400 fans!

400 fans!

We just passed 400 fans on the Ferndale Backyard Chickens facebook fan page!  What a great thing to come in and see after cleaning out chicken poo from the coop run.

Feather Pickin’ Chicken

featherpickinchicken

A few days ago I noticed that BB and Dumptruck were looking… raggedy.  Specifically, their “bustles” (the area right above their tail feathers) looked like the feathers were thinning.  Yesterday I noticed that the colored portion of the feather was almost completely GONE in some spots on those two- meanwhile, Little Girl looked just fine.  What gives?

Seems we have a feather picker in our midst.  Ben caught LG snapping off feathers from BB, and spitting them out on the ground.  What a jerk chicken.

picked4

pickedpicked2 picked3

It’s likely boredom, and a little aggression thrown into the mix.  I saw her do it today- Dumptruck was taking a break from being out on the snow, resting on the stone step in the doorway of the run.  Little Girl stood above her, giving her the stink eye, and grabbing little strands of feather and pulling.  I pushed LG away several times, and finally just picked her up- it really came off like she was harassing Dumptruck to get out of her way/off her sunny spot.  Dumptruck doesn’t even seem to notice her doing it.  Same goes with BB: Ben noticed she was getting picked by LG, and went out there to stop it. BB didn’t seem any worse for the wear, like she didn’t even notice LG had been snapping off part of her feathers.  You can see in the pictures above that BB has a patch of orange missing, where it’s down to the fluff.  Likewise, Dumptruck’s bustle is sparse, but seems more uniform.

aggression

The culprit is none to happy about being picked up and carried around when I’m out there.  Of course, she also doesn’t like walking on the snow, being in the cold wind, not being able to run around outside of the coop, etc.  I feel like she’s getting a little stir crazy, and all-around grouchy.  I feel her pain.

So, I’ve got some options:

-give them things to peck at (I’ve given them cabbage, but squash and pumpkin are also good choices to keep them busy)

-give them distractions (I hung some cat toys and left a tennis ball inside- the ball seems to be the winner)

-reduce their high calorie treats (suggested by Terry from Hencam.com)

-shake up the pecking order (trying to do this by carrying the aggressor around)

-isolate the aggressor

Isolation is the worst case scenario, and will happen if this keeps going on.  Of course, because it’s winter I’ll have to take into account that the 3 need to huddle together to stay warm; I’m thinking I might be able to isolate LG during the day, and bring her back out before sunset so they can all sleep together.  I’m a little nervous about this possible action only because LG might get used to the warmth of the house and have a hard time adjusting when she goes back outside.

Always an adventure with these birds.  At least nobody has drawn blood, yet.

It’s cold out there!

It's cold out there!

One of the best things you can invest in when getting backyard chickens: a remote temperature reader. This way, you can obsess over the slightest temperature variations and neurotically check on your ladies to make sure they’re not chickensicles. (They’re not- in fact, they’re fine down to around 0degrees without any heat source, so long as they’re dry and away from drafts.)

The Great Molt is finally over!

The Great Molt is finally over!

It’s relatively balmy out today, so it was a great morning to let the chickens run around. They’re FINALLY done with their molt and are turning regal again- I’m always amazed by how their feather catch the light just right.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but there’s something about their feathers that make them look like a painting to me, in nearly every photo.

The telltale signs of a great dust bath.

The telltale signs of a great dust bath.

I let the ladies out of the run to wander in the snow, when one of them stopped right by the doorway and shook like a dog. The dark spot is all the dirt she was carrying around with her after her in-coop dust bath.

GRAPHIC: abnormal finding in the coop

Alright, a gross mystery for you all.

Ben went out to check on the ladies this morning, and came back in telling me there was weird red egg inside the coop.  He described it as looking like “a cherry tomato”.  Scary.  I went to investigate.

There was a red lump, surrounded by wet bedding.  Above, a shell-less egg with a TON of watery poo nearby.  Keep in mind- I clean this coop every day, so this wasn’t a buildup of poo from a few days or anything.

I can only assume one of my ladies had a VERY bad morning.

I examined the mass at length: it felt like it contained liquid (it did), had an attached ‘cord’ with what appeared to be ova at the end, a dark spot inside that, after dissection, turned out to be extra tissue inside the sac, and the ‘liquid’ inside appeared to be egg yolk.

So… what is this thing?  Did my hen lay an egg yolk… maybe dragging other egg yolks with it?  Is it a cyst?  Whatever it is, the ladies all seemed healthy and happy  and were running around scratching like normal, so I’ve got to assume that it’s not, ya know, vital to their function.

Downers Grove city council too scared to put chicken coop question on ballot

if it's in my hands, it might be food, right?
if it’s in my hands, it might be food, right?

Sounds awfully familiar to the situation we were in in Ferndale. Here’s hoping they examine how other cities have approached the issue and take another look at changing their ordinance.
http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-01-09/news/ct-tl-downers-grove-chicken-referendum.-20130109_1_commissioner-becky-rheintgen-fowl-ordinance-chickens

The Downers Grove village council overwhelmingly rejected a measure Tuesday that would have let voters decide whether more homes in town should be allowed to keep backyard chicken coops.

Commissioner William Waldack offered two advisory questions, which were rejected by members of the Village Council. The deadline for adding a referendum to the April 9 ballot is Jan. 22.

Waldack argued that any change to the regulations for raising fowl on residentialproperty is a quality of life issue in which voters should have a say. Waldack previously cited smell, health hazards, attraction of predators and cost of enforcement as potential issues to be considered.

“It has the possibility of impacting just about every life in Downers Grove,” Waldack said during Tuesday’s council meeting. “Not that we’re going to have an influx or invasion of chickens, but if your neighbor goes out and gets a coop and starts raising chickens, suddenly that becomes a very local and personal issue.”

Commissioner Becky Rheintgen, who was absent from Tuesday’s meeting, first introduced the idea of expanding the village’s fowl ordinance in December, citing an increased demand for and focus upon sustainable living and local food sourcing. Rheintgen proposed decreasing setback requirements, increasing the maximum number of fowl allowed, banning roosters and requiring a license or permit to keep chickens.

Currently, the 25-year-old ordinance allows residents on lots at least 110 feet wide and deep to raise no more than 16 domesticated fowl within specific age ranges on their property. Rheintgen asserted that the property requirements are too restrictive, and fewer than 20 percent of residential lots fall into those parameters.

Waldack suggested two questions asking residents whether local laws should allow for an expansion of the number of homes permitted to keep chickens.

But most of the members said a referendum would be ineffective. Mayor Martin T. Tully said the language offered was too vague.

“We, as a council, don’t even have the information before us to intelligently discuss this issue, much less expect the public to have to vote on it,” Tully said. “What would be thevehicle be by which the residents and voters would get information necessary to responsibly and intelligently cast a vote on this topic? The results of that process wouldn’t provide me with any meaningful information in how to exercise my responsibility as an elected official.”

Commissioner Marilyn Schnell said putting the issue to voters, in this case, would be a “disservice to the residents.”

“We’re elected to try to gather all the information possible, both pro and con, listen to our residents and make a decision that would be in the best interest of our entire community,” Schnell said.

The council has a standing committee scheduled for Jan. 22 devoted to discussing the ordinance. The meeting is open to the public. Waldack countered that he doubted residents would turn out in big numbers for a discussion.

“We’ve had many important meetings. Very often very few people show up,” Waldack said. “If this were put on as a referendum, people will be looking at it, they will get educatedand they will be able to make an educated decision. I think it would actually enhance resident knowledge of the situation.”

cdrhodes@tribune.com

Twitter @rhodes_dawn

1 year down, many more to go!

2ndyearcooprenewal
First and second year coop licenses/inspection approvals

Second year coop license! Coop license renewal went well, and the hens behaved themselves in front of the city inspector.

While the inspector was out, we showed him our water heater (a cookie tin with a light bulb in it), explained why we have plastic wrapped around the run (wind break during cold, snowy spells), and explained why the hens weren’t laying (not enough daylight hours).

While he was out, he mentioned that we were the first coop to fill out renewal papers and be inspected. In case any Ferndalians read this, just a reminder:  your coop license expires Dec 31 every year, no matter when you got approved.  The renewal process is very straight forward: fill out your packet of information just as you did when you originally registered, minus the coop drawings, and take it back to the city clerks office with your check for $35.  Bingo, bammo, done deal.  You can schedule your inspection at that time as well, which is what I did- I wanted it done and over with as soon as possible.

The inspector mentioned there are a few other homes in Ferndale now with registered coops… I’m really interested in contacting the other registered coop owners to see if they’d be interested in planning a coop tour in spring.  Something informational, with handouts on chicken keeping at every coop- might be a nice way to get more people registered and on board with it.

I also started a Facebook page, just to make it easier to get the word out about Ferndale chicken issues: http://www.facebook.com/FerndaleBackyardChickens

as well as a google+ page to help us gain some more visibility:

https://plus.google.com/b/103161687709305818453/103161687709305818453/posts

Here’s hoping 2013 will be a great year!