Cast and Crew

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Where Did Ingrid Go? Part 2

Some of you may recall that Ingrid recently flew the coop for a night of adventures and mayhem. Strict interrogations led nowhere. That chicken knows how to keep her beak shut. In this day and age, however, the internet is an unstoppable tool of revealing truth. The following pictures have been leaked to us in confidence (please, don't ask us to reveal our sources). In combination with letters of admonishment from local business owners, we have reconstructed Ingrid's steps.

22:16 hours. Ingrid is spotted on the dance floor, shaking her groove thing. She apparently terrified the crowd when she let loose to "Play that funky music, white meat."

23:47 hours. The owner of a very nice pub in downtown Everett told us, "A young thing, looked like a spring chicken to me, well she came in and set the whole place on its ear with her drinking games and cackling laugh. I had to cut her off at the twelfth pint, and that crazy thing threatened to peck me!"

25:12 hours. A very nervous source also sighted Ingrid at a local tattoo parlor. When asked what tattoo she requested, he explained that she had had an extensive argument with the tattoo artist about the word PLAYER vs LAYER. We have seen no evidence of any tattoos yet.

Though this last photo came to us courtesy of the world wide web, we cannot trace its source. The best we could conclude were the following rules.

  1. You do not talk about chicken club.

  2. You do NOT TALK about chicken club.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Winona the Scissor Chicken

Most animals are born healthy, happy, and ready to eat and play. Chickens are no exception. You'll frequently have great success with very little input. We've now raised twelve chickens, and only one has died. We also seem to be having very good odds on the rooster front. Our choice to raise heritage breeds is based on a number of different things, but one of the more important factors is their resistance to diseases and illness. Only one member of our flock is not a heritage breed, and this post is about her.

Winona was brought home to be raised for the neighbor across the street. Wyandottes are calm and easy to handle, and we thought that she would be a good breed for a novice. Along with two sussex and one light brahma hen, our neighbor's coop would be full of fat, happy, calm chickens. Fate interrupted (as it always does), and I dropped a board on little Winnie's head. Ouch! Her survival endeared her to us in so many ways, and we knew she would stay with our flock from then on.

Winnie and her crew are now just over three months old. They've all grown up well, but we began to see a slight problem with our little grey girl early on. At first I thought she was having residual problems from my clumsy board-dropping, but it has become apparent over time that she suffers from scissor beak. What is scissor beak? We wondered the same thing.

As you can see in these photos, Winnie's upper and lower beaks don't match up correctly. It gives the appearance of her beak being scissor-like. This typically results from a misalignment of the skull, and it's more prevalent in hybrid birds (not just chickens).

What do you do now? Scissor beak can be a death sentence for some birds. Experienced owners may even prefer to cull deformed chicks as soon as they're spotted. Aw, heck. We can't cull Winnie after all we've been through!

  1. The big problem with scissor beak is difficulty eating. Some birds with bad beaks will starve to death. If you have a chicken with this deformity, switch over to mash instead of pellet food, or make some mash available. It's easier for them to scoop mash up in their beaks. Remember, they can't peck like a normal chicken, so they need to scoop with their bottom beak. (Chicken feed is typically available in two forms. Pellet form is small, roundish pellets, a lot like rabbit or gerbil food. Mash is a crumbly texture, a little like grapenuts.)

  2. Eye problems go hand-in-hand with scissor beaks. We toss worms to Winnie, and she always pecks two inches to the left of the worm.

  3. Don't you dare breed a chicken with scissor beak. Since this is genetically related, it'll be passed down to junior, too. Some scientists speculate that scissor beak is the result of malnutrition or poor incubating. The jury may still be out, but the eleven other healthy chickens we've raised have confirmed for me that this is a genetic problem.

  4. Regular maintenance can help your scissor chicken live a healthy life. Beaks are like fingernails. They can be trimmed or filed down, but this must be done regularly.

Side note: Winnie also appears to have an abnormal growth on the left side of her head and face. We don't know what that is or what it means, but you'll know as soon as we do. If anyone has clues, fill us in. Her left wattle is deformed, and there are odd lumps on the left side of her face, behind her wattle and above her eye. Don't lose faith! Winnie is a tough chick.

Manicure, anyone? Winnie's scissor beak is very mild right now, so we're keeping on top of it with regular beak filing sessions. Note the firm grip with the left hand, one thumb on top of the skull, forefinger wrapped under the chin. Don't choke the poor thing, but hold her tight. File away from the head, making sure to round off the edge and tip. Sharp beaks hurt! This chore is not for the skittish. Get yourself and your chickens used to being held close and tight for just such occasions as this one, and be thankful they don't have teeth like your dog or cat does.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Where Did Ingrid Go? Part 1

The other night I went out to put the chickens away. We let them wander in the yard in the afternoons, and they find their way back into the coop when it gets dark. There's some trust involved in this relationship; trust and bricks jammed in under the gaps in the fence. Since clipping Ellen and Portia's wings, things have been calm when we let the girls out to roam. They peck and scratch, they take dust baths in the dirt, they hide under the huge weeping maple (the clubhouse), they dig in the compost. Life is good. On the particular night in question, I poked my head into the coop and counted. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven. It was getting dark. I counted again. Seven. Damn. Where was Ingrid? Her favorite snack is cracked corn (scratch). I shook the plastic tub of scratch and called out to her. She usually comes running. Still no Ingrid.

Was she under the maple tree? I grabbed a flashlight and started hunting for the missing bird.
Maybe she was in the compost. She loves compost. Nope. No sign of her.
Could she have flown up into the lilac tree? Ingrid's wings aren't clipped, but she rarely tries to take flight. A sick feeling settled in the pit of my stomach. Where had she gone? This wasn't normal. Maybe a hawk had gotten her. We began looking for signs of a struggle. Nothing.
I wandered around the sides and front of the house, which are fenced separately. The girls aren't allowed up there. Nope. Not behind the perennials.
Or the weed-infested crocosmias.
Not even behind these things, whatever they are...
I even poked my head into the strawberries. No Ingrid. She was nowhere to be found. I walked clear around the block in rubber wellies with flashlight in hand. Neighbors stared suspiciously. I asked if they'd seen a runaway chicken. "Oh," they said. "Nope. No chicken." We gave up the search and called it a night, going into the house to mourn the loss of one of our favorite girls.

I never thought this would happen in the city. Okay, that's inexperience talking, and I feel ridiculous now that I've said it, but it's true. When you live in the city, you forget that there are other animals around, not just the ones you raise in a wire-mesh-enclosed coop. We've had cougars and coyotes spotted in our neighborhood. Cats go missing sometimes. Even the alley cats are a little feral. Coutryside and mountain foothills are really only spitting distance over the highway 2 tressle, so it shouldn't be a shock to think that a hawk, eagle, or owl could snatch one of our beloved hens right out of the yard.

Do you miss Ingrid, too? Rest assured, faithful blog readers, she's not actualy gone. But I'll give you ten guesses as to where she scampered off to.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Letter from a Chicken

Dear faithful bog readers:

Lately there has been some very bad press about a rooster on the City Chicken Farm. I'm here to clear that bit of libel up for everyone. My name is Milla, not Rusty. I am a girl chicken. Sure, I have an impressive comb and wattles, and sometimes I... ahem... crow a little bit, but making specific (and incorrect) assumptions about my gender is wrong. It's... genderist. I'm here to set the record straight. I would like to present chickens' exhibit A, otherwise known as "ha, ha, you were wrong."

There you have it, folks. This is indisputable evidence on my behalf. It took half a day to spit that sucker out, and I know it's a little under-sized, but I'm a very young pullet, so it stands to reason that my first eggs would be smallish.

You may not realize it, but the newer generations of chickens are under a lot of pressure these days. Laying eggs earlier is all the rage. I submit my experiences humbly and ask that you think before you begin labeling your chicks as "male" or "female." You cannot possibly fathom how it affects our psyche. Thank you,

Milla Girl-Chicken

Note from actual blog representative:

We think it actually came from Ingrid, which stands to reason after her latest escapades. More on that soon. In the meantime, it seemed equally logical to call this "Rusty's egg," his last ditch effort to save himself from the basting brush. You be the judge. 

PS- He currently weighs 3 pounds 9 ounces, and is twelve weeks old. Recipes are welcome.


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