Tuesday, June 28, 2005

144 Arrested in Tennessee For Cockfighting

In Newport Tennessee the police raided an illegal cockfight and arrested 144 people attending what may have been one of the largest such gatherings in the nation.

SWAT teams, helicopters and dozens of state troopers participated in the raid on Saturday on the Del Rio Cockfight Pit. They seized about $40 grand in cash and killed more than 300 roosters. I do not get why they killed the birds.

The 144 were each charged with being a spectator to cockfighting, a misdemeanor in Tennessee. If convicted, they face up to 12 months in the slammer and a $2,500 fine.

John Goodwin, of the Humane Society of the United States, who took part in the raid, said it served notice on those conducting such illegal operations. "I wouldn't want to be a cockfighter in East Tennessee right now,"

David Webb, a gamecock owner, said he lost more than 20 chickens valued at $150 each during the raid. "I've been around this stuff all my life. Everything I've ever known is a chicken fight,"

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Life on the Funny Farm, or how NOT to be a chicken farmer

I should explain that Farmer Brian lets all his animals run loose. He doesn't believe in keeping them penned up. We used to have 13 ducks, about 75 hens, several roosters, about 30 guineas (male and female), a few turkeys, over 40 rabbits, and dozens of homing pigeons, all set free on the farm.

Of course they don't recognize house property versus farm property so they roam anywhere they want... even the sheep. We have 2 of them - Ewe-Lysses S. Grant and Legolas. Yeah, we name some of our animals because really they are pets. We should be running a petting zoo!

The pigeons tend to sit on the house rooftop, while the chickens range everywhere. We had to put a gate at the end of the driveway to keep the guineas from crossing the road to the only neighbours we have. Yes, they can fly over it but they don't bother.

That's a little trick if you own guineas - put up barriers and make the inside so hospitable that they don't leave. I'll talk about how to make your property guinea friendly another day.

The rabbits were so tame they would laze about on the driveway, lying in the sun and enjoying the warmth. It really freaked visitors out. And the guineas of course are all over, running, flying, pecking for worms and bugs, fighting or displaying, or sitting on the roof of the farm vehicle.

Each animal or bird has its own barn, except the bunnies which are free to sleep anywhere they want. They tend to choose the bigger barn although some go in with the guineas at night. Most of them do go in at night on their own. It's kind of like recess at school. At dusk all the animals start heading to their barns so that Brian can close them in for the night.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Farms with Hostas & Guineas - they don't mix!

Yesterday I put some hosta plants in my garden. Last year my guineas destroyed every hosta I planted. They didn't eat them, they just tore the leaves to shreds. I don't know why they do this but if anyone knows, write a comment to this post so I can figure out how to put a stop to it!

The chickens don't bother with them. The sheep don't bother, even the rabbits leave them alone, but my guineas either hate or love hostas.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

I hate Turkeys

Turkeys are really stupid. And big. Every year Brian gets baby turkeys to raise for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Then he proceeds to tame them and try to make pets of them, which is not, in my mind, what being a farmer is all about. One year he let them run loose with the chickens and guineas, but didn't tell me.

If you read my first post here on Chicken Chat you know I'm afraid of birds. Well, I was in the barn with my 2 year old grandson and one of the turkeys trapped me in the corner, pecking at me and crying out "Veet, veet!". He was quite fully grown by then and his beak was at my neck height. I kicked, I pushed, I hit, I screamed but the stupid thing just kept pecking and crying out. Finally Brian heard my cries and came out to rescue me. Turns out my farmer husband had been encouraging the stupid bird to eat from his hand.

That turkey was delicious at Thanksgiving though.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

How to solve all the problems in the whole world according to Farmer Brian

Well I just do not have a lot to talk about today. I cleaned out the coop yesterday and put in a nice bunch of fresh wood chips. One of my sheep has a bad infection in its face. It got a small cut under its eye that I did not see and first thing I knew it was all swelled up like a balloon. It is amazing how fast infection can set in, one day it was perfectly healthy and happy and then 24 hrs later it is in really bad shape.

I went down the road to the vet and got some penicillin to give it. I do not like giving the poor thing a needle each day as it does not understand that I am trying to help it. All it knows is that each morning I come in and jab it in the butt. Sheep are very susceptible to maggot infestations for some reason so it is important to keep the wound clean. This is a little easer for me than some people as I only have a few sheep so there are not a lot of flies around.

It is amazing how much you learn from looking after large animals. Like a lot of people, I did not have a lot of know how when it came to what I would call practical medical info. I had never given a needle in my life but when you have a sick animal that is depending on you to take care of it, you have to learn how to deal with the problem. It is to the point know that I do not generally have to get the vet to come out and deal with a problem. I just go get what I need and take care of it myself.

It makes a person feel kind of good to be able to take care of problems themselves. I think that if kids in schools in the city could have the opportunity to look after large animals like kids on the farm do it would go a long way to building a sense of responsibility and self-worth that a lot of kids need. I feel that a lot of kids are to egocentric and wrapped up in things that they think are so important but in reality are just a bunch of unimportant silliness that in 20 years they won't even remember.

I know that kids will be kids and they will always be into the latest trends and the newest music and that is OK. But one has to balance that with the real world. What my grandfather would have called a dose of reality. And looking after animals is a good way of getting it. But that is just my opinion and what the heck do I know. Well I had better get going as it is time to go give the poor bugger its shot.

Guess I did have a lot to say after all.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

My Guinea Bird is in Love with my Toyota Corolla....

One of my guineas (a male) goes out every morning with the rest of the flock when Farmer Brian opens the guinea house door. Off he runs to my car, where he checks himself out in the hubcaps, then lies down happily nearby. He doesn't move all day. He doesn't hunt for worms or flies or bugs. He doesn't eat grass. He doesn't drink. He just lies there.

Occassionally he will get up and wander around the car, looking at it the whole time. He has been doing this for over a year now. We finally figured out that he thinks my Toyota is his mate, and that it's sitting on eggs - nesting. So he won't leave her side....

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Gimpy Chicken, the Runt of the Litter

Brian once had a chicken that had some problem with its legs. Apparently that's often a chicken problem area. This chicken couldn't walk, it dragged itself along the ground as a baby, trying in vain to keep up with the other chickens.

Brian started physio on it. Every day he would take it outside and sprinkle rice on the ground in front of it, then he'd help it walk, one chicken leg after the other, til it had gobbled up all the rice. One day Gimpy, as we called him, walked on his own - well he teetered really, but he managed to shuffle, lurching from side to side, and gobbled the rice up. He collapsed exhausted at the end but it was a pretty exciting day on the farm.

Gimpy never got better, and he never could do more than lurch a few steps before he'd collapse. Brian did that physiotherapy on Gimpy Chicken for weeks, then one day Gimpy died. That's life on the farm, eh?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Farmer Brian's Egg-cellent Barnyard Tips!

We bought a new freezer because our old chest freezer was 30 years old and it was time to replace it. Not knowing what to do with the old chest freezer, I hauled it to the chicken coop. It makes an excellent feed storage bin!

I cut up some pieces of plywood with my chain saw and made dividers for it. I have it sub-divided for corn, guinea food, and wheat. It's mouse-proof and works way better than the old garbage pails I was using.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Chicken History - Which came first?

Nobody really knows when the first chicken was domesticated. Indian history places the date as early as 3200 BC. Egyptian and Chinese records show that fowl were laying eggs for man in 1400 BS

It is believed that Columbus' ships carried the first chickens, which are related to those now in egg production, to this country. This brings a whole new meaning to genealogical research!

Farmer Brian declares that wood is better for Chicken Coop & Poop

Over the years I have been experimenting with various substances to put on the floor of the chicken coop. When I first got my chickens I was working in a factory. Every day they would throw out lots of large sheets of cardboard and being the cheapskate that I am I used it on the floor of the coop. It worked fairly well but you have to replace it each day as it is non absorbent.

Slippery surfaces are not recommended for chickens as they can develop leg problems. I did not have any such problems but my chickens are outside most of the day and as they roost at night the time they spent on the cardboard was minimal. Warning! Do not use cardboard for heavy breeds of chickens. They are far to prone to leg problems as they get so fat.

Now the cardboard worked fine but as I said you have to change it every day and that got to be a pain in the butt so I swiched to using straw. Straw works better than cardboard as it stays cleaner longer. The reason for this is that as the birds dig around in the straw the heaver poop tends to work its way down to the bottom as the lighter straw comes to the top. Straw also has better absorption properties and does not have to be changed every day. However straw is not the best solution as it is hollow and this provides a great spot for vermin to hide.

The best thing I have found is wood shavings and sawdust. I like pine myself as it is non toxic to the birds (yes they will eat a bit of it) and it makes the coop smell nice. I have found a mixture of about 98% shavings and 2% sawdust workes best for me. The sawdust has great absorption properties and the shavings allow the droppings to work there way down from the surface keeping the birds nice and clean.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Why Some Hard-Cooked Eggs are Hard to Peel

Fresh eggs are hard to peel when hard-boiled. Those that have been stored 7-10 days before cooking are usually much easier to peel

Friday, June 10, 2005

Farmers call it a Chicken Watch?

The dependability of the rooster's early morning call, and the regularity with which newly laid eggs appeared may have inspired the Chinese to describe the chicken as "the domestic animal who knows time"

Tornado a sure way to cool your chickens

There was not much happening in the old chicken coop this morning. When it is this hot the birds get a little quiet.

However things got a little livelier later on as we had a good blow. Thunder, lightning, lots of wind and a tornado went through a few miles down the road.

It is getting hot again though. It is supposed to go over 100 tomorrow. The birds will be laying hardboiled eggs.

What's A Jacuzzi for if not for Birds?

Keet in the Hand
Originally uploaded by Lorine.
The first time Brian picked up baby chicks after we got married (and remember - I'm a city gal!!) I had no idea what happened once they came home with us.

I figured that Bri had everything ready for them - heat lamps, cages, whatever... in fact I asked him several times if everything was set. His reply was always "yup".

When we got in with 50 cheeping peeping day-old chicks, he proceeded to run around looking for lamps and extension cords. The chicks went into my laundry basket in the living room. Bri hooked up lamps and extension cords and made a real mess of things in the house and I realized this wasn't a temporary measure. He planned on those birds living there til they didn't need their heat lamps anymore. I wasn't happy so he moved them. To my jacuzzi.

Our bathroom became a nighmare of cords and heaters and lamps. The Jacuzzi was, he proclaimed, the perfect spot for these chicks. He laid down cardboard and put their feeder and waterer on it, then he carefully placed 4 lamps hanging down to provide the warmth they need. Then he instructed me to be sure and keep the door shut to keep the heat in. Well, those chicks stink! No matter how often he cleaned 'em and changed the cardboard, it was all I could smell. Besides they're noisy.

He kept them in the Jacuzzi for 10 days. Every morning I got my shower in the stall next to 50 noisy stinky birds. I deserve a medal!

But I never learn. When my old female guinea nested outside and had 30 baby keets, Brian and I gathered them up and put them -- you guessed it -- in the Jacuzzi!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Egg Trivia - Eggsactly how long does it take to lay an egg?

It takes 24 - 26 hours for a hen to make and lay an egg. Then the hen rests about 30 minutes before starting to make another one

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Chicken Farming

A life-long city man, tired of the rat race, decided he was going to give up the city life, move to the country and become a chicken farmer.

He found a nice used chicken farm and bought it. Turns out that his next door neighbor was also a chicken farmer. The neighbor came for a visit one day and said "Chicken farming isn't easy. Tell you want. To help you get started I will give you 100 chickens."

The new chicken farmer was thrilled. Two weeks later the new neighbor stopped by to see how things were going. The new farmer said "Not too good. All 100 chickens died." The neighbour was astounded. "Oh I've never had any trouble with my chickens, but I'll give you another 100"

Another two weeks passed. The neighbor stopped by again. The new farmer said "You won't believe it but those last 100 chickens died too!" Astounded the neighbor asked "What did you do to them? What went wrong?"

"Well" said the new farmer "I'm not sure but I think I might not be planting them far enough apart"

Monday, June 06, 2005

Chicken on a Hot Tin Roof

The chickens are still off their lay. I figure it's the heat. It's been hot and muggy here - 90' in the shade and the humidity is really high. I didn't look at the thermometer in the chicken coop but it must be at least 20' hotter in there.

They were pretty glad to get outside when I let them out today. It's supposed to rain this afternoon, that should cool them off and maybe we'll get some of those eggs Lorine wants for potato salad.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Egg Trivia: Stringy White Bits in Egg Whites

Those stringy white bits you see in egg whites are called CHALAZAE (ka-LAY-zee). They aren't imperfections in the egg. They aren't the start of embryos. They are a natural edible part of the egg. These rope-like strands keep the yolk centred in the thick white

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Crook Beak in Guinea House

Crook Beak in Guinea House
Originally uploaded by Lorine.
This is Crook Beak. This chicken's beak was mangled when she was young and the poultry farm de-beaked her. She had trouble eating so Brian often fed her by hand.

Crook Beak grew quite tame, in fact Brian trained her to land on his head or shoulders when he was outside. Unfortunately he neglected to inform me, and since she hung around the Guineau House a lot, and I was in there a lot, she once flew up and landed on my head. I wasn't impressed.

When I was working, she would try to get into my car in the mornings. I told Brian about it, as she was becoming quite a nuisance! I would shoo her away and even kick gently at her to keep her out but she was pretty determined to get IN.

Looking sheepish, Brian confessed that he had taken to letting her ride into town with him in his truck... and she loved it! She apparently would sit on his shoulder or the steering wheel as he drove. Like a good little girl she'd wait patiently in the truck, perched on the steering wheel, while he ran into stores doing errands.

Great. That's all I need - more folks in town thinking we're a couple of nut cases!

More Egg Trivia - what's in a ear?

White shelled eggs are produced by hens with white feathers and ear lobes

Brown shelled eggs are produced by hens with red feathers and ear lobes.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Blood Spots on Eggs (an indication of freshness)

Blood spots are also called meat spots and sometimes found on an egg yolk. Contrary to popular opinion these spots do not indicate a fertilized egg. They are caused by the rupture of a blood vessle on the yolk surface during egg formation, or a similar accident in the wall of the oviduct. Only about 1% of all eggs produced will have this blood spot.

As an egg ages, the yolk draws water from the albument to dilute the blood spot. So a blood spot actually indicates that the egg is fresh! This is the reason that farm fresh eggs tend to have more blood spots - they are fresher than store bought. The eggs are fine to eat, in fact they are chemically and nutritionally quite good.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Egg Trivia

About 240 million laying hens produce approximately 5.5. billion dozen (5.5 x 12)eggs every year in the United States.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Grading of Eggs - What it Means

GRADE AA egg stands up tall. The yolk is firm and the area covered by the white is small. There is a large proportion of thick white to thin white

GRADE A egg covers a fairly small area. The yolk is round and upstanding. The thick white is large in proportion to the thin white and stands fairly well around the yolk

GRADE B egg spreads out more. The yolk is flattened and there is about as much (or even more) think white to thick white