Monday, October 21, 2013

RIP Lulu and the Frost Has Come

In hind sight, it was a warning sign that Lulu's eggs were always wonky in shape.  They generally had the overall egg shape, but they were uneven and no eggs were ever remotely the same.  We lost Lulu to Egg Yolk Peritonitis.  It's a condition that can progress fast in some cases and can often be deadly.

The day after I posted the last entry on this blog, I noticed that Lulu had bloody rump with some egg yolk dripping.  I bathed her in warm saline water to remove the yolk and blood to find that she seemed to have a prolapsed cloaca (hemorrhoid of the egg chute).  I looked up as much information as I could find on the internet and followed the emergency care instructions carefully and the cloaca stayed in.  We put her in a separate cage to protect her from possible attack from our other birds although they were not pecking on her.  One weird thing I was noticing was a farting sound frequently coming from Lulu's behind.  It almost sounded as if air she was breathing in was blowing right through her rear.  I couldn't find any info on that anywhere online. :(

The next morning, the prolapse was back and larger although we kept her dark and warm to keep her from laying (and she didn't lay an egg).  I bathed and examined her once again and that was when I noticed that I could feel a spongy chest (generally a sign that fluid buildup is taking place in the lungs), wheezing, and what seemed like a ruptured intestine hanging out next to her prolapsed cloaca.  Things were not looking good for poor Lulu.  Took her to the vet, expecting to hear the worst, and sure enough, we had to put her down.  When a hen has the egg yolk peritonitis, an egg has been broken inside the oviduct, and the yolk, having inflammatory quality out of a shell causes inflammation of the tissues, and seepage into the intestinal tract also allows for bacteria to grow rapidly in the yolk to cause toxic build up in the bloodstream,  fluid buildup ,and subsequent breathing difficulty among other things.  T_T  

Dorito seemed upset for days.  She would come running up to me and vocalize as if to demand to know where I took Lulu to.  She didn't like Fiona from the start and she would boss her around especially near the food or inside the coop.  Fiona is the first to retire when it starts to get dark, but Dorito would later go in and chase her off the roost.  Things went on like this for about 2 weeks.

Frosted mum in sunlight.
Lately though, something changed.  Fiona is finally back laying eggs regularly after molting (hens don't produce eggs during molt), and she's also looking much better with all her feathers in place.  I've noticed that Dorito was no longer pecking or threatening to peck Fiona when they get treats from me.  And they walk and run side by side (with their bodies touching even), and they both sleep on the roost now.  I think Dorito finally got over the loss of Lulu and accepted Fiona as her sister.  After all, there are only two of them now.  I feel very sad.  It will be months before chicks will become available (whether through the original web site where I purchased the first flock or at farm supply stores), and then we'll have to keep them separated until the new flock reach the same size as the older sisters.

We're experiencing a serious drop in egg production. ^^;  I wouldn't mind just looking for a layer hen or two from farms in the area, but I also terribly miss Frigglish and Coco.  They were so tame and friendly.  I miss the contact and connection.  I'm feeling more and more towards waiting till spring and get the chicks to start over.  Use the winter months to build additional space for the possible new chicks.  Fiona is finally letting me pet and eat from my hands, but I still have not held her yet. ^^;  Although both Dorito and Fiona have really warmed up to me in recent weeks.

The first killing frost came last week.  The tender plants were killed overnight.  It was an early frost for our area.  We usually don't get it until late October or beginning of November.  I am still harvesting tomatoes from the dead vines. ^^;  Some of the hardy herbs are still looking good and strong, too.  And my chickens' favorite, broccoli, still have lots of leaves to pluck and feed. ^_^

Frosted Mexican Sunflowers in morning sunlight.  

Frosted marigolds.

Strawberry leaves with frost.

It's always disheartening to see the leaves turning dark and droop after the killing frost.  I'm never prepared for the good-bye to the fresh garden vegetables.  It's always a shock to the system.  Thank goodness for the hardier plants to prolong the harvest season and soften the shock. ^^;

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Meet New Chickens and Photos of Garden

Goodness me!  I didn't realize it's been this long since my last blog entry.  First one since June. XD  I guess I was busy with work all summer long...

Something bad happened in late August.  4 of my chickens went missing without a trace.  I was left with Dorito, the Golden Comet hen only.  Maybe they were taken by wild animals... or somebody stole them... after all, they were pretty tame and used to people because I spent a lot of time with them, feeding, talking to, and handling. T_T  I miss my girls.

Well, it bummed us out to see poor Dorito all alone and sulking/moping in the corner of a backyard for a few days after the others went missing.  I wanted to get her new sisters -- although I knew it wasn't quite the same as "sisters from chickhood".  Still, it's better than a relatively social animal being left alone for the first time in her life.  I started looking at classified ads online and checked the local Craigslist.  After a dozen calls and e-mails, I got a call back from a lady who had a half a dozen 1-year-old laying hens for sale.  Well, the girls were just a week short of their first birthday, so I thought, "This is perfect!".  After talking to her, I also found out that she had some Ameraucana and Easter Eggers who lay green and blue eggs.  (Most of the classified ads only had Buff Orpingtons or roosters.)  We made arrangement shortly afterwards to go visit the farm and pick out the chickens for purchase. :D

She was selling her birds for only $8 each, which is a bargain, really.  The chicks I bought were more than half that, plus the Priority Mail shipping with special packaging costs a lot, although the joy of raising chicks was well worth the cost, I feel.

The only trepidation I had was how the 1-year-old chickens from a large flock (I mean, she had 6 or so for sale, but the rest of the flock was a large family of maybe 50 in her very large coop/run set up.) would warm up to Dorito, and to me and my family, if at all.  I had a faith that these birds are smart enough to associate food with the feeder, so if I spent enough time talking and feeding them various treats (by this, I mean, healthy treats like rolled oats, garden greens, yogurt, etc.), they'd eventually get used to me and be as friendly as the first flock.

Well, it took about 3 weeks before they finally warmed up to me enough to eat greens from my hand and another week to come running to me when I go out the backdoor and when I come through the gate after errands.  I love it!  It's so sweet to see them come running to me.  They may be just wanting food, but they look as sweet as a dog that is so happy to see you. ^_^

Dorito, on the right, is so bossy.  She does look more like a small rooster with her well-developed comb and wattles, and even bumps on the back of her legs where roosters would have spurs.  She used to mount on one of the sisters even. ^^;  One on the left is our new girl, Fiona.

Fiona came to us in early stage of molting.  She also had a big bald spot on her back where she was being mounted by an overzealous rooster frequently. ^^;  The back feathers have grown back, but she is missing all of her pretty black tail feathers.  She is also growing her muffs back.  Once all the feathers are back, she'll be beautiful!  She lays green eggs.

This is Lulu, the blue wheaten Ameraucana.  She is the smallest, but she has established herself as the sidekick of Dorito and number 2 of the flock.  She lays lovely pale blue eggs, but they're always a little bit wonky in shape. XD

Super lush and over-grown!  And protected by chicken wire fencing. XD  The six Square Foot Garden boxes had to be protected from the girls who treat them like the all-you-can-eat buffet.  Every now and then, I see one of the hens looking lost and stuck inside the fenced garden area.  They can fly if they wanted to.  But they don't feel very secure when they're all alone.  It seems that the lone bird does not seem to cause much damage to the crop.  When they find something as a group though, they can eat an entire mature broccoli plant in one feeding frenzy.

The overflowing herb box.  I have chamomile, flat-leaf parsley, basil, dill, thyme, orange mint, and more in this box.  Endless supply for cooking and for making the chicken cook smelling nice and sweet. :D

I got the bird bath for mother's day.  I have been putting some cut plants in there to give bees some place to perch.  All the marigolds are volunteer plants from last season.  I love the way they keep blooming!

From slightly different angle, showing the spring veggies box up front.  The Swiss chard is so productive I have an endless supply for my cooking and the chicken's treat.  They get so much fresh veggies in their diet their eggs have beautiful bright orange yolks.  I should dry some herbs, greens, and tomatoes for winter treats. ^_^

The last photo today is that of my volunteer morning glory vines.  They are so prolific.  We finally had a year with decent amount of rain throughout that leaves are extremely lush and dense.  These vines completely cover a section of the fence.  I love morning glory vines.