Thursday, June 23, 2011

Snakes on an (Earthly) Plane

Seriously, don't do it
As a Texan, I take trespassing very seriously. Trespassers with two, four, or zero legs are not welcome at the ranch. But my chickens, being avian dinosaurs, apparently have other ideas when it comes to their legless cousins.

It would seem that the chickens do not mind so much when their cousins come to visit and help themselves to a few eggs. The last couple cousins consumed ceramic eggs, and by the power of Natural Selection, the remaining ones only seem to like the genuine article.

So today, while opening the gate for Doctor Dolittle, I encountered a zero-legged trespasser. At first I thought it was a stick, so to be sure I gave a neighborly "Hi there" while reaching for the board that holds the gate open. As my face got closer to the object, I could see that it was organic and scaly.

Experienced warrior that I am, I gritted my teeth, closed my eyes, and aimed the board at the snake's head. I missed. I missed because it lunged at me while I was swinging at it's head. I stuck a blow to the snake's tail, causing it to snap like a scaly little whip, right in front of my face. The board shattered with the force of my mighty blow and half of it sailed over the snake's head toward mine. I danced away as my digestive exit blinked out an S-O-S.

Screwing up my courage, I returned to the fray. Keeping my eyes open this time, I managed to share a blunt opinion with the trespasser. Accepting my irrefutable logic, the snake departed this plane.
Water Moccasins shouldn't mess with Texans
Ever the professional, Doc suggested I wash my hands. My hands are not the only things that need washing....

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Finally got some rain

Last night it rained. Oh the chickeny joy!

The drought and heat has been hard for everybody. Spraying with the hose helped bring down some of the heat exhaustion, but I sure collected a lot of stink eyes.

We finally got rain (and lost power). But we had rain! And the weather shield of tarps and plastic sheet worked!

When I let the chickens out the ground was not dusty. They were puzzled by the unfamiliar lack of bathing material, but worked over the run anyway.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Removing Rooster Spurs

Well, it had to be done....

I previously wrote about trimming Mr. Big's spurs. We did not trim enough, because today Doc noticed that De has started looking raw like Vo. We immediately began waiting for nightfall when the chickens would be snoozing on their roost.

We crept into the coop and snatched Mr. Big from the roost. He was not pleased and communicated his displeasure. The girls argued for his immediate release, but their pleas fell on deaf ears.

Here are the steps used to remove the rooster's spurs:

1. Hold the rooster by the feet, upside down.
Spurs are still too pointy
2. Grasp a spur with pliers, then rotate along the axis of the spurs while bracing the leg.
Grab spur and turn one way
3. Then rotate the pliers in the opposite direction.
Turn the other way
4. Pull the spur off. Note that it may bleed.
Pull straight off
5. Blot the bloody spurs with cornstarch.
Put a little cornstarch on bloody spurs
Doc and I restored Mr. Big to his roost. Oh the chickeny joy! Well, joyful enough. We collected our stink eyes and left.
Spurs from 1 year old rooster
The hens can thank us later.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cowboy Loses His Spurs

Mr. Big has come a long way from the days when he did not know which end of a hen to mount. Now he does his "Hey Baby" dance whenever I am out of sight and the hens are looking good. And they look good to him all the time....

Mr. Big, being a healthy Texas rooster, has a sharp set of spurs. Last year, when his they were small and blunt, it was no problem when he developed a favorite girlfriend. Now that his spurs are pointy, "Ride 'em cowboy" carries a high price.

Vo has been his very special friend for some time now and is starting to look the part. When you compare De and Vo, you can see that De lacks the oh-so-attractive bald spots that Vo is sporting.
De, Vo. Feathers, Bald.
Spur damage on Vo
 I guess you could say we were spurred to act.

Dr. Dolittle and I waited until nightfall and collected Mr. Big from his roost. He complained about being caught at first. Then he saw the clipper and became very still, as if he were preparing himself for his journey to the freezer. Sparing his life, we clipped 1/8 inch off the tips of his spurs. Mr. Big was not very impressed with this treatment and fluffed his feathers discreetly when returned to the roost. I pretended not to notice the stink eye he sent our way.
Mr. Big in an undignified position, showing spurs
Making the spurs less sharp
I hope blunting the spurs was enough. If this does not work, then I will have to take the spurs off entirely with pliers. This creeps me out because it seems to me like pulling out fingernails. Eeeeeew!

UPDATE: Still too sharp five days later. Here is how we removed the rooster's spurs.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Broody Separation Anxiety

Buffy the broody hen has gone from violent nest protector to overprotective mother hen. The chicks are a month old and she has started getting used to being excluded from the chick tractor during the day.

At the end of the day I open the tractor. Some chicks make a break for it, flying out of the top hatch. Other chicks act like ninnies and stand in a far corner looking confused. The rest wait for me to lift the side of the tractor and run to their mother.
Getting ready for bed
Month old chicks and a full grown hen make for a very crowded brooder cage. Since I have not finished the new coop yet, I thought I could get away with evicting Buffy from the cage. Oh the chickeny distress!
Buffy on the roost

Chicks in the brooder
Did I mention the chickeny distress? Let me say that chickens express separation anxiety vigorously.

Buffy ran up the brooder ladder and stood outside the cage squawking. She flew to the other side of the coop and looked for a nonexistent back door and squawked some more. She tried to get on top of the cage and made a big fuss. She tried going into the downstairs nest box and looking up and squawking. The chicks and the other chickens joined in the cacophony. Mr. Big even gave me the stink eye.

Finally, relenting to their demands, I opened the brooder cage door for Buffy. She flew up the ladder and landed in a pile of chicks. After one group squawk silence fell on the coop. Oh the chickeny joy!
Buffy and the chicks in the brooder

Getting a cuddle from mom
The chicks gathered around their mother, gave me an angry glare, and then cuddled up for the night.