Good-bye Irene

It rained and it blew and it rained some more. Water poured off the roof, leaves came down and the pond filled to the brim. The chickens were annoyed to be kept inside. The goats were mollified with hay.

But, we never lost power and didn’t sustain any dramatic damage.

The weather the rest of this week is supposed to be gorgeous up and down the Eastern Seaboard. That’s great, because we’re heading down to Washington DC to take our youngest son to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and go on a tour of the Capitol. It’s been a long-planned for trip. We’re amazed and relieved that DC was spared. I’ve a feeling that DC won’t have the usual summer crowds as nearby communities of several hundred thousand people don’t yet have power. It’s our civic duty to help the economy by visiting!

A pet-sitter will be here taking care of the menagerie. I’ll catch up with everyone next week!

Hurricane Irene Wind Speed

Last night, while watching The Weather Channel, IT Guy typed some code into his laptop, and now you can see the wind speed here at Little Pond Farm (along with the temperature that we’ve always had on the top right of the HenCam screen). That is, you’ll be able to keep tabs on our weather until the power goes out.

Today is the lull before the storm. The animals are acting 100 % normally. Obviously, I can’t rely on them to let me know that a hurricane is brewing.

The animals are relaxing on this hot, humid day, but we humans are busy. I’ll be bringing in those dog beds and the furniture from this deck off my office and that will concern Lily. She hates change, almost as much as she hates seeing me pack a suitcase. She’s an aware, smart dog. Unlike Scooter. As long as there’s a lap to sit in, Scooter is content. He was quite satisfied last night, keeping us company, while we watched reports of impending disaster.

Today I’ll be filling the chickens’ waterers and also a large bucket in the barn. The storm will last less than a day here, but if the power goes out, the well’s pump stops, and we won’t have water. There will, however, be plenty of water coming down out of the sky. If we get the 5 inches predicted, the pond will overflow. The Beast and her minions will have new territory to explore. That will make them quite happy.

Preparing for Irene

I just came back from almost a week away. I was all the way across the country, in San Francisco, settling my son into college. There’s always catch-up to do when one gets home. There’s laundry and grocery shopping, and the dogs claim to have been neglected and require lots of scratching.

The garden has truly been neglected. Of course there’s always the humungous squash,

ripe tomatoes,

and green beans (Blue Lake and French Climbing) that need picking.

It’s overgrown, but it could wait.

Except there’s a hurricane coming. The current prediction is that it’s going to pass right over the top of my house and coops and garden Sunday afternoon. Those tomatoes are going to fly off the vine.

There won’t be any corn left standing.

Today I’m harvesting everything I can, and then I’ll do what I can to preserve it.

Before the rains come (they’re predicting more than 5 inches) and the winds hit (up to 70 MPH gusts), Candy will be tucked into a hutch and put inside the HenCam coop. It’s a sturdy little building where she can ride out the storm safely. We’ll fill a bathtub with water and have lanterns and candles ready for when the power goes out. (It undoubtably will. The question is for how long.) Lawn furniture and planters are getting stowed in the garage. I’ll stop in the library tomorrow and find something to read. Something light-hearted. Any suggestions?

I hope that everyone in Irene’s path stays dry and safe! We’ll be fine. We’ve got tomatoes, bread and cheese to last a week.

Keeping It In Perspective

There’s been a fair share of death and disease written about here lately, so I thought I’d do a post to keep things in perspective. Sometimes those bucolic fantasies of beautiful chickens free-ranging in the flower beds really are true. Here are some photos of the Gems to end your week on a happy note.


Chickens Have Messy Bottoms

One of the reasons that people chose to have chickens is that we like to look at them. Feathers shimmer in a range of gorgeous hues. Their fluffy-feathered bottoms are both charming and comical. Some breeds are sleek, and some, like my cochin, Pearl, look like a fussy Victorian lady.

What we don’t picture, when we get chickens for the first time, is all of the runny manure and other unpleasant things that stream out their backsides. Any hint of disease often first shows up as diarrhea. Then, there’s lice and mites which cause red, bare bottoms. Sometimes, hens lose the feathers around their vents and what you see is a bare bottom. Not as bad looking as a baboon’s, but not an attractive picture, either.

How to know what is a problem and what to do?

In the case of Philomena, the hen with the bare butt, above, nothing needs to be done. Note that there’s no dried manure stuck to her vent and that there’s no irritation of the skin. A close inspection shows no signs of external parasites. I’ve seen many bottoms that look like this, and they’re always on my best layers, and those are usually hybrids or breeds designed for high production that never had a lot of feathers near the vent in the first place.

The hens I do worry about have smelly, thin, runny poo stuck to their vent feathers. This is often a sign of vent gleet (a yeast infection I’ve written about here.) Clean them up with a bath and dose with epsom salts and it often clears up. Some hens, though, like Buffy, have persistent cases. I’ve had Buffy for six years and her fluffy Orpington vent feathers have always been yucky.

Some hens get a mysterious skin ailment. A couple of years ago, Eleanor, another elderly hen here, developed a hot, thick, red skin rash around her vent. Epsom salt baths seemed to make her comfortable but the symptoms didn’t go away.

My flock of older hens, although healthy enough, weren’t a pretty sight this summer. I’ve been concerned that the exposed skin was susceptible to injury or infection. And, honestly, I was tired of Buffy’s smelly bottom. I’d recently read that providone alleviated vent gleet. Providone is similar to iodine, but is a stronger, broader spectrum bactericide. (It’s more expensive than bactrine, but worth it.)

As long as I was going to treat Buffy, I decided to do all of my older girls. First they got baths. I used an herbal dog shampoo with tea tree oil in it, which is supposed to be an effective antiseptic. I happened to have the shampoo – I’ve used ivory dish soap on hens, too, but this fancy dog shampoo certainly made them smell nicer!) I only did their bottom halves. Since I was cleaning the feathers of caked on manure, I wore disposable gloves. I really hate getting poo under my fingernails. After bathing, the hens got a thorough rinsing off with clean water. It was a hot day, so I held them under a hose. No one seemed to mind much, but I’d dunk them in a tub of lukewarm water if the weather was cooler.

Here is Maizie getting bathed.

Once each hen was cleaned up, I squirted the providone on the bare skin near the vent and rubbed it in. Use gloves and don’t wear clothes you care about. This stuff stains!

I treated the hens in June, and look at how lovely Buffy’s bottom is today. No runny, stinky secretions.

And here is Eleanor. Her bottom is fluffy again! She’s looking quite stylish for an old hen.