Thanksgiving Blessings!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Fair Faces

The end of the year is rapidly approaching and soon everyone will be thinking about baby chicks and new flock additions. But in the meantime, I wanted to look back at some of the faces of the poultry I met at our local fairs. I love taking a peek at the earnest eyes, inquiring faces and the unusual. I hope you do too!

Sick Barred Rock at Vet

The other night I was going out to dinner so I put the girls in their coop/run for protection in case I didn't get back before dark. At that point I noticed one of my barred rocks was walking a little slow and seemed to be waddling. I said a short prayer and hoped nothing was wrong.

Unfortunately when I fully closed the coop that night, I found the barred rock laying on the floor, not perching with the others. This is never a good sign! I also noticed that when I picked her up, her abdomen was hugely swollen.

At first, I thought she was egg-bound, so that night I soaked her belly in a tub of warm water for 20 minutes and she slept in my bathroom where I had run the shower at a high temperature to get the humidity up.

By morning, it was clear none of these methods were working. The strange thing was, and is, that other than her swollen belly, the barred rock was alert, eating and her comb/wattle were perky and a bright healthy red.

So, as a last ditch effort, I took her to the vet. I know it sounds weird, but I had to do something. The vet pronounced that the situation was dire. My "barty" was not egg-bound, her abdomen was filled with fluid. There are many possible causes for this, from a shell-less egg that entered her abdomen to ruptured reproductive organs or liver problems. All these issues are more likely to arise in older chickens, and considering my "barty" is four years old, the vet suggested we put her down.

I just couldn't do this. My barred rock was too alert and happy to be "talking" with everyone. So the vet suggested that maybe antibiotics would help. He admitted he doesn't see many chickens, so why not give it a last ditch effort. He also suggested that we draw some fluid from her abdomen to relieve her discomfort and to see if it would give us a clue about her condition. The tech held her and the vet was able to draw three of the shots, that you see below, full of fluid. The fluid was inconclusive, but it did give the "barty" immediate relief.

So, for now, my barred rock is home and recuperating well. She's got an outdoor run for the days and an indoor run in the garage for the nights. She's eating and drinking. And, if you didn't know better, you'd have no idea anything was wrong.

I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for a recovery, but she is an old girl, so only time will tell.

Catching Up...

I apologize. It's been a while since my last post. Somehow with summer and back-to-school, my postings took a back seat.

I was just in the back yard feeding my flock some treats and thought this overcast, blustery day would be the perfect time to catch up.

Considering the extreme heat and drought, my chickens fared well this summer. Once the heat got going, we moved them to a deeper part of the woods during the day. This kept them a little cooler and happier. Nonetheless, we did lose one barred rock. I think her death was heat related although I'm not sure. It was actually bizarre. My husband and I took the chickens some cool fresh water late in the afternoon. (In the heat, the chickens loved this treat.) They were all gathered around the bowl drinking when my barred rock fell over and died. The whole thing took about 30 seconds and left me shocked by its suddenness. The only good I can find is that our barred rock didn't suffer.

Beyond that bizarre death, lots of good things happened late in the summer. Rupert, our unexpected buff orpington rooster, grew into a gorgeous mature bird. He is beloved by everyone. He's not cuddly like our hens, but he's really cool. He keeps track of all the hens. He inspects all new visitors. And, he keeps our hens safe. If there's a hawk in the sky, Rupert will let you know.

Also, our spring hens have grown into beautiful mature birds. I like to marvel at all the color combinations that come from one breed - red sex links. They've all started laying and are giving me lots of eggs to sell to my customers.

Overall, things are good here at Elm Ridge Farm and my chickens are happily enjoying the cooler days of late summer/early fall.

Fair Chickens

We visited our local 4-H fair and found some really cool chickens. What fun to see so many different varieties...

White Cochin Bantam

Naked Neck Silkie Bantam

Rhode Island Red Rooster

Old English Game Bantams

White Silkie Bantams

Wyandotte Rooster

Black Tailed Buff Rooster

Mille Fleur Belgian Bearded d'Uccle Rooster

Mille Fleur Belgian Bearded d'Uccle Hen

Ameraucana Makes Her Own Nest

Big Muff is one of our beautiful and reliable Ameraucanas. She's also our wanderer. Almost no height of fence will stop her. Sturdy top or not, she'll hang on and get herself to the other side. Even clipping her wings doesn't make a difference.

During our recent heat wave, Big Muff was undaunted. it didn't matter how many times we caught her, she could always be found right back on the concrete pad outside our garage. We really worried about her, because the temperature on the concrete was stifling. She'd sit there and pant and we'd try to catch her without causing her stress.

Then, as I was mulching our beds, I found out why Big Muff was so insistent. She had been making her own clutch of eggs right next to our front door under the arborvitae. I couldn't believe it! There were twelve beautiful green eggs that the raccoons, who are around every night, had not touched.

So, I kept an eye out, and sure enough, Big Muff eventually made her way to her nest and went right in.

I decided to pick her up and put her back in her coop. Then I promptly cleaned out the eggs. This seems to have broken whatever cycle she had going. Now, she's laying in the nest where she's supposed to lay her eggs.

I'll never know if it was the unbearable heat, although she picked a hotter spot than her coop, or having a rooster around, that made her decide to build a nest. But, it was really cool to see.

Three Easy-To-Grow Herbs

Herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow. They’re not fussy and usually, you can just plant them and let Mother Nature take care of the rest. It’s best to try to meet the growing requirements stated on the label when you buy the plant. But even in that regard, herbs give you lots of leeway. Many will thrive in both full sun and partial shade. They usually don’t like wet feet, so make sure your site is well-drained.

Since the growing season is upon us, I encourage everyone to experiment with a few easy-grow-herbs that can even be tucked in among your other garden plants — no fancy herb garden required!

Wildlife Wednesdays: Gray Treefrogs Making More Frogs!

We found this pair of Gray Treefrogs on the ground beside our pool. I eventually had to move them to a nearby tree since the chickens and our cat, Beth, really wanted to eat them. They were a pretty cool sight to see!

It's amazing the size difference between males and females.
The by-product of their efforts!
Since the pool cover is coming off soon, I've spent the last few days moving tadpoles and eggs to a pond in our local State park. This way they've got a chance!

Meet Our Newest Chicks

Meet Poachy, Sunny and Scrambles, the newest additions to our flock! Yes, I know, we already got chicks this spring. By the way, they're doing great! But, on Saturday we went to the grand opening of our local feed and seed store. They had about 20 "leftovers" from their last batch of chicks. (As a testament to just how popular backyard chicken keeping has become, they sold over 600 chicks this spring. Wow!)

It just so happens that three of those chicks were Rhode Island Reds; my husband's favorite chicken breed. And, one we don't have in our current flock. So, before I knew it, my husband had scooped up three and declared we were getting them.

The worker was thrilled with our purchase and kept the chicks at the counter while we shopped. He was so excited that during this time, he gave our chicks names and wrote them on the box. Frankly, the names were perfect, so we kept them.

Poachy, Scrambles and Sunny are settling in quite nicely. We took them outside yesterday and they loved it. In a week or two, they'll meet the other chicks and become a beautiful part of our backyard flock.

FYI - My husband is so happy with "his" chicks that he stayed up until 2 a.m. with the chicks on their first night. They were having trouble settling in and he wanted to make sure they were fine. OMG!

Wildlife Wednesdays: Gray Treefrog Serenade

Over the weekend, we found this gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor) in the backyard very close to where the chickens like to hang out. Trying to be good stewards of wildlife, we took pictures and then let the frog go in a place the chickens can't reach.

The funny things is, we've been serenaded every night by a chorus of treefrogs, but we never could find them; just this little guy. Then, my husband and I went outside after a thunderstorm the night before last. The chorus sounded closer than usual. And it was! Much to our surprise, the pool cover that has water on it during the winter, is now being used as a vernal pond. We found over 50 frogs all over the pool cover and swimming in the water. We even watched them inflate their throats to sing.

Although tree frogs are almost entirely arboreal, in the spring they do congregate to mate. Our frogs have definitely been successful this year judging on the amount we've got in the backyard. So, for the time being, we'll just have to wait to drain that pool cover. Thank goodness we don't have long to wait until it's time to take it completely off the pool!

Farewell Mela, Our Silver-Laced Wyandotte

I confess; I didn't want to write this post today. Over the weekend, our beautiful silver laced wyandotte, Mela, died. As I said when we buried Mela, she was our flock leader and a wonderful chicken who will be greatly missed. She was one of our four original chickens and the sole survivor after four years. She came with the Easter bunny and we learned how to raise chicks with her. She survived the dog attack that killed most of our original flock. In that attack, she was pretty badly wounded. We treated her wounds with Vaseline and kept a close eye on her. When our original flock leader, another silver laced wyandotte named Chaser, died, Mela quietly and effectively took her place.

I'm not sure why Mela died. She had no signs of the illness that killed our our two white leghorns. In fact, the picture above was taken just ten days before her death when she was the first one to take a peek at the new chicks. She was active up until her death. So active that two days before she died, I called my husband from the coop so he could hear Mela crowing like a rooster. Then yesterday my husband went to let the flock out for the morning and found Mela dead on the floor of the coop.

Friends tell me that it's common to lose older chickens. And that chickens often die of an illness so quickly that you never catch it. I'm not sure what happened, I just hope Mela didn't suffer. I also hope the rest of the flock stays healthy! For now, they'll have to establish a new leader and look forward to seeing the chicks again since their tractor is ready and we're blessed with great weather for the week.

Wildlife Wednesdays: Eastern Black Swallowtail Emerges

Last October, my kids found a beautiful Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillar, sometimes known as a Parsley caterpillar, in some weeds next to our driveway. I told them they could keep the caterpillar overnight, but we had to let it go the next day since it was late in the season. We found some Queen Anne's Lace and gave it to the caterpillar to eat. It immediately started munching on the plant and seemed comfortable in our butterfly carrier on the screened-in porch.

The next morning we checked on our caterpillar and found that overnight it had turned into a chrysalis. I was a little apprehensive about this. I knew the chrysalis would not emerge until spring. Would it overwinter on our screened-in porch? I wasn't sure, but I knew I had to give it a try. After all, I couldn't just throw the weed into the woods, that would surely mean death for the chrysalis.

So, all winter I checked on the chrysalis daily. I moved it into our unheated garage when the weather got bad (which wasn't much this winter). I worried when we had 80 degree weather in March. Would the butterfly emerge too soon?

Then, on Sunday, I checked on our chrysalis and was amazed to find a beautiful and healthy Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly.

The chrysalis was still intact, so I took some pictures because you can still see how it was anchored to the Queen Anne's Lace. And, it looked really cool.

We all enjoyed meeting our new butterfly friend, took some pictures and then let her go to start a new generation of butterflies for 2012. Oh, by the way, we know she's a girl by the generous amount of bright blue on her lower wings. A boy is mostly black with the yellow spots.

Baby Chick Faces

Who can resist these cuties? Not me!

Wildlife Wednesdays: Spring Blooms

Spring has been beautiful this year. Thought you'd enjoy these blooms...

Sugar Thyme Crabapple



Trip to Store Yields Baby Chicks

On Friday night, we trekked to our local tractor supply store to stock up on chicken supplies. There in the middle of the store were four well-stocked tubs with baby chicks. Now, to be fair, we had been talking about getting a few new chicks to keep up with the growing demand for our farm fresh eggs. We had even researched the best egg laying breeds. Then, fate intervened. As we stared at the chicks and my kids begged for them, the store clerk stopped by and asked if he could help. He then told us all the chicks were half price. How could we resist?

Our eight new companions are a mix of two buff orpingtons and assorted red pullets. The red pullets could be any of the following: rhode island red, dark rhode island red, new hamphsire or red sex links. It's kind of scary, but also kind of fun, to watch the chicks and wonder what they are. All four varieties are good egg layers and quite hardy, so no matter what, they'll fit the bill.

These chicks had been in the store for a few days, and it's interesting to see the difference between them and getting them directly from the hatchery. For one, they don't like it very warm in their brooder. If I get the temperature over 85 degrees, they pant. And two, they aren't overly noisy or skittish. In fact, they're downright friendly.

I figure they've got to be hardy considering they hung out in a tractor supply store with lots of people looking at them for a few days. So, I'm not too worried about them. I've just been enjoying their antics and can't wait to find out what varieties we picked!

Wildlife Wednesdays: Bringing up Baby...Homes for the Birds

Click through to see my latest post for Laura's Lean Beef about providing nest boxes for backyard birds.

Bringing up Baby...Homes for the Birds

Wildlife Wednesdays: Northern Ravine Salamander

With the warmer temperatures, we've been tackling our spring chores with gusto; including cleaning up the yard. I happened to be cutting weeds along the fence and picked up an old piece of wood. At first, I thought I saw a really big worm. Luckily, there were no chickens nearby to grab my "worm" before I got a chance to investigate. Because it wasn't a worm at all, it was a salamander; specifically a Northern Ravine Salamander.
Ravine salamanders (Plethodon richmondi) get to be about 3 to 4 1/2 inches long and occur in much of southern and eastern Ohio. They prefer moist slopes of wooded ravines where they can be found hiding beneath rocks and logs.

These are completely land-dwelling salamanders that even lay and hatch their eggs on land. Ravine salamanders can be found in the spring and fall but rarely in the summer since they spend most of that time buried deep in the ground seeking moisture.
The kids and I had a good time investigating our backyard find. Then we released our salamander into my sloping front garden far away from the chickens.
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