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The Hens

Fox or Raccoon kills hens

4 March 2017
Sweetpea and Daisy have a blooming rosebush in their outdoor coop.

Sweetpea and Ginger have a blooming rosebush in their outdoor coop.

Due to human error, our hens, Sweetpea and Ginger, were killed by a raccoon or fox.

We’d let the girls out in the garden for a little sunshine and free-ranging. The wind came up and blew down a large pine tree. The door to the henhouse blew shut. We were busy assessing damage all afternoon. Twilight came and from the house, the coop door appeared shut. Little did we remember our hens were let out that afternoon.

In the morning we found them dead.

Hens, Sweetpea and Ginger were killed by a raccoon or fox.

Hens, Sweetpea and Ginger were killed by a raccoon or fox. It appears as if a fox or raccoon killed them in the night.

 

 

 

I am sick about this. I had nurtured Sweetpea after a dog attack and she was eight years old. That is old for a hen. Ginger was four years old and had been given to me by a neighbor. A sweet and gentle Buff Orpington.

These hens died as a result of “human error”. I will be getting 3-4 pullets soon. I will think twice before letting them out as I know bad things can happen. I feel awful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hens need winter greens

25 January 2016
Two hen in flowering schrub (Calendula).

Two hens in flowering shrub (Calendula).

 

And, like many of us seniors, our “senior” chickens need their winter greens each day. In Cambria, where we live, we have greens growing pretty much year around. We let the hens out of their coops for a few hours during the late afternoon to pick some greens from the garden. Their favorite greens, growing in the winter is, Tendergreen Mustard Spinach (komatsuna or Japanese mustard).

 

Grow greens for hens and family:

Tender green Mustard Spinach is easy-to-grow. It even will grow in the winter under light snow. You’ll need to re-seed every few months to keep a constant supply. If you’d like to grow your own, for your family or your hens, see Central Coast Gardening for details on growing komatsuna.

 

Penelope eating greens from my hand.

A hen eats greens from my hand.

 

 

Chickens also love French sorrel which is a perennial. It stays green year-around in Cambria. Once you get this started, you’ll always have “greens for your girls”.

If you don’t have much growing in your garden now, ask your grocery if he has some loose leaves you can take to your chickens. Be sure to save salad greens for your hens. We also keep a bale of green alfalfa in their sheltered outdoor area. It keeps them busy scratching through it when fresh greens are not available.

Just like us, chickens thrive with greens in their diet and they know what’s good for them.

 

 

 

 

 

Silver-laced Wyandotte Passes Away

20 December 2012

Pretty Poppy a Silver-laced Wyandotte Hen

 

Poppy, our pretty silver-laced Wyandotte died today. I’m not terribly distraught because she died of what I believe is old age. I found her under the roost. She was paralyzed on one side of her body. No blood. No broken bones. Just laying with her wings spread out. I put her in a cage in the garden shed with food and water. She ate a little. But in the morning she was gone.

The hens are approaching  5 years of age. Their toes are twisted and they look to have arthritis. They no longer lay eggs but I don’t have the heart to get rid of them. I’m down to two hens now, Daisy and Sweetpea. Both have been through much more than Poppy. Daisy has been sick twice and Sweetpea was attacked by a dog. They both survived their mishaps and are still strutting through the garden, taking dust baths, and running to me when I have a treat in my hand or call “chick, chick, chick”.

What to do with old hens is a dilemma that we, who have pet chickens, find ourselves in.  We can’t keep building on to our coops to house new “young chicks” who only lay a few years, then retire. Most of us don’t have room in our backyards.

Perhaps we need to lobby for a breed that will lay and live longer. Is it possible? They certainly have developed chickens that lay more eggs than ever thought possible.

I will miss Poppy. She was a level-headed survivor. When a hawk would fly over, Poppy was the first to sound the alarm and run for cover. She loved to free-range, scratching deep under the artichoke leaves. She was not as tame as Daisy and Sweetpea and did not appreciate me picking her up. She was a bit of a “wild thing” but oh so beautiful. I don’t think I’ll get another Wyandotte. I had trouble with both of my Wyandotte girls. The golden Wyandotte was “mean girl” (story here) and I had to rehome her, and Poppy was a “wild child” (see story) and I had to separate her when she was young. But, none-the-less. Poppy was one of the original six and her passing marks time in my own life.

Hens Need Their Nails Clipped

12 April 2012

Sweetpeas nails have grown too long.

Our hens needed a manicure. We have to clip the nails of our two labradoodles nearly every month. But with our hens, once a year does it. Living in the wild, chickens wear down their nails scratching in coarse dirt and even rocky soil. But our pampered hens scratch around in a run where most rocks have been removed and the soil is raked once a month to keep it clean.

The hens all needed to have their nails clipped this spring. We’ve only done this twice in their three years and it always makes me a bit nervous. Just like the dogs, if you cut a nail too short it bleeds. I took the nail clippers and some styptic powder (a blood stopper for dogs, cats, and birds) out to the coop and picked up Sweetpea who seemed to have the longest nails. Her nails were so long her toes were turning to the side.

I’m not very brave about clipping the nails of animals. I’m afraid of hurting them. Taking one toe at a time, while Don held the hens on his lap, we cut about 1/4″ off the ends of the nails on each hen. I did make one of Sweetpea’s bleed but it stopped with a little powder pressed on the blunt end of the nail and she forgave me. Sweetpea and the others were out scratching around in a few minutes.

Clip only the dark part of the nail.

These hens are relatively easy to handle. They squawk a little when we pick them up but usually settle right down when we put them on our laps. We’ve had to handle them quite a bit in their lives; giving them medicine, cutting off poop that has become hardened around their vents. We had to give Daisy a dose of mineral oil into her vent to remove a broken egg then let her soak in a warm tub. See picture here. We turn them upside down occasionally to check for problems “down south”. Chickens are no different than any other bird. Stuff goes in and stuff comes out. Feathers fall out and feathers grow in. Hormones go crazy and make them cranky and broody. Clipping their nails is just a little thing we can do occasionally to keep them healthy and is relatively easy. Chickens who are kept in cages don’t live long enough to have this pesky problem!.

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