
It has been just over a year since we adopted the hens and we love having them around.