Snakes too big to eat

Waffles found a snake a couple of days ago and the flock had a great time chasing her. Thankfully, it was the same type of little grass snake like the kind they usually eat. It was a little too big to eat though, so it got away in the end.

The snake Waffles found yesterday was small enough for her to run with, but definitely too big to eat. I don’t know what kind it was, but it was not a little grass snake.

Sadly, it won’t be in the freezer with the other snake heads and tails. I smashed its head to kill it and cut it in half outside the fence for good measure. The girls were all terrified of me shooing them out of the way with my rake. They’ve accepted me again but they are now terrified of the rake.


To my dear hen Roxanne, I loved you since I knew ya.

Roxanne was put to sleep yesterday morning by the vet. I took her in because she wasn’t really walking. The problem was not that she couldn’t walk the streets for money. It was that she couldn’t keep herself up and would wobble then fall over.

The vet listened to Roxanne’s heart and said it was beating much faster than a chicken’s heart beats, which is normally extremely fast. She said she was surprised but I don’t remember if she said she was surprised she hadn’t had a heart attack or stroke. Roxanne’s tail had been off-kilter for a few months, so it’s certainly possible she had a small stroke over the summer.

The vet said the walking problem could be several different things, but probably either neurologic or Roxanne had eaten a bolt or screw and it was metal toxicity. She offered an x-ray. The vet was extremely surprised with the result: Roxanne was egg bound. The egg filled the entire back half of her body cavity. It was grapefruit-sized. Another egg was right behind the giant one. The giant egg was adhered to the wall of her reproductive tract. That egg would never have budged. Also, her bones also looked like outlines instead of solid bone. The vet said Roxanne was probably a good bit older than we thought, although that was not a surprise.

Mail carrier & the flock

Chau has been a part of our lives for least 5 years. That’s more than 5 years of birthday cards, anniversary cards, surprises from grandparents, bank statements, books, a vacuum cleaner, National Geographic magazines, an endless stream of mystery boxes from Amazon Prime, and one card with the trash company name in large font that was stamped “Past Due’ in giant red letters.

My first conversation with Chau still makes me laugh:

Chau: I haven’t introduced myself. I’m Chau.

Me: It’s nice to meet you, Chau. I’m Jennifer.

Chau: Yes, I know your name. I deliver your mail.

Goodbye Buffy

Buffy was put to sleep this morning. She had a respiratory infection that didn’t respond to several different types of antibiotics. She started gurgling when she breathed, so it was time. She is buried next to Mrs. Pickles. There are now 7 little crosses and 6 hens who will each have one eventually.

Is the garden hose making my chickens sick?

Update: We have had zero messy bottoms since getting the new hose and nozzle!

Tummy troubles = runny droppings = messy bottoms.

Well, not exactly tummy, but digestive system troubles.  Tummy just sounds better than crop, proventriculus (my favorite), or gizzard.

Worms? Giardia? Too much bad stuff in the digestive system? Not enough good stuff? The girls seem to have had trouble this spring & summer with everything that involves their little digestive system.

I try really hard to keep things clean.  I firmly believe if I wouldn’t sit somewhere they sit or drink out of a container they drink out of, they shouldn’t either.  I do sit with them, but I don’t share their waterers.  Yuck!  I mean, if I had to drink out of it, would it be something I felt safe doing?  Their waterers are cleaned every day and their environment is kept as clean as possible. If I could clean the dirt, I would.  The same goes for their food.  I wouldn’t eat spoiled food, so I make sure they aren’t either.  What am I doing wrong?

With our digestive problems, we think first about what we’ve eaten and have been drinking.  Spoiled food?  Unwashed dishes and glasses?  Drinking out of the garden hose?  Gross!  I wouldn’t drink out of the hose and now completely understand why my mom had such a problem with me doing that as a child.

The chickens have been drinking water from hose since they were babies.  Why did it just now occur to me that could be a large part of the problem?  I searched for a new garden hose and quickly found I have likely been contributing to all sorts of health problems with lead, phthalates, and who knows what else with the hoses we’ve used for chickens and vegetables.  Even some drinking water safe garden hoses have nasty contaminants.  I read the Ecology Center’s Garden Hose Study 2016.  The results are scary.

It wasn’t easy to find a safe garden hose.  Each had one problem or another, such as a hose made with drinking water safe materials but unsafe metal parts.  I went with a drinking water hose instead of a drinking water safe garden hose and will hope for the best.

Even more difficult has been finding a drinking water safe hose nozzle.  What’s the point of having a safe hose with a toxic nozzle on it?  I found the drinking water safe Scotts Adjustable Spray Nozzle and it works really well, but it takes both hands to twist on & off.  I need one with a trigger and found the Swan 9-Pattern Spray Nozzle.  They no longer make the Scotts version but promised that one is lead-free, so I will just hope for the best for that too.  At least these options are safer than others.

What about the feeders and waterers themselves?  We buy ours from Tractor Supply and they don’t list anything on their website about being drinking water safe (or unsafe).  I have emailed the manufacturer and will keep you posted!

Update: The manufacturer of the poultry drinkers we buy at Tractor Supply states they are “Prop 65 compliant”.

…and this little Piggy went “Bawk, bawk, bawk” all the way home.

Piggy is dead.  She was face down on the floor of the coop when I opened the doors to let the girls out yesterday morning.  She had made a little nest on the ground overnight under the roost and had clearly been sleeping there before she died.

I was Piggy’s favorite person.  Unlike the other hens, she didn’t favor someone else when I wasn’t around.  She was My Piggy and I was Her Person.  She followed me everywhere and was my closest hen-companion.  She was soft and snuggly on my shoulder when it was cold outside.  I held her in my hands when she had been outside and terribly cold as a week-old chick, so maybe that’s why.

She was loud all the time and was such a chatterbox!  On and on she’d go, squawking about this or that all day long.  I am fairly certain she believed I understood everything she bawked to me.  I’m also fairly certain I understood a lot of it.

She hadn’t felt well lately but it didn’t seem like she would have dropped dead overnight.  Yesterday was the day she would have gone to the vet if she wasn’t feeling better.  I feel guilty.  I woke up early yesterday (6:10am) but didn’t let them out of the coop until their usual time (8am).  She hadn’t been dead long.  She was cold from the neck down and her legs were stiff and cold, but her belly was still warm and her neck was still floppy.  

If I’d gone in there at 7am would she have been alive?  Did she die at 6:10am and that’s what woke me up?  Was it her distress at that time?  If so, why didn’t I take the hint and check on them?  The vet’s office opens at 7:30am.  I would have had time to make the 45-minute drive.  Would it have made a difference if I’d gotten her there?

She certainly would have been more comfortable dying alone in her little nest under the roost.  I think most animals prefer not to have company around when they’re dying.  She never liked company when she was sick in the past.

However, was there too much ammonia where she slept?  Two spots with droppings were near her but they weren’t on her.  Her head had fallen next to one.  She was also sprawled out face down, perpendicular to where her head was resting between one leg of the roost and the wall.

Did she get stuck?  Her head wasn’t wedged in there, but did she pass out momentarily due to the ammonia, fall with her head there and then panic when she thought she was stuck?  Twisting and turning at that angle for even a moment would have blocked her airway and she would have panicked even more.

I have the horrible, sinking feeling that is what happened to my Piggy.  If I’d gone in there earlier I could have saved her or maybe it wouldn’t have happened at all.  I should have just gone out there an hour early at 7am when I thought about it.

Shortly after I found Piggy dead, my step-daughter and I noticed Roxanne seemed on the edge of death so we rushed her to the vet.  Roxanne likely has infectious laryngotracheitis and Piggy had all the same symptoms for a week or two before Roxanne.  Testing would take too long to be of any benefit for Roxanne or the rest of the flock, so we didn’t have a sample sent off.

Did Piggy die from infectious laryngotracheitis?  We’ll never know exactly what happened.  This is a good case for investing in a coop video system with audio.  I couldn’t think of a decent reason before now.

I promised Piggy a long time ago that when she died, I would give her the large stone monument she deserved.  No little wooden cross for my Piggy!

As the days go by 

I haven’t felt a lot better about the loss of our hens, Mother and Mrs. Pickles, until yesterday.

There are 5 people I’ve met who are the most intesting people I know.  I cannot possibly put them in order because they are each the most interesting in their own way, so in order of how long I’ve known them: Mom, Dad, Grace, Dr. Zoologist and Dr. Entomologist.

The entomologist and the zoologist couple returned for a presentation at my DAR chapter yesterday.  I had anxiously waited 5 months for them to return.  The zoologist gave his presentation in October and they returned for the entomologist’s presentation.  Each of them had an American Revolution-related topic, although I would have been happy with bugs or animals.

I asked how they had been.  Their response of pleasant visits with family was expected, but the news of their dog dying on its 14th birthday and their tortoise dying 50 years after they found it was totally unexpected.

They’ve had other dogs in the past 50 years, but only one tortoise.  In their years of traveling in an RV, they usually brought a dog and the tortoise.

Tires inflated, check.  Hook-ups in order, check.  Coffee, check.  Dog, check.  Tortoise, check?  I knew people travelled in RVs with dogs, but traveling with a tortoise?  Granted, I have not met a lot of people who travel in RVs.

People get birds that live 50 years or more, but there probably aren’t many people who expect to find a tortoise in the middle of a busy road and welcome it into their family for 50 years.

Necropsy results are in

To lighten the bad news, I will share what made me laugh when I told my husband the vet called to let me know the report was in:

Me: “The vet called with Mrs. Pickles’ results.”

Husband: “What was wrong with her?”

Me: “She is dead.”

Husband: “No, I mean what was the cause of her death?”

Me: “Lethal injection.”

Before proceeding with the lengthy list of items in the report, I will note that the vet asked the pathologist about Mrs. Pickles having fowl pox and he said she could have had it, but did not have it at the time of her death. The vet also asked about the antibiotics given & was told the bacteria could simply have been resistant.

I have only included the condensed results from the report (originally 3 pages in what appears to be 8-pt font). The necropsy was performed at the TVMDL in College Station, TX.

Histopathologic Diagnosis:

  • Systemic lymphocytic inflammation consistent with Avian Leukosis virus
  • Eyelid: Focal granulamatous blepharitis surrounding coccoid bacteria

  • Molecular Diagnostics:

  • Mycoplasma: MG negative and MS positive in relatively large amounts

  • Necropsy Diagnosis:

  • Severe sinusitis, conjunctivits with periocular abscesses