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January 26, 2008

Sadly, the chicken I brought up to the house in hopes of nursing back to health isn't doing any better. Both of her legs are paralyzed. I'm guessing it's Marek's disease after all.

I obviously can't keep her in the box forever. It's not much of a life - not even for a chicken. Sitting in a box all day, waiting for me to change the towel beneath her that's soiled with her diarrhea (another symptom of Marek's) or damp with drinking water from the cup she tipped over. She can't even move herself over to a clean section of towel. I check on her frequently, doing my best to keep her dry. I worry that chickens can get bedsores.

Maybe I'll give her another day. But unless she makes a miraculous recovery, I'm afraid I'll have to...well...you know.

 

And on top of it all, I have another chicken that moved from the coop into the house for a little TLC. She's the littlest of the new chickens. In fact, she's barely grown at all since I got her. She's half the size of the other new birds.

As adorable as that makes her, it also makes me think that something might be wrong. But that's not why I brought her up to the house and put her in a box next to the paralyzed chicken.

There's something wrong with her toe. I noticed it was swollen. When I picked her up for a closer look, I saw that the tip of it was turning black. The good news is a black, swollen toe is not a symptom of Marek's disease. The bad news is I don't know why it's black and swollen. Maybe she got frostbite. Maybe she broke it. Maybe it's an infection.

It was going to be in the mid-teens again that night so I decided to bring her inside where she'd be warm. I washed her feet with some warm soapy water so I could get a better look at the toe. The nail is completely black and pointed in the wrong direction. It don't think it's infected though. I put a little antibiotic ointment on it in hopes of keeping it that way. She has no trouble walking and appears in good health otherwise.

 

 

There's a bobcat that's been getting a little too close for my comfort. I found tracks four feet from the house yesterday morning.

Last week I'd found tracks underneath the lanai (a.k.a. the front porch) but they weren't clear enough to determine if they'd been left by a bobcat or a large dog. I was hoping it was a dog, but now I believe it was the bobcat.

The night before, I had left an empty beer can on the lanai on top of a crate the cats sleep in. The next morning, I found the can underneath the lanai, crushed and full of teeth marks, lying next to the indistinct paw prints of a large animal.

Yeah, it's shitty beer. But it was free beer.

 

See how close the crate is to the front door!

 

 

 

 

January 23, 2008

Been a rough week for the new chickens. Lost two to the extreme cold - well, extreme for Alabama anyway. Had a couple nights where the temps dropped into the mid-teens.

Late last week, I found one chicken dead when I checked on them early in the morning. I thought I'd found another one Sunday morning but it was still alive - just barely.

I tucked the bird into my jacket while I finished feeding and watering everybody else. I took it back up to the house with and kept it underneath my shirt, hoping to transfer some body heat.

After about two hours, the bird started chirping and flapping her wings. I fear that was just her way of expressing the pain she was going through as the feeling returned to her body.

She hung on for about another hour, seemingly in and out of consciousness. I knew it was over when I felt wetness against my skin - the evacuation of her bowels as she died. In the end, I can't help but think it would've been kinder had I just laid her in the snow for a few minutes and let her finishing freezing.

Yes, snow. Snow that actually stuck around on the ground for a few days. The snow I mentioned in my last post disappeared overnight and was replaced by freezing rain that encased every single thing in a layer of ice. The ice melted off later in the afternoon but it snowed again the next day - almost half and inch.

That snow stuck around until a light drizzle washed the last of it away last night. Didn't get any photos of the second snow since I had misplaced my camera for a couple days. Too bad. I would've liked a picture of the dirty snowman in front of the town hall. But I did get some photos of the ice.

The trees were covered in ice - even the bottle tree. The property is littered with tree branches that couldn't bear the extra weight and crashed to the ground.

    


My truck was coated in a hard, icy shell. Be sure to notice in the photo below that the window is rolled down.

 

The wire of the chickens' pen was encased in ice, as was a feather I'd stuck in a hole in the window frame.

 

 

The old box spring I'd pulled out of the brush was transformed into a pretty sweet ice sculpture. Though, after a few hours, it turned back into a rusty hunk of junk.

 

Another one of the new chickens is recovering from an injury. I noticed her  having trouble getting around this morning. Not even sure if the problem is with her wing or leg. I brought her up to the house and put her in a large box on top of the washing machine. She's eating and drinking. I'm taking that as a good sign.

I have no idea what happened to her. It may not even be an injury. It could be paralysis brought on by Marek's disease - a virus extremely common to chickens. I have no idea if the newbies were vaccinated against it. (My original chickens were not vaccinated and that could be where the Gimp got his limp.)

Or perhaps she just got hurt in a chicken mosh pit.

It goes on for a minute longer than it really needs to. You'll get the idea after the first thirty seconds.

 

 

January 16, 2008

Sorry 'bout the long wait for a new post. My laptop's power cord, which has had a short in it for a long time,  finally gave out. Took a little while to get it replaced.

Much has happened in the first weeks of the new year. Yes, the parents are here - but I'll bring that up another time. I still have six weeks left to bitch about that.

 

I came into possession of 18 new chickens. They're all young females - or, in poultry parlance, pullets. B.J. Boomhauer dropped them off at my place a couple weeks ago. Not sure who they belonged too but they were unwanted and going to be killed off.

 

Gimpy and Barabajagal inspect the new girls.

 

One of them died from an injury a couple days ago but that still leaves me with a total of 28 chickens (2 of them roosters). The new birds are still a few months away from laying eggs but, by summertime, I should be getting two dozen eggs a day. Selling the eggs won't make me rich, but it'll be more than enough to cover the costs of keeping the chickens.

Frankencoop was thrown into chaos with the addition of the new birds. They're too small to just throw into the general population so I had them in two large cages for the first few days.

During that time, I built a new bachelor apartment coop for Lemon, the refugee chicken. She's never managed to make friends with the others and was increasingly unhappy in her section of Frankencoop. She was separated from the others by chicken wire and never got to go outside. All she did was pace back and forth in her pen. With her out of Frankencoop, I could move the new birds into her section.

So I built her her very own place up by my house where she's allowed to roam freely in the yard. It's cobbled together from pieces of the old house and barn, set on top of an old table.

I covered the outside with some gaudy green flooring from the 1950s. I'd found an entire unused roll of the stuff in the old house - still in the original packaging.

There's still a little finish work to be done on the new coop, namely a tin roof, but Lemon moved in a few days ago. It's the first time in her life she's been free to come and go as she pleases. The situation has her confused and she has yet to actually leave her new digs.

 

In addition to the new chickens, I am also now the proud new owner of a goat.

 

His name is Preacher and he's some sort of pygmy goat. He is incredibly sweet-tempered.

Preacher was a family's pet goat but they had nowhere to let him run around free - he was always on a chain. They wanted to find him a home where he'd have more room to roam.

They had shown up at a local store with Preacher in the back of their truck and asked if anyone wanted a goat. My cousin's wife happened to be there at the time and said she knew someone who did.

 

Next thing I know, I'm headed to the store with my cousin to pick up a goat. Preacher actually rode home in the backseat of my cousin's car.

Preacher currently spends his days outside in a small temporary pen (about 15 x 30) and his evenings in the unoccupied half of Frankencoop. My father and I are fencing five acres of land and, in another week or so, I'll turn Preacher loose in there. Hopefully, he will eat all the kudzu and briars.

The old shed I cleaned out will be inside the fence and, after I finish fixing it up, will be the goat shelter. Sixty years ago, the shed housed rabbits, chickens and a mule - so it should be just fine for a goat. Later this spring, I will try and find Preacher a lady friend.

After Preacher is moved out of the unoccupied half of Frankencoop, it will be time to get the room ready for more new residents: A peacock and peahen. They will be a gift from Steve, Johanna and Angela back in Anchorage. Having a peacock is going to be so cool!

 

As if all this isn't chaotic enough, Gimpy and Barabajagal got into their very first cockfight last week. I was working down by the coop and the older chickens were running loose in the yard. I heard a commotion and thought perhaps they had been startled by one of the cats.

Instead, I rounded the corner to find my roosters engaged in battle.

 

Sadly, the video quality on my camera was set to low.

Up until then, they had always gotten along really well. Gimpy (with the yellow feathers) was the alpha-male and Barabajagal (with the black feathers) was  second banana. But something set them off and they were tearing the hell out of eachother.

Barabajagal with a beakful of Gimpy's feathers.

 

The fight lasted about fifteen to twenty minutes. The roosters worked their way from the yard, into the pen and then into the coop.

Eventually, Gimpy won the fight (as I knew he would). Barabajagal conceded by running to a corner and hiding his face.

 

This didn't stop Gimpy though - he kept kicking Barabajagal's ass until it was time to go to sleep. If you weren't sure who'd won the fight, that evening's sleeping arrangements made it quite clear.

 

The loser sleeps alone.

 

They were both a little bloodied by the end of the fight, but no real injuries. Fortunately, everything was back to normal the next day. Gimpy is still top cock, but don't think for one moment that Barabajagal is having any trouble with the ladies. He gets along just fine.

 

 

It snowed today. First time it's come close to resembling winter. Of course, people are sliding off roads and businesses are closing early. Not even a quarter of an inch and everybody's freaking out.

You can almost see my bottle tree to the left.

 

 

 

 

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