The Bad Egg

And then there was The End
August 7, 2010, 8:23 pm
Filed under: Chick Pics, News & Resources, The Experiment

Well, a lot has changed over the last few months. As a result of the economy, etc., etc., the S.O. is going back to school full-time and I am taking a salaried position. My new job is not in Sacramento, so we’ve moved from the house into an apartment. Most places for rent are not too keen on dogs and cats, let alone chickens. The Dog and The Cat are with us, but  we have given the chickens up to good homes. Wanda, Frida and Flo are still living in a Sacramento backyard, while Mildred, Gerty and Stella have taken a trip across the river and now reside in a West Sacramento backyard.

I am writing this post to officially close down the blog. I’ll probably leave everything up for awhile, but I have no plans to post anything new after this one. The S.O. and I are intent on finding pastured eggs near our new place–they just taste better! But that’s all the plans related to chickens that we have right now. Down the road, if we are in a position to be allowed chickens again, trust me, we’ll raise them. They are too easy and the eggs are too delicious!

Anyways, here are some goodbye photos:
Wanda, Frida & Flo

Mildred, Stella & Gerty

Gerty & Stella


Spring Chickens!
April 7, 2010, 6:24 pm
Filed under: Chick Pics, The Experiment

I am definitely one of those people affected by lack of sunlight (called Seasonal Affective Disorder). To put it succinctly, and possibly melodramatically: when I don’t get enough sunlight, my soul darkens. Now that the sun is shining again in Sacramento, I actually have the energy to start this blog up again.  It’s not just me though. Wanda, Frida and Flo understand the need for sunlight too.

Chickens won’t lay eggs unless they get 12-14 hours of sunlight per day. Lots of people add artificial lights to their chicken coops in order to ‘trick’ the chickens into laying eggs like normal, but not us. I know they are not laying eggs as a sign of protest against the sun disappearing. If I were in their shoes I’d be protesting too, so no artificial light. What that means though, is the S.O. and I (and The Dog) have been negotiating over who gets to eat the 4-6 eggs per week we’ve been getting these last few months.

Maybe 4-6 eggs per week seems like a lot of eggs to some of you, but we had been used to about 20 eggs per week. Let me tell you, breakfast has been a bit of a battleground! Well, it could have been if my S.O. hadn’t been nice enough to just let me have the egg when there wasn’t enough for both of us.

Still, the S.O. and I have been going through withdrawals and The Dog, well, The Dog is not happy that he’s gone without eggs for months.

There’s only one acceptable solution to a problem like this–meet Mildred, Gerty and Stella!

Birth-date February 25th, 2010. More pics and updates soon 🙂

The End of…2009
December 31, 2009, 2:47 pm
Filed under: Stories, The Experiment

I think this picture nicely sums up the effects of the last year of events on our household:


The Dog decided his favorite stuffed animal was no longer his favorite.

I try not to write about troubles any larger than your average backyard chicken, but some evils cannot be born–like say, the incident of the pomegranate tree killer. Other troubles are so large…this is just not that kind of blog.

Most people have had to scale back on, well, everything–that’s definitely us this year. In a lot of ways it’s a good thing, but being forced to do something isn’t as fun choosing to do it. One thing I did actively choose to do was to scale back on goals for the coming year. To me, goals imply that an individual has agency, time and effort to complete the goals, but life over the last year showed our household that this is very far from the truth.

But, and.

Wishes–that’s a different story. I think of a wish as something I would like to be true or to happen, even though I know it might be unlikely given the circumstances. I have plenty of wishes for the New Year–things I wish to dwell on, develop, create, cultivate. A wish is something nice that might or might not happen; it’s out of my control. A wish not coming true feels disappointing, but a goal left uncompleted feels worse, like a personal failure. A wish fulfilled–it’s like an unexpected gift.

So here are some wishes for the New Year:

I wish for time and energy. Time and energy to plant a garden, raise a few more chickens, take more photos, read lots of books, hike in beautiful places with the S.O. and The Dog, enjoy the rain, enjoy the sunshine, steal a few oranges from the fruit tree belonging to the vacant house next door, work on my writing projects–and the list goes on, but you get the idea.

I also wish all of you lots of time and energy to pursue what you love in the New Year!

Cross-species First Aid Kit (For Humans, Dogs and Chickens)
September 18, 2009, 7:00 am
Filed under: News & Resources, Stories, The Experiment

A Family of Injuries

Those of you who know me in real life — which, let’s face it, is probably all of you cause who else would read my chicken blog besides friends and family? 🙂 — and follow me on Facebook, know that The S.O. injured himself while mountain biking last week. A week before that, we were horribly irresponsible and let The Dog run around on a bunch of jagged rocks at the lake. The rocks cut up his pads so bad he limped and needed to wear the Cone of Shame for a week. Just a few days ago, I managed to cut my hand pretty bad on a broken piece of glass.

Injury of the Week

The chickens are not immune to our bad luck. We’re not sure how it happened, but Wanda injured her foot at some point during the last week. Possibly she jumped off something a little too high, or maybe pinched her toe–I don’t know. What I do know is that one of her toes swelled and twisted a bit so that it doesn’t lie flat on the ground.

She’s still laying an egg every day, walks around ok and jumps up and down from her night perch, but leaving it alone has only increased the swelling and she has a bit of a limp.

I researched the forums on to see what other people do with an injured, possibly infected, chicken foot (it’s a pretty common ailment). Many people suggest antibiotics, but I don’t want to go there if I can avoid it.

Cross-species First Aid Kit

After sorting through the various advice, and figuring our family has further injuries in our future, I took a trip to the local drugstore with the specific goal of only purchasing first aid supplies safe to use on ALL members of the family.

Yes, that’s right. I am putting together an all-purpose, cross-species, basic first aid kit.

Here’s what I have so far:

  • Aspirin (just need to be careful about correct dosage for our various species and weights.)
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Neosporin (MUST be original formula. The ‘with Pain Reliever’ version is lethal to chickens. Otherwise it’s fine to use on all members of our family–human, dog, chicken, cat–but should be wrapped well when used on dogs. It’s not healthy for a dog to ingest a lot of neosporin.)
  • Cotton Balls
  • Bandages (I got the kind that’s easy to cut to fit dog-sized paws, chicken-sized toes, and human-sized shins.)
  • Bandage Tape
  • VetWrap (self-stick)
  • VetBond (super-glue meant to replace the need for stitches. Regular super-glue is toxic when it enters the human bloodstream. A prescription is needed to obtain medical grade super-glue for humans. VetBond has, from what I’ve researched online, the same formula as super-glue for humans, but because it’s for ‘animals’, you don’t need a prescription. Well, humans are animals too, especially when it means saving ourselves a trip to the emergency room. Just be super careful about really cleaning out the wound before sealing it over.)
  • Latex Gloves (I got a nice big box of gloves. It makes me feel less when squeamish dealing with various family members blood and other liquids, plus, it’s just more sanitary.)

I’m sure I will add to the above list over time, but it’s a good enough start for now.

One specialty item I added just for Wanda’s toe was a razor blade. I will need to cut into her foot soon and take out the infection.

Stay tuned …

Keeping Chickens Cool Part II
July 9, 2009, 7:00 am
Filed under: Stories, The Experiment

Since we don’t want to be required to hose our backyard chickens down twice a day, I borrowed a water mister from my father and set it up inside the run. Now Wanda, Frida and Flo can enjoy cool water while they lay in the dirt under the shade tree.

I’ve already used the mister for one full day (a day that hit 99 degrees Fahrenheit). They seemed much more comfortable and didn’t pant half as much.

Alas, the air condition for the house is still broken.

The Dog and I are thinking about hanging out with the chickens under their mister once 3pm rolls around.

Keeping Your Backyard Chickens Cool in Triple-Digit Heat
July 1, 2009, 5:26 pm
Filed under: Stories, The Dog, The Experiment

It’s June in Sacramento

That means triple-digit heat–108 degrees Fahrenheit to be exact.

Yes. That’s right. Our neighborhood hit a high of 108 degrees on Sunday. Did I also mention that our air condition is broken?

We have one small swamp cooler for the family room. Unfortunately, the cool air makes it about, oh, ten feet before dissipating. Even though we closed all the blinds and turned on all ceiling fans, it became so hot inside the house that we moved our bedding and have slept under the swamp cooler for the last few nights. Just for fun, we measured the temperature inside the house. It topped 90 degrees.

Animal Cooling Systems Don’t Work When It’s 108 Degrees

Both the S.O. and I were miserable, but at least we could sweat.  All The Dog has to cool his 75 lbs is a tongue about the size of a hotdog and the small sweat pads on his feet. At least The Dog could be inside the house with us, panting in 90 degree heat instead of 108 degree heat; the chickens were not so lucky.

Chickens have an even worse cooling system than dogs–an itty, bitty tongue that’s not meant to pant. They can also elevate their wings to allow greater air circulation, stay in the shade, drink lots of water, and dig themselves a hole to rest their undersides against cooler dirt. Our backyard chickens did all of the above, but in 108 degrees it’s not enough–our girls were panting like crazy by mid-morning. We needed to take action.

The Garden Hose and The Dog

The S.O. turned on the hose until it ran cold.  I went into the chicken area, pointed at the first victim and told The Dog, “Get the chicken!”

The Dog happily obliged. He chased the panting offender into a corner (in this case, Wanda) and gently pinned her to the ground between his chest and paws until I could pick her up. Don’t ask me how we trained him to do that, because we didn’t, at least not actively. I’d played around with coaching him to ‘herd’ the chickens, but nothing too serious.  I can’t remember how or when he figured out how to pin them to the ground (and that he’s only allowed to do it on command). One day he just knew.

Let me tell you, in 108 degree heat that trick sure comes in handy–no sweat and no foolish backyard chasing is fine with me. Well, there was still sweating, but that was just cause I was alive and breathing.

Anyways, I took Wanda from The Dog, pinned her wings to her body so she couldn’t flap away, and then the S.O. doused her with the hose. Once we thoroughly soaked her and offended all her sensibilities, we let her loose. She flapped and sprayed us with a bunch of water, then calmly went back to scratching through the dirt, sans panting.

I called The Dog to pin Flo next, and then Frida last. By the time it was all over, the chickens were soaked and so were the S.O., The Dog and myself. We repeated the procedure once more in the afternoon.

There are other ways to keep your chickens cool in the heat, but in a pinch a garden hose is a great way to keep your chickens alive to lay another day.

Wet Chickens

Have you ever wondered what soaking a chicken with a garden hose looks like? Well, you’ll have to wonder a little longer because it was too hot to bother with a camera. Maybe next time.

Wanda’s Double Yoke Eggs
June 3, 2009, 9:40 am
Filed under: The Experiment

Wanda laid a double-yoke egg and we have pictures.

This happened in February 2009, but we were in the middle of packing up and moving, so I didn’t get a chance to put this post together until now …

We figured it was a double-yolk egg as soon as I pulled it from the nest –this egg is humongous. You can even see the seam in the shell where the two eggs fused together.

The S.O. wanted to keep the two yolks intact, so we decided to boil the egg. The shell cracked when we boiled it, but otherwise stayed intact:
Wanda's Double-yoke egg

Wanda’s eggshells are usually the lightest in color, though still brown. Flo lays speckled brown eggs and Frida lays solid brown eggs. This particular egg from Wanda was extra light, almost white. Also, we knew that since the shell cracked while boiling, it was thin to begin with.

But hey, her egg laying apparatus was just getting started. I guess it needed to work out the kinks.

Warming Up

It’s usually the young chickens who lay double yolk eggs, which was the case with Wanda. When we got our first double-yoke egg from her she had been laying for less than a month.

You are also more likely to have chickens lay double yolk eggs when they are about to stop laying eggs (ie, getting too old for it). I guess it’s a warming up and cooling down thing.

Not sure if breed makes a difference, but neither Frida nor Flo have laid any weird eggs (they are both Rhode Island Reds), just Wanda (she’s a New Hampshire Red).

The Big Reveal

The S.O. peeled the egg and it looked like this:

A perfectly preserved double-yoke egg.

I’m sure this egg was perfectly safe, but I did not partake. Of course, none of that ‘needed to work out the kinks’ stopped my S.O. from eating the entire thing.

He said I missed out on a super-delicious egg.

Still Warming Up

Wanda laid two more double-yoke eggs before her system finally figured out how to consistenly lay a single-yolk egg with a strong shell.

I did taste one of those later double-yolks. I didn’t notice any real difference between them and the normal single-yolk eggs, except that, of course, it was a lot more egg to eat!