Friday, May 20, 2011

Chicken enemy number one

Doug and I attended the Back Yard Flock talk last night put on by the Purdue University Extension Office.  It sounds as if the woman that spoke is a resource for 4-H and all families living in this area that have chickens.  She gave us her name, phone number and email.  She shares medicine and advice with people.  Sounds as if she is on call 24/7.  She has had chickens for about twenty years and I expect in that time you would experience just about everything.  She said she has had chickens in the city and now in the country and has multiple pens.  
The room was packed to the point of running out of chairs.  This is a two-session class and I can see the need for either more classes or longer sessions.  She spoke for two hours but what people wanted to do was ask questions and talk.  Any time she would pause, hands would raise and then she had to work to get back on task.  She covered a lot of information in the two hours and a lot of what she said was negative.  Like worst case scenario negative.  Last night's session was on diseases known to chickens living in this area of the state, lice, mites, worms, maggots, scaley leg mites, and injuries.  She taught us how to inspect a chicken and what a healthy chicken should look like, feel like and smell like.  Basically, are your chicken's eyes bright, healthy and clear?  Do the feathers look shiny?  Are the legs smooth?  What does its poop look like?  Yes, you read that correctly- she even talked about poop, which is indicative of the health of any living being's health.  Did you know that chickens could get ear infections?  Did you know that chicken's have ears?  Did you know a chicken can get a cold/respiratory infection?  Not only can they get a respiratory infection, it can be complete with snot and coughing and sneezing.  Oh yes, this was how pleasant the subject was.  She also told us how to remove a leg spur with pliers.  Not something I want to do in this lifetime.
I turned and looked at Doug as if to say "WHAT in the hell are we doing?" 
I am so thankful for the positive example of my friend Mary Jo and her chickens.  I have to say if I didn't have chickens before last night's meeting, I might have been scared out of jumping into this adventure.  I mean I would have been too chicken.
Mary Jo is a healthy, fit, laid back hippie kind of gal with an easy smile and a no-stress attitude.  She doesn't get too freaked out about anything.  Or if she does, she doesn't show it.  I always feel better about life in general after spending time with her.  Her attitude is positive and happy and that includes life with chickens.  I know she has lost a few chickens, but nothing too violent or disgusting.  I know one of her chickens went to the big chicken pen in the sky because it got itself into a corner of the pen on a hot summer day and was too stupid to get itself out of the sun.  Basically, it baked to death.  A couple of others have died mysteriously.  She thought perhaps a "stuck egg"  might have been the reason.  If she has had any icky, disgusting, violent experiences with her chickens, she didn't share them with me.  (Thank you, Mary Jo.)
The speaker also talked to us about predators including dogs, hawks, owls, opossums, foxes, coyotes and raccoons.  When she said the word raccoon, her eyes narrowed.  She said that people talk a lot about how cute raccoons are.  She told us that they have a "fake sweetness."
She told us that "the fake sweetness covers a black heart." 

 She also told us how the raccoons hand is very similar to a human hand.
She told us that raccoons can figure out how to unlatch simple hook and eye closures.  Doug and I have already discussed the possibility of having several locks in different places to keep the raccoons out.  I thought maybe something like a hook style like on a dog leash.  (If you are a chicken person reading this blog and know of a fail-safe way to keep raccoons out, please share with me.)  I think the name of this game sounds like "am I smarter than a raccoon?"
We did learn that we are feeding the right kind of food.  Sounds like (from reading my book and the Internet) that I have done some things correctly.  Some of it is luck, too.  Sometimes you just get a "bad" chicken.  Others are naturally stronger and more healthy. 
I came home and went to the mud room.  Opened the door and counted all of the chickens aloud... "one, two, three..."  all twelve accounted for, alive and breathing.  SHEW!
(Is this turning into a chicken blog?  Nope.  This is just what is occupying my days right now.)


Holly said...

I just don't know how you chicken people do it all. When I call you "Chicken people" it's said with much love. Anyway, sounds like it was pretty informative, and, I still think raccoons are cute. But then I never had one eat my pet.

farmlady said...

When you are raising farm animals it's good to know as much as you can about them. It sounds like you are doing just that.
Your hippy/earth mother friend has the right attitude...she will be a good resource.
Do what you can to make them safe, learn all you can and expect that something will happen that you don't understand. Chickens just die unexpectedly and often you have no idea why.
Get to know each chicken,(I call mine THE LADIES), give them names and enjoy all of those fresh eggs. The main thing is to have fun with them.
The Raccoons are not evil. They are just doing what they do. They are very smart animals. We have had a Lynx attack our chickens in broad daylight... right in front of us, when the chickens were out of their coop. It's what wild animals do. Even our little Corgis would do it if they had a chance.
Good luck.

From the Kitchen said...

I couldn't resist "stopping by" after seeing "Whosyergurl". We are practically neighbors. Well, three and a half hours close. Our older son graduated from I.U. so I know how long it takes to get there from Crown Point.

Love those eggs--chickens too.


Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

EARS? They have EARS? Just where are their ears?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Mary Jo said...

Cheryl, you are too kind. Your chickens are lucky to have you. (and I do freak out-- a lot! Just not about chickens.)

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