This changeable weather, cold, rainy, muddy, sunny, hot, windy (have I covered everything yet?) has done a number on Candy’s skin. Her ears have become chapped and rough, and her nose, due to her digging in the defrosted yard, is becoming lumpy with dead skin, shedding fur, and dirt. It’s one step away from a fungal problem. Bunnies don’t like to be bathed, but it was time. Since it was only her head that was in sorry shape (she manages to keep the rest of herself nicely groomed) I was able to wrap her in a towel, and clean her up from her neck to her nose. If you swaddle a rabbit like a baby, they go limp and calm, so that’s what I did. Steve held a bundled-up Candy over the laundry room sink, while I took my nail brush and sudsy Ivory soap to her nose and ears. Then, I massaged on a special medicated ointment. Next, she got a blow dry. Candy looked like a relaxed customer at a spa massage. Her favorite bunny treats were waiting for her in her hutch (dried banana chips.)

The next customer at the Little Pond Farm Spa was Coco. We’re off to NYC tomorrow for MARTHA. Jan Brett will be on the show with her gorgeous, perfectly groomed and coiffed show birds. I want Coco to shine right next to them. I bathed her in Ivory, gave her a good rinse, finished her off with something called “Cowboy Magic” that I hear is very nice for show birds, rinsed her off again, scrubbed her legs with that nail brush (forever after to be an animal brush and no longer in my shower) and finally, pat her down with a towel, then pulled out the blow dryer. She is a little thing – barely bigger than a pigeon, and yet it took a good 40 minutes to dry her off. She perched on my right arm, while I blew her dry (on low – wouldn’t want to ruin those feathers or burn her skin.) Whatever do people who show cochins do? Must take them over an hour to dry their birds. In any event, she is happily ensconced  in a scrubbed clean crate, bedded in fresh yellow straw. She’s ready for her moment of fame in NYC. I, meanwhile, need to get a new nail brush and go take a shower.


Yesterday, Eggers was looking so perky and well that I let her back in with the other hens for the afternoon. In the evening, I closed her up in a dog crate so that she would drink her medicated water. This morning, she was dead.

I recently attended a chicken necropsy workshop; this was the right situation to use that information. Egger’s daughter, whom I gave to a friend, also died under similar circumstances. First the hen looks uncomfortable and lethargic. Then, she responds to antibiotics, and then she is dead. I wanted to know what was going on. Unfortunately, my first attempt at a necropsy didn’t show up anything obvious.

To my inexperienced eye, all of the internal organs looked fine. Although there were no eggs making their way down the oviduct, the ovaries looked normal with tiny pearl-like eggs. The intestinal tract was unobstructed, and the liver, heart and lungs were the right sizes and clear of blemishes. I made use of one of the most useful, clearly illustrated books in my library, The Prairie Farmer’s Poultry Book, from 1925, which has line drawings of chicken anatomy and photos of diseased birds. Another helpful book is Poultry Sanitation and Disease from 1939.

Perhaps Eggers had an unseen genetic heart abnormality? I’ve no idea. Eggers was only three years old. Alma, a Wyandotte, also died at three of no apparent reason. Ginger, my beautiful sex-link hen, was three when she died, again of no known illness, and without any warning symptoms. Perhaps this is age-related? I’ve heard from other chicken keepers who say that their high-producing hens give out early. There’s so little known about older hens. After all, hens aren’t bred for longevity; breeders focus on desired traits like egg production or feather color. I’d like to see us backyard chicken keepers keeping accurate records and then sharing them. I think that much could be learned.

Little Pond Farm Animal Update

Lots going on here, so I thought I’d update you on the animals.

Eggers is looking better – she’s showing the two P’s that healthy chickens should have – perkiness and pooping. She’s eating just fine. In fact, she seems to be delighted to have a food dish and water all to herself. Some birds pine away for their friends when they are in isolation. Eggers doesn’t mind at all. However, she ‘s yet to lay an egg, and the other bantam White Leghorns her age are, so that has me concerned. Also, Eggers has to be on the antibiotics a few more days so she’ll stay inside awhile longer.

Meanwhile, Caper has been limping. There’s no swelling, no wound, no stone bruise, and his hooves are nicely trimmed. It’s worse in the morning when he first gets up, so it sure looks like a muscle pull. Caper is not the most agile goat. I wouldn’t be surprised if he twisted an ankle or yanked his leg on the hay manger. I’m not too concerned, but the lameness has persisted for two weeks. Dr. Sarah came to check him out yesterday. She agreed that she looked like a perfectly healthy, albeit limping, goat. She gave him a shot of banamine, which should relieve the pain of a muscle pull. So far, though, Caper doesn’t look any better. It’s a mystery.

The fish have come out of hibernation. The pond water is now 50 degrees, which means they need to be fed. Here is The Beast, my six-year old Koi. Looks like she had a fine winter under the big rock, doesn’t it?

I saw the first toad of the season, and also the first mosquitos. Spring is definitely here.

Eggers Goes Wading

It was so beautifully warm and sunny on Saturday, and the girls were so eager to get onto the lawn, that I let them out. I stayed in the backyard with them – there’s that nesting pair of hawks the nearby woods to watch out for – but the hens were unconcerned. Most of them took dust baths under the beech trees, or scratched around in the bushes.

But what’s this?

Eggers is going wading! I have never, ever seen a chicken take a water bath. She looked quite happy. She found a rock, exactly the right height to stand on. Then, she sat down in the water.

Eggers took long drinks of water. Finally, she was done.

As amusing as this behavior was, it was cause for concern. Why would a chicken choose to sit in cold water? I kept an eye on Eggers. It was soon clear that she wasn’t feeling well. The next morning she didn’t jump off the roost to get the scratch corn. She stayed huffed up and sorry looking. Eggers looked uncomfortable. Egg bound, perhaps? I think that her cold-water bath was an attempt to make her bottom feel better.

Although I couldn’t feel a stuck egg, she did seem sore to the touch. So, inside she came for a warm water epsom salt bath.

As you can see, she liked it. Eggers didn’t try to get out.

Next, a rinse off. She liked that, too.

Next, a towel dry. She didn’t like that so much.

Eggers is now staying in a dog crate in the barn, where I can keep an eye on her manure production (normal) and egg-laying (not happening.) I put her on antibiotics, and after a day, she perked up.

I’m not sure what’s going on. Eggers is my sad-sack, Eeyore bird. For a White Leghorn, she is uncharacteristically droopy, even when perfectly healthy. I’m worried because Snowball had a similar list of symptoms (albeit without the bizarre pond-wading) before she died. So, Eggers will be pampered and given antibiotics for a week. She’s the lowest on the pecking order, so she seems pleased to be all by herself. Whenever I come into the barn, she demands more food. Can chickens be hypochondriacs?

I'm Going to Be on MARTHA!

If you live in the United States, you know who Martha is. She doesn’t need a second name. She has a style that is so obviously hers, that if you see certain colors, you think, “that’s Martha.” What you might not know is that those colors came from Araucanas. Years ago, Martha found an old book with pictures of heritage hens and their eggs. This was well before blue eggs showed up in farmers markets and “Easter Egger” breeds were common at hatcheries. She recognized something gorgeous when she saw it, and turned those egg colors into her signature look. She also publicized her love of heritage chickens. She waved her powerful magic Martha-wand and backyard chickens were chic.

Martha has a daily, weekday television show. She’s going to have her first-ever chicken-centric show and I’m going to be a guest! I have some vintage chickens items that even Martha doesn’t have in her vast collections that I’ll get to show her. My husband and I are driving down to NYC a week from Monday. I’m not sure yet if my hens are invited, but just in case, the posh boutique hotel we’re staying in allows chickens in the room (my publicist checked.)

I don’t know yet when the episode will air, but I’ll be sure to let you know. I’m also sure that I’ll have some good stories to tell when this is all done. But for today, I’d better go out and buy some new shoes. I don’t have any that are television-worthy.