Keeping my girls cool

It’s not even June yet, and Central Texas already has 3-digit temps in the forecast in coming days. Naturally, I’m worried about my girls: Broodie, Harriet, Holly, and Buttercup. It can be brutal out there!

I already do many things to keep those girls chillin’ during those hot afternoons. They get a couple of frozen bottles of water in their water bowl to keep it cold all day; they get frozen cantaloupe and watermelon, they get frozen yogurt, I put a box fan on them, and I’m doing something I ran across on Reddit a couple of weeks ago. I am placing porous paving bricks in water and letting those bricks cool ’em down.

Hens on bricks in pool, late May 2018

Broodie, Harriet, Buttercup, and Holly cooling off

The girls absolutely love their pool and bricks. Water gets sucked up through the bricks and evaporates, cooling my four hens beautifully. They won’t stand in the water long, but they’ll stand on those nice, cool bricks all day. Note that I cut the edges of the pool down to about two inches. They don’t much like stepping over the tall edge of a kiddie pool. Now they don’t.

If you’re interested in doing this yourself, just go watch the video that’s linked above. Make sure your bricks are just above the surface of the water and keep whatever you use to contain the water full. My girls will vouch for the method!

 

 

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My menagerie

It occurred to me that some of my pets haven’t been featured on this blog for one reason or another. Some of them, like poor Trudy, whom we rescued from the Post Office, is just so shy and retiring that she seldom seems to get first place in the competition for attention around here. I love them all, and they all deserve top billing. So, in no particular order other than species and without any further ado, here comes the parade of pet pics!

Lucky & Little 150601

Beanie Boy and Mr. Little

Heidi 2007[2]

Heidi

Blossom Sleeping on Pillow 2018

Blossom

BigDog & George Thanksgiving 2017

BigDog and I

Trudy Summer 2013

Trudy Relaxing

Marley 2017

Marley

Broodie Harriet Buttercup & Holly scratching around 2018

Broodie (front), Harriet, Buttercup (white feathers) , & Holly (back)

Punkin 170109

Punkin

Miss Cuddles Oct 2014

Miss Cuddles

Shadow 2008

Shadow

A Frenchie Addition to this American Family

I have a number of formerly stray dogs as anyone who has surfed over my blog knows. I swear my house is more like a kennel than someone’s home. I wouldn’t have it any other way! Gayle and I have 7 dogs. Sometimes, we’ve acquired them by just finding them on the street running loose. Sometimes, we got a call from people who knew I was a sucker! I’ve been called by neighbors, the local school district, the Lacy Lakeview police, and, of course, my vet. The vet called again the day after Christmas 2017, December 26th. Actually, his vet tech called Gayle about a 7-year-old, deaf, female French Bulldog. Meet Blossom, everyone!

Blossom and I about a month after her arrival

Why was the vet trying to broker another home for Blossom? It seems her previous owner got a pair of Blue Healers and Blossom didn’t get along with them for whatever reason. Instead of finding a new home for the new dogs, she decided to re-home Blossom, poor thing. Blossom was pretty depressed when she first got here. It has to be hard to suddenly be ripped out of your home and thrown into another one. It took her a while to get over it, although I tried to give her lots and lots of attention. Even now I’m discovering new things about her as she steadily comes out of her funk and reveals new twists in her little personality. For instance, she LOVES cats. I have four. Anytime she spots one she races toward them, bouncing like a ping pong ball, and then plants herself squarely in front of them in the play position with her head down and her rear end up. Poor thing. She’s so hopeful then, but the cats don’t want any part of it. They just beat a hasty retreat.

Blossom guarding Dad’s belly

I had to beat a hasty retreat myself when she first got here. It was my fault. She had only been here a day or so and was sleeping on the back of the couch atop a comfy cushion. Mr. Genius here decided to lean down and give her a little kiss on the cheek. It turns out that one should not startle a deaf dog who doesn’t know one well.  The result of that encounter is in the photo below!

George after kissing Blossom

Although it looks painful, it surprised me more than it hurt. I bet I jumped 20 feet! Poor Blossom. She didn’t know who that guy was waking her up with a kiss. We’ve both gotten over that incident, however, and she lets me plant one on her cheek whenever I want now! Life is good.

Welcome home, Blossom.

 

The Girls Doing Better than I Thought With Cold Weather!

Gayle and I were absolutely breaking into a sweat over the onset of winter and the prospect of freezing temperatures endangering our hens: Buttercup, Holly, Broodie, and Harriet. Instead of sweating, we should have just chilled out, however. The girls are cool with winter weather.

We did a bunch of research online. Some folks put heat lamps and heated pads or even a heated perch in their chicken coops and seem to swear by them. Others, a great many others, assured online readers that chickens could take temperatures as low as 30 below zero. Then I read that heating up a coop could actually throw the girls’ biological rhythms off, like when they should be molting. After considering the fire hazards associated with trying to heat a coop, the anti-heating arguments finally swayed me over.

L - R Holly Broodie, Buttercup and Harriet Jan 2018

The girls taking a winter dirt bath. From left: Holly, Broodie (the boss hen), Buttercup, and Harriet.

So, what did I do to get my girls ready for the cold stuff? First, I made doggone sure that absolutely no wind or rain could inside their coop and run area. Probably a word of explanation is due here. My girls are out of their coop and run area all day long while they forage in our huge backyard. It’s close to an acre of land, making those hens essentially pasture raised. When they coop up at night, however, three of them–Broodie, Harriet, and Buttercup–don’t actually go into the coop, the wooden “apartment” that’s truly weatherproof. Oh, no! They jump onto a perch in the run to go to bed and use the wooden coop ONLY for egg laying and nesting. Holly, on the other hand, sleeps up in the apartment more often than not. Maybe she’s a little smarter than the other three. Once in a while, though, I’ll count four birds in a row on that perch in the run. Frustrating! Accordingly, my mandate was to weatherproof the run.

Setting about the task of making the run rain and windproof, I duct taped plastic sheets around all the areas open to the wind. Then I threw waterproof paint cloths (one side of which was plastic-lined) over the run to boot. Finally, just to make sure, I then put duct tap over every inch of the north-facing end of the run. I mean, I could squirt a fire hose at the north side, the side where Old Man Winter will really huff and puff, and those girls of mine would stay dry and out of the wind. Admittedly, it’s not insulated, but then again, it’s not heated anyway. (I do have some deep shavings and such at the bottom of the coop and run in the hope that it’ll all compost and generate a bit of heat, but I don’t expect much.) From all I’ve read, as long as they stay out of the wind and keep dry, they’re good to go as far as their shelter goes.

Chicken Coop 180108

The girls’ winterized coop and run. The wooden coop is upstairs in back. I’ve had to winterize the run by using duct tape, plastic sheets, and a paint drop cloth with plastic on one side to keep out the wind and rain. It’s not pretty, but it all works just fine.

NOW, I’ve also changed up their diet in these colder times. I ran off to Tractor Supply and bought a big ol’ bag of cracked corn. It takes a lot of energy to digest it, and will, therefore, keep my girls warmer at night. I’m also giving them plenty of scratch (seeds and grains, including more corn in the mix) and even spinach. Both scratch and spinach generate that body heat, as well. Then just before bedtime, I show up and distribute another handful of corn and, for the coup de grace, mealworms! Those girls love their mealworms. I don’t know if mealworms generate heat or not, but I read on at least one site that they do. One way as the other, it’s a treat for my good little girls, eh?

So far, it has gotten down as low as 15°, and the girls act like it’s 70° or something. When I go outside to let them out into the yard, they’re gossiping and fussing with each other and generally having a high old time. Once I open the door and let them out, they skip right out and commence to forage and act like it’s just another day in the sun. Whatever doubts I had about not putting a heater into my tinderbox of a coop, the one with dry wood shavings everywhere, have been laid to rest. Just like my girls, I’m cool with winter now. We’re all just going to chill out.

Working at Home but Not by Myself!

Not too long ago, I put the brakes on commuting back and forth to work and decided to bang away at a keyboard at home. Heck, I even have my own website nowadays. People sometimes wonder how I handle being alone all day without anyone to talk to. Oh! When Gayle is out and about, I am anything BUT alone. Living on the edge of town, a little one at that, we more or less live out in the country. That has facilitated the acquisition of a BUNCH of pets. We have seven rescue dogs (BigDog, Trudy, Marley, Mr. Little, the Beanie Boy, Heidi, and GrayGirl), four cats (Shadow, Cuddles, Missy, and Punkin’), AND four–count ’em–four chickens (Broodie, Harriet, Buttercup, and Holly). My day is absolutely filled with one conversation after another, querying various suspects about that pillow on the floor, who knocked over the candle on the table, or who isn’t pulling her load laying eggs that day.

While we all miss Miss Gaylie when she’s gone, I am anything but lonely here on those days when she wanders off to substitute teach. My animal friends and partners enrich each day and keep me plenty busy!

Poor Little GrayGirl Older Than We First Thought

This month marks about a year since our veterinarian introduced us to Miss Gray. Her previous owner had died of Alzheimer’s Disease, and the stricken woman’s daughter had brought poor Gray in to be euthanized. Thank goodness our vet is more interested in the humane treatment of animals than he is in making a buck. People can tell he really, really likes the critters he sees at the office. He simply took Gray and promised to give her to a good home. After a false start at one good home (she’s not a playful pup for kids), she ended up here. Since then she has been in and out of the vet’s office like she works there or something!

GrayGirl Oct 2017

Miss Gray on her couch

When the vet first gave her to us, he said that his best guess was that she was about 10 years old. That made me happy enough. I figured I had another 6 or 7 years to love her and give her a good life. On our last visit a week or so ago, and after reviewing a BUNCH of tests done at the doggy emergency room for an acute tooth and gum problem earlier, he said he thought he was off on his first estimate and that she is much older. Her kidneys are slowing down and so is her appetite, both symptoms of older dogs. She still has issues with her teeth and gums, and I have yet another appointment to take her in for another battery of tests to see if the vet can safely use anesthetics and what type during the procedure to clean her teeth, fight her periodontal disease, and give her little mouth a fighting chance. He’s pretty much treating her like an old, old dog nowadays. I guess that makes sense. Everything seems to point in that direction.

My heart is just broken over this. Oh, my love for little Gray was not and is not predicated on her age or how often she has to go to the vet or anything like that. When I love someone, and that’s what Gray is–a someone, a member of the family–I want her around for as long as possible. Now, I think I have to focus on giving her the absolute best life I can in the time she has left, whether that’s another year or two or less. That’s my duty to her and my sincere desire. I love you, Miss Gray. I will treasure every day you are with us.

Colder Weather and My Chickens

The temps are starting to get into the 40’s at night, which may not appear to be so cold to a reader from Maine, but it’s pretty chilly to Texans and Texas chickens! Eventually, it’ll get around to freezing even this far south. That shouldn’t be a problem for my girls. They have a nice, warm coop made of thick, sturdy wood with plenty of wood shavings on the floor. The problem is that they won’t get in the coop except to lay their eggs. The rest of the time, they run around the yard foraging and doing what chickens do. Then, come bedtime, they go into their run, which is attached to the coop and fenced in to keep predators like raccoons out, and hop up on a perch out there. Every night I count four birds in a row–Broodie, Harriet, Buttercup, and Holly–on that perch.The upshot is that they’re protected from predators but NOT the weather on that outside perch. At least they weren’t.

Chicken Tent

My solution? Well, I’ve turned their run into a tent of sorts. First, I duct-taped plastic trash bags around the front and sides of the fencing to really windproof things (being careful to leave plenty of ventilation, of course), and then I slapped canvas over the run to combat wind and rain. I’ve created a campsite of sorts for the girls, and I think it’s going to do the job. They’ve got such a nice, warm coop but insist on sleeping elsewhere. I guess the camp is going to have to do for now, unless they figure out that their sturdy coop is the place to be as the weather gets even colder.