Monday, October 31, 2011

From our 3 little self-started-home-grown-pumpkins...

And from Raven, Teeter, Mojo (screen door) and the gang...

And from Boo. 

Because, well, you know, how can you have Halloween without Boo?

Gypsy Farmgirl wishes everybody a Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

One of my chickens, Sunshine, has a poopy butt. 

{I will spare you the photo.}

I was worried about this, since I often shoot pictures of my chickens' butts, and a poopy butt could be a real photo-op-ruining moment.

{You all shoot chicken butt photos too, right?}

Actually, I was worried she might have chicken diarrhea or coccidia or have eaten the sprayed soybeans in the neighbor's field. So I asked an on-line chicken forum about it.

{You didn't know you could ask about chicken butts on-line?  Well, you can, thank goodness.}

Nobody responded.  Apparently, poopy-adult-chicken-butt isn't a common problem. Baby chicks are another story however. "Pasty butt" happens to baby chicks, where runny poo dries so hard it can seal off their vent (poo hole) and they can't eliminate and can die. 

When my girls were this age back in April, I had a few pasty butts to clean that first week they came home.

That's chip I'm holding above, an Americana, who is also in the next photo.  Ack! Where did my little "cute-as-a-Chip-&-Dale-Chipmunk" go?

Sorry Chip, you know I luv ya, but ye ain't the cutest chick on the block I'm afraid.

But back to Sunshine.

Not content with my "no response" forum, I checked another on-line forum (yes there are multiple places to ask chicken butt questions), and here I found a variety of possible causes and solutions.  They ranged from the benign to the serious. 
  • Posture issues - chickens that don't squat far enough to miss their butt feathers - ignore it. 
  • No cause - just trim their butt feathers real short all the time {Brrrr?}
  • Give them a bath when you get one that is prone to having this.
  • Mites and lice and bugs - oh my! Dust 'em with pesticides! Douse 'em with wormers!
For good measure I decided to rewatch my Chicken Video DVD because I remember her showing how to give a chicken a bath. In her "general chicken care" chapter, she didn't cover "poopy-adult-butt" syndrome but she did cover a non-chemical way to deal with mites - give the chicken a bath in soapy water but don't rinse it off her feathers.  The soap will form a seal around the mites when it dries, killing them.

Aha!  So I could give her a soapy bath during which I could wash off all the poo, and it might also treat her if she had any mite problems. 

{I do also put diatomaceous earth in their dust bathing areas since this will also help kill mites.}

So this morning before I went out to the coop, I got a dog kennel set up in the bathroom, some extra towels, a bucket in the tub with warm soapy water, turned the space heater on, and went to get Sunshine.

She was sitting in a nest box.  Perfect timing.

I came back a little later and nabbed her.  She lets me pick her up all the time, so this was not a dramatic moment.  At first she was all "I-know-you're-just-going-to-hold-me-for-awhile-and-put-me-down," with her happy clucking noises.  Then we approached the house, and I saw a look of distinct, "Wait-this-isn't-what-we-normally-do" accompanied by some louder clucking noises.

Then we went inside, and her clucking escalated and increased in frequency.  Into the bathroom, then into the bucket.  Now she was definitely all "WHAT-THE-HECK-ARE-YOU-DOING-TO-ME??" She even tried to fly out of the bucket a few times.

But then she sort of settled in, stopped fighting, and seemed to rather enjoy her bath.  Maybe she understood that I was trying to remove the crusted poo that was probably tugging on her butt feathers all day long. Or maybe she was dissociating. It's hard to tell with chickens.

But for the rest of her bath, she just stayed calm and let me get the soapy water up under her parts and work the poo off her butt.

{By the way, a wet chicken smells kind of like wet dog. And looks even more pathetic.}

I thought I could dry her off with a towel and leave her in the kennel in the toasty warm bathroom for awhile, but she wasn't getting much drier, so I ended up blow-drying her off.

{I kid you not.}

She tolerated this just as she tolerated her bath - calmly.  I am eternally grateful for being able to practice this entire maneuver on our tamest chicken. I shudder to think what Shia Lebeouf (our other Buff Orpington) would have done under similar circumstances.

After her coif & curl session it was time to head back outside. I figured she'd fly off my arm at her first opportunity, what with all the torture and stuff. But she stayed perched on my arm when I took her outside, even preening her feathers a bit.  Eventually she hopped down, and mingled into her flock.

Later when I went out with treats, she came right up to me, apparently forgiving me for her ordeal (dissociation helps with that I'm sure).

And when she turned around, I couldn't even tell which buff-colored fluffy butt was hers anymore.

All was right in the world again.

The End
Gypsy Farmgirl washes a chicken

Monday, October 17, 2011

Several weeks ago we purchased a 31' 1971 Airstream Landyacht which we plan to live in next year after we return from Hawaii.  Our attemps to bring it home from where the previous owner stored it have taught us several lessons.

Such as...

Don't rent a truck from a hardware store to pull your new trailer home.  Even if it has a hitch, the hitch will be unusable.  Check for the bolt welded inside it before you pay the $25 and drive 40mn to the trailer location.

{Don't ask how we know this.}

Don't purchase a cheap towing vehicle sight-unseen 800 miles away unless you have a lot of extra time in your schedule to do the needed repairs when you arrive to pick it up.

Best to call into work ahead of time and just let them know you'll still be on the road Monday morning (or sleeping off an all-night drive home).

Even after you get it home, whatever can go wrong with your pulling vehicle, will.  Like a busted gear-shifting cable. If you're lucky, it will break before you leave your own driveway.

{We were lucky}

When you remove the driver's seat to replace the cable, be careful you don't pinch the cable when you put the seat back in and clamp it down.  If you make this mistake, the vehicle will not shift out of Park.

It's really best to get the 7-wire electrical hookup completed before you leave to go pick up your trailer, vs. trying to do this in the field when you arrive.

When you can't get the electrical jack to work on the trailer, remember the front feet of the trailer, which can be used as a jack to lift the nose of the trailer up in a pinch.

A 31' trailer will require a very wide turning radius. Things will pull loose under the trailer if you cut a corner too short and end up scraping the trailer tail across the ditch.

Electrical tape is almost as useful as duct tape when you need to keep things from dragging behind the trailer.

There is nothing sweeter than seeing your silver bullet streaking down the highway past fields of golden corn.

Except perhaps for enjoying the sunset glinting off its silver sides after you get it safely home.

Friday, October 14, 2011

There are many things I'm learning at the Big Farm this year, even things that have nothing to do with alpacas or chickens.

Like how to spot and harvest wild ginseng.

And how to collect and crack hickory nuts.

If you're going to pick hickory nuts, I recommend taking along a couple of small children.  Preferably, ones that did not come from your own loins. 

That way you can enjoy them swinging from tree branches and hollering like Tarzan, burying your nuts in the sand before handing them to you, and emptying their Papa's bucket into yours, "just to help."

If you've never tasted a hickory nut before, you're in for a treat. If you can get into that shell (I was shown a way to do this with a vice, applying pressure from two directions just until it cracks) what rewards you will be something reminiscent of a pecan crossed with heaven.


A good hickory tree will yield a 3-gallon bucket full of nuts in 45 minutes of picking.

Allowing you and the children to "go nuts" in record time.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

In the last hour before sunset, the chickens have a ritual. They gather together as a flock, searching out the last tasty tidbits near the barn before heading to the coop and securing their favorite spots on the roost.

I like to take my Z-rest and sit near them (or at least try - they are a moving target usually), enjoying the last light of the day as I sit quietly and observe.

A few things I have learned from them:

1. Keep one eye on the ground for tasty tidbits, but always always keep one eye to the sky. You never know when that eagle will be back.

2. Always check out the Hoomans whenever they come out of the house - they are your best bet for getting tasty tidbits.

3. When you see something you want, don't be shy and don't hold back - grab it and run like hell or someone else will get to it first.

4. Stick with your wingman. Raven & Teeter (above) are great at this. They are always found together, even on the roost at night. 

5. Being the smallest does not mean being the lowest in the pecking order. Dixie, our smallest bird, a bantam Barred Rock, is the leader of the flock, with the top position on the roost and the loudest voice.

6. The only thing that should ever ruffle your feathers is a tail wind. All the rest is probably not worth worrying about.

Cheers -
Gyspy Farmgirl gathers wisdom from chickens

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

{Update: My first ever yarn giveaway winner is @ericarivera! Thank you to all who left a comment!}

Just because...

It's an absolutely gorgeous day...

It's my 9-year wedding anniversary...

I now have over 300 Instagram followers...

I've never had a give-away on my blog before...

I have several super-soft skeins of alpaca yarn waiting to be used....

And I love my readers....

I'm giving away a skein of 100% pure alpaca yarn!  

200yd, 2-ply, sport-weight, seven natural (undyed) colors to choose from.  Visit this page for more yarn details and color options.

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post indicating what color you'd choose and what project (or purpose) you'd use it for.  If you are an IG user, please also leave your IG user name (for example, @aspendance is me).

Winner will be chosen Friday in a random drawing (several house cats may or may not be involved).  I will post the winner on IG and here on this blog post by 10:00PM CT.

Happy commenting!!
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