Thursday, December 26, 2013

Easy Natural Chicken Cold Medicine

I'm not sure if its the wacky weather or what, but it seems like everyone I know has been having sinus trouble.

Chickens included!

Chickens are prone to a number of respiratory ailments, but, like people, the most common is a "cold". There are different causes for "colds",  and they range in severity from a sniffle to swelling the bird's eyes shut and even causing blindness and death. We lost a few really nice birds several winters ago due to a bad cold and us having a hard time keeping the ice off the water bowls. So when I saw them starting to sneeze and sniffle a couple weeks ago, I knew we needed to do something!

Sometimes antibiotics will help, but I really prefer to not use antibiotics if I can help it, just because I don't want to make the "bugs" more drug resistant and I don't like having to be concerned about messing up their digestion by killing off the good AND the bad. Plus, very few antibiotics are labeled for chickens, so you have to, A. try and figure out which one will actually help the problem your birds have, and B. figure out the dosage for a quart of water when it's packaged in a bag that makes 100 gallons. 

So, I decided to try the natural route first. I'd had a little success in getting rid of my own cold with garlic and cider vinegar, so that had to be in the mix. I didn't have any Oil of Oregano which a lot of health nut people swear by, but I assumed the oregano plant we had outside must have some curative properties. So I gathered all my stuff and embarked on an experiment!

Fresh Oregano, Garlic, Vinegar, Red Pepper Flakes
A lot of poultry old-timers swear by Red Pepper as a sort of cure-all for chickens. Its supposed to help with colds, get hens to lay, and "pep up" roosters. They do definitely enjoy it and it does seem to make them feel good. Plus if you get it at a bulk food store it's really cheap. (And good on pizza. But thats another story!)

So I put the handful of oregano that I hacked off the plant, a couple tablespoons of garlic, about 1 1/2 cups of vinegar and about a tablespoon of the pepper all in the blender and pulverized it.

Looks kinda gross
I pulled a soda bottle out of the recycling bin and rinsed it out and used a funnel to pour the concoction into it. 

It smells a little like salad dressing!

So then I filled the bottle up the rest of the way with plain water. Shook it up and put it in the fridge.

Finished "chicken tea"
Since most of our chickens are in smaller breeder pens, we use 1 quart bowls for their water. When we give the tea we pour in a little splash, just enough to tinge the water. The birds seem to enjoy it somehow!

They are still sneezing some, but we haven't been very consistent about giving it to them every day. They aren't ruffled like some were when I first noticed the problem, and they seem to be feeling pretty good! Originally a couple hens had some obviously swollen sinuses and they don't have that problem now!

I would definitely try this if your birds have a cold. It took about 5 minutes to make. Heck, it would probably work for people as well, but it doesn't taste good at all.

(Yeah, I tried it.)

What home remedies do you use for your birds? 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Swiffer! How to Keep Things Clean & Cheap

My sister wanted to know how I make my own Swiffer supplies and I figured I'd share it here for everybody else as well!

Its really nothing terribly original, I've seen similar ideas all over Pinterest. But this is what works for me.

I first got a Swiffer WetJet the year I got hurt. I could get around well enough to mop but having to deal with a mop and a bucket seemed like it would require too much coordination. (In case you were wondering, relearning to walk is just as tricky as they claim!) So I got a WetJet, and loved it but I didn't love the price tag of the solution & the pads. Then I found out you can refill the bottles!

To refill a WetJet bottle, just twist the top off with a pair of adjustable pliers. (Of course you could get a man to do this part, but real Farm Chicks like using tools on projects. ;) ) After you use the pliers once, you'll be able to take the lid off by hand.

To make the solution, just mix water and white vinegar 50/50. It isn't as pretty smelling as the real Swiffer cleaner, but it gets the job done. 


Get a bottle of Gain Cleaner and mix 1 part to about 6 parts water. TA-DA! Smells just like the Swiffer stuff! Plus there's several different scents so you can mix it up. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

2013 In Review - *Brag Alert*

The other day I made a list of everything we accomplished in 2013 and I think its a pretty good list! I will try to include some photos. If you see anything you're particularly interested in learning more about, let me know in the comments and I will try to feature it in a future post! 
Here goes! (They're in no particular order.)

  • improved electric fence to contain goats
  • Built grape arbor

Josh's own design for  grape arbor

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Adventures with Milly-the-Goat Part 2

Posts like this probably seem a little silly. The chances that any one of you could find yourself in this exact situation are most likely slim to none. I'll write them, however, because A. It might inspire you to come up with some crazy creative solutions of your own and B. because I want to show off how crazy and creative I am. (Well, if we're being honest here...!)

So, anyway, after the whole bloat fiasco Milly has been doing better but she still seemed a little off. More cold than off, really, which was no wonder since it was suddenly 30 something degrees and snowing and sleeting. She's a skinny little thing anyway (been trying to get weight on her but its slow going) and I didn't want her to be more stressed and burning more calories and getting skinnier just to stay warm.

When my parents have tiny lambs in the winter and they look cold, my mom will actually get toddler sweatshirts from Goodwill and stick them on the lambs. It works, but I just didn't happen to have any goat-sized sweatshirts lying around. I did have a couple old tank tops, but a tank top isn't a lot of help in a snowstorm. So, I hoped she was getting out of the cold in the barn and didn't come up with anything.

Monday morning while I was at work I had a brainstorm and when I got home I grabbed the 2 pairs of wool socks I didn't want any more and went to work.

We got these socks cheap and then realized they were huge tube socks. Neither of us like huge tube socks and I was going to get rid of them when TA-DA! Slit them down the side, cut off the toes, sew them all together...

Look at Milly now! 

Yes, I have a goat that's wearing a sweater dress. That's made of socks. And yes, I spent some time yesterday sewing said sweater dress for a goat. Toldya I was crazy!

I don't know if its the dress or the extra dose of Probios I gave her yesterday but you should see her now! She's back to her normal perky self. 

So I guess the old-timers were right when they made up the old rhyme:

Use it up, wear it out,
Make it do, or go without!

How about you? What crazy thing have you repurposed into something else you needed?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Adventures With Milly-the-Goat

Lots of children's books promise adventures with farm animals, and fun and pleasant things normally happen in these stories. In real life, "adventures" with farm animals aren't quite like that. 

Like this past week with Milly-the-Goat. Milly is kinda the black sheep of our goats. She's kinda a loner, and the others beat up on her. But she is very sweet and friendly with people, so she is J's favorite. 

On Wednesday I decided to clean chicken pens, because the weather was nice and warm. So I grabbed my tools and a beer and went out and started working. I penned up all the goats in the outside pen, locked Milly in the barn, and got to work.

Well, Milly got out of the barn and came out to "help" me. She kept getting into the chicken feed and bedding, but I didn't really think much of it. I kept chasing her off and went back to work.

The next morning after I was at work, J called me to say Milly didn't look right and she had a dirty backside. 


I'm still pretty new to the goat thing and I don't know goat problems like I do chicken aliments. So I texted back and forth with my mom, who suggested a few different things and I planned to check on her when I got home.

When I got home Milly was standing out in the sun, and she didn't look too awful. But she did look fat (for her, she's a skinny little goat) and she had obviously scoured some. (Scours is what you call diarrhea in the farm world.) Hmm.

I called Mama again, and while we were talking I noticed Milly kept burping her cud up and swallowing right away, over and over again. She didn't seem to enjoy it. Heck, watching her do it like that was starting to make me feel a little queasy too!

Mama said to just leave her for a little bit and then check on her later. So that's what I did.

A couple hours later Milly had some obvious bloating and she was still doing the "weird burp thing". Ruminants, like cows, goats, and sheep, can't throw up but I'm pretty certain that's what Milly wanted to do at this point. And at this point I was starting to get worried. Maybe a little panicked. That "you don't know what the hell you're doing!" feeling was cropping up.

I wasn't even sick and I wanted my mommy.

Well, I guess I sounded like that on the phone, because she came on over, bearing a Downton Abbey totebag filled with sheep supplies, wearing mud covered blue jeans and workboots.

"I took so long because I had to stop at Food Lion. They looked at me a little weird," she explained.

That's my mom!

So we began doctoring Milly. First, we took her in the barn away from the dogs and tried to get her to burp some but that was making her uncomfortable. So we decided to try tubing her, by putting a little tube that's meant for tube-feeding lambs and kids down her throat and hopefully getting some gas out that way.

That helped, then while the tube was still in we poured in some peanut oil and some activated charcoal. The oil helps to release the gas bubbles in the gut and it also kinda lubes things up so they'll start moving right again. The activated charcoal does for animals what it also does for humans - it adsorbs toxins that she may have ingested.

She didn't approve of all this nonsense and so she bit the tube in half, and Mama had to stick her fingers down the goat's throat to catch the tube before Milly swallowed it!

Then Milly got a belly rub and she burped a lot, and we could see her sides go down. After a couple laps around the yard on a leash, she was looking much better. We put her in a little pen in the barn and Mama went home.

At choretime I gave her some Survive! lamb and goat drench, which has a lot of nutrition and vitamins in it, and some Probios, which is a paste that contain lots of probiotics, to help jumpstart her digestion. She was looking perkier, and I went to bed. 

In the morning, she was a little fat again, but a walk solved that. I also gave her some more oil and charcoal all by myself, and I didn't get it on my work pants! I felt very accomplished, especially because it was 6 AM!

In the afternoon, Milly jumped the fence and got out, and there hasn't been any bloat since. She still isn't acting quite right, but it went from being 70 degrees the day she got sick to snowing 3 days later, so I kinda think that isn't helping anything. Plus I forgot to give her mosr Probios until today, so maybe that's part of it. She's eating some and everything, she's just still not 100%. But she's also learned that if she looks pathetic she gets spoiled... more details in Adventures with Milly the Goat Part 2!
Milly not feeling good

The next day!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

There IS Such a Thing as a Chicken Show!

Another thing people don't understand about chickens - 

"What do you DO with them? Eat'em?"

When I say "we breed 'em to show" they look at me like I have 2 heads. (I get this look a lot, so its quite possible I do.) 

"They have chicken shows?" Even people who have been showing sheep or cattle for years find this perplexing. 

Yes, Virginia, there are chicken shows! Well, Virginia itself is kinda slacking off, there is only one annual poultry show in Virginia besides county fairs. Fairs are a little different, they rarely attract the caliber of exhibition poultry that the sanctioned shows do. Also, county fairs are not required to have licensed judges. Shows that are sanctioned by the American Poultry Association and/or the American Bantam Association have licensed judges. To be a licensed poultry judge you have to be a member of the APA, have raised and showed poultry for a number of years, and have gone through the licensing process, which includes "clerking" for other judges and some studying. You have to learn as much as you can about the finer points of all the different breeds, which is a lot of information to take in!

So anyway, in the last 2 weeks we went to the Virginia Poultry Breeder's Association Show and the Forsyth Fowl Fanciers' Dixie Classic. I didn't do nearly as good of a job taking pictures as I should have, (especially because I forgot my camera on the second show) but here goes nothing as I try to explain the world of exhibition poultry!

NOTE: if you have any interest in poultry at all and have the chance to attend a show, please do it! Poultry people are a friendly talkative bunch and we would like to help you learn more about our favorite birds.

Before the show, you have to get your birds in condition and cleaned up. I didn't take pictures while washing birds because they were wiggling and fighting me and I was getting frustrated and didn't want to drown my camera. Condition is one of the harder things to obtain - you can have the "typyist" most perfect bird out there and if they're dirty and they have a bunch of broken feathers, they won't show well and the judge may well overlook them. Shows tend to be in the spring, which is also breeding season, and the fall, which is also molting season. So having a bird in the right condition for showing is tricky and something that I have a lot to learn about!

Birds are judged mainly on two things, their "type", as in their body type, and if they look like the breed that they are supposed to be, and then their color, which makes up the variety they are supposed to be. (and then their condition, which is a little different because condition can affect if they look the way they're supposed to or just a mangy barnyard mutt.) When a bird is said to be "typy" it means that they are built the way that their breed is supposed to look, and their body type is correct. Type is the most important factor. As a saying in the poultry world goes, "you have to build the barn before you paint it." Meaning you could have the most perfect color pattern ever seen, but if the body type doesn't match the breed, it doesn't do any good. You have to have that body type correct before you worry about the finer points of the color pattern. 

So the morning of the show, you get up super early and load up the birds and drive to wherever the show is being held. (Or you can go the night before, but I don't like staying overnight if I can help it. Most shows nowadays are single day events, but some are all weekend or longer.) Once you get there, you find the show secretary, the person who is running the show, and you get your exhibitor number. Then you look for the cages with your exhibitor number on them. The "coop cards" as the tags on the cages are called, will also list the breed and variety of your bird. For example:

Dark Brown Single Comb Leghorn Bantam
Exhibitor 6

So you go over your bird one more time, putting some oil on her beak and comb and legs to make them shiny and clean and smoothing her feathers. Then you put her (and all the other birds you are showing) into their cages and get them feed and water. This is called "cooping-in" and the poultry barn is quite chaotic as everyone bustles to get their birds in. The barn normally opens to coop in around 7AM and everyone has to be done by 9AM so judging can start.  Once everyone is cooped in, the barn looks something like this:
Virginia Poultry Breeder's Association Show, 2013
Judging poultry is a little different than other livestock judging. In most animal shows the owner handles the animal while the judge looks on. In poultry, the owner leaves the bird in the cage and the judge takes each bird out and looks them over. It is considered bad manners to speak to the judge while they are working or to be in the same aisle. Most shows get 2 or more judges to judge a single show, giving them each different categories. Each judge also has a clerk, who marks what each bird got on a clipboard so that the show secretary can tell who gets what award. 

Each gender of each variety of each breed is judged separately, and then all the best of the same variety are judged against each other, and then the best of the varieties are judged against each other, and then the best of the breeds are judged against the other breeds in their category, and then the best of the best are judged to determine Best of Show. The genders are Cock, Cockerel, Hen, and Pullet (for chickens, ducks are Old Drake, Young Drake, Old Duck, Young Duck, etc.) Every breed has different varieties, for instance, Old English Game Bantams come in over 15 varieties. Large Fowl breeds are separated into classes based on where the breed originated - American, Asiatic, Continental, English, Mediterranean, and All Other Standard. Bantams are classed according to breed characteristics - Single Comb Clean Legged, Rose Comb Clean Legged, Feather Legged, All Other Comb Clean Legged, and Game. In the South, Old English Game have their own class because there are so many of them.

All birds are judged by the APA Standard of Perfection, which is a book that the American Poultry Association produces and contains all the details of how the perfect specimen of each breed would look. The perfect specimen doesn't actually exist, it is a guide to strive for.

All this judging takes time, so there are a few other things to do. You can walk around and look at the other birds, talk to your fellow poultry people, peruse the birds that people are selling, or try your luck in the raffle that most of the poultry clubs that put on the shows set up to raise money for their club.

Raffle - lots of chicken stuff here!
So let's go look at the birds in the show!

First up, in the feather legged Bantam class, here is a Bearded Partridge Silkie Hen. Silkies are different because their feathers don't have the little barbs that lock all the fibers of each feather together, and so they are just puffballs! They are very popular because they are so cute, and they are also very tame and make excellent pets and mother hens.

And yes, they do have eyes!

Also in the feather leg Bantam Class, here is a White Cochin Rooster. Cochins are also very tame and sweet (most of the time, some roosters are still onery.) Cochins are from China and the best specimens resemble "feathered basketballs."

White Cochin Rooster
Here is a headshot of a Dark Cornish Rooster, in the All Other Comb Clean Leg Bantam class. Cornish are a meat type breed today, although they have also been used for fighting. They also lent their genes to the CornishXRock broiler cross that poultry producers depend on for fast meat production today.

Whatcha lookin at?
This is a Black Runner Duck. Runners are mostly raised for exhibition and eggs. The ideal Runner is supposed to resemble a wine bottle - this one is pretty close!

Black Runner
 I hadn't ever seen this breed before - the Welsh Harlequin Duck. Aren't they gorgeous?! They are very rare so that is why I hadn't seen them. They are a medium duck - about the size of a Swede or a Cayuga.
Welsh Harlequin Drake

Welsh Harlequin Duck
I was gushing over how beautiful the Welsh Harlequins were when I noticed the duck in the next cage, a White Crested. She kept bobbing her head around and I said "aw, are you pretty, too?" And she posed for me, I swear! Best picture I took all day, too. Here she is! 

White Crested Duck - yes, those are feathers on her head!
 This goose wasn't so cooperative though!

Here is a Black Muscovy Duck. Muscovies are from South America and are the only kind of duck that are not somehow related to the Mallard. They are much bigger and heavier than "normal" ducks, their eggs take 45 instead of 28 days to hatch, and they don't quack. And those warts on their faces are called caruncles and they are supposed to be there!


 Back to chickens, here is a VERY nice Bantam Columbian Plymouth Rock rooster. You may have heard of a Barred Plymouth Rock, this is just another color variety. This rooster is a very nice example of what the Columbian color pattern should look like!

Ever want to have a egg that isn't white or brown? Does BLUE sound good? Here is the bird for you! This is an Ameraucana hen. They really lay an egg with a light blue or green shell. They also have a "beard" which is just feathers around the base of the beak but it looks really cute.

I'm shy!
 This picture does not do this little hen justice. This is a Gold Laced Sebright Bantam hen. She is extraordinarily tiny - a soda can would be about the size of her body! She is very nice in color and type too. Sebrights are different in that the roosters have the same feathers as the hens, they don't get the long pointed hackle (neck) feathers like most roosters. So they are considered a "hen-feathered" breed.
Sebright Hen

 One of the most famous Oriental breeds - the Japanese Bantam. They have very short legs (he's standing up!) and HUGE tails.
Black-tailed White Japanese
 Just as the photo couldn't show how tiny that Sebright hen was, it can't show how huge this Langshan rooster is. The Sebright would only come up to his lower leg! Langshans are a feather legged breed, but not to the extent of some like the Cochins.
Black Langshan rooster
And finally, here is a White Frizzle Polish. Polish are a crested breed, with a large "top knot". Then the Frizzle gene makes their feather sweep backwards like that, and so you end up with a chicken that looks like it should be related to Big Bird from Sesame Street. There is definitely a chicken for everyone!

White Frizzle Polish
After the judging is finally done, the winning bird from each class is taken to a separate row of cages, known as "Champion Row." Thats where the judges make their final deliberations to decide Best of Show, and then the awards are given out. And if all goes right, you end up with something like this!

But if you don't, there's always next show!