New Baby Season, New Chicken Season

Time flies when you have a new baby. I have been adjusting my days around the habits of Miss Scarlet, which include a disdain for being left in her bed during the day. She sleeps rather well at night and is quite happy to sleep on us during the day, but we will not be sleeping in the bassinet by ourselves during daylight thank you very much. I am thankful for the good night sleeps. I just have a baby attached to me almost all day. I’ve been putting her in the carrier for some sleeps so I can get some things done. I can’t do everything with a baby on the front but I can do some tasks, which feels good.

Garden

The first gardening thing I got to do, a couple of weeks ago, was pull out a handful of weeds. The second gardening thing I got to do, last week, was start germinating my pepper seeds on moist paper towels in the hot water cupboard.

Germinating the pepper seeds. Some of them got a weee bit ahead of me.

I don’t know how things are going to go this growing season with a baby in tow but if I start plenty of things I know I’ll end up with something! It’s better to have tried and failed than not tried at all. I’ve done six varieties of sweet peppers:

  • Alma Paprika
  • Burpees Thickwalled
  • California Gold Wonder
  • Seeds saved from an orange supermarket pepper, purity unknown
  • Tollis Red
  • Yellow Banana (new to us)

I grew Burpees Thickwalled last season but they gave us just a few small fruits before it got too cold, so I’m giving them another shot. I’m skipping Cayenne peppers this year because we still have plenty of ground cayenne pepper in the kitchen.

The weekend before last I got to spend a whole hour outside. I may have spent it picking up rubbish and toys, cleaning out The Little Fulla’s cabin and tipping horse poop onto the compost, but it was magical. There is so much to tidy up around here but bit by bit we’ll get there.

Last weekend I finished planting the germinated pepper seeds into their trays. Since Miss Scarlet is still sleeping in our bedroom at the moment I have put them on the windowsill in her room once again. Might as well use it while I can! It will be time to sow the tomatoes very soon. With more varieties than ever before, finding places to sit them will be interesting. That’s partly why I started the pepper seeds earlier.

The pepper seedlings are all go.

I also pulled out a small chunk of weeds and trimmed back the penstemon that had taken over the path. The Little Fulla was happy to have me back outside working on something and he helped pull out some weeds and swept the path voluntarily. I was entertained by his antics as he put clumps of long grass on the roof of his play car and called it a fancy car from the olden days. He has been asking me since when we can finish our task out there. The poor boy has been deprived of doing outdoor tasks with me for so long.

That is my grand contribution to gardening in the last month and a half. Mostly, I’m still growing a baby, just outside of me now. I’m glad I did what I could while I was pregnant, even though it was hard.

Chickens

If you read my last post with an update on the chickens you will know that we’ve lost a couple in recent months. When I left off, Frodo, matriarch of the flock, had been found in a sorry state under a tree. She perked up a little in the cage after having vitamin water and being treated for lice, but she still wouldn’t eat and was not bouncing back. She was not getting better. She was fairly old at 6 years of age and was no longer laying or going broody, which was her life mission. I’ve been sensing the end of her days for some time and was worried when she was a bit off back in January. So it wasn’t a shock to me.

Still, I hated having to make the decision to put Frodo out of her misery. If she could just die peacefully in her sleep, that would be a nice way to go. But I don’t think that happens with chickens, not unless they’re on painkillers. We know not what pain they are experiencing, especially when they’re so good at trying to hide it. Thus, with heavy heart I said goodbye to Frodo. I really didn’t have much time to think about it because I have to do everything quickly at the moment, and as it was there was a crying baby waiting for me when I got back in the house.

I will always be grateful for Frodo. She was one of my first three chickens (Frodo, Sam and Strider), who made me fall in love with chickens and unable to imagine life without them. Frodo and Sam had the best chicken friendship of all the chickens I’ve had. Her serial broodiness, which originally drove me nuts for the lack of eggs, ended up being the means of us having many chicks hatched and raised by her. That got me hooked on the chicken breeding train and also the butchering chickens for meat train. Frodo turned out to be a defining factor in my homesteading activities today and in growing my dreams for the future.

If that wasn’t enough, we also lost Bluebell, Jemima’s blue daughter. I’m not entirely sure what was wrong with her as it happened at a time when The Husband was basically doing all the chicken chores since I was unable to.

And if that wasn’t enough, The Husband called me out one night, saying something was wrong with another chicken. Looking into the coop, one of the hens on a roost with her bottom facing the door had a huge red bulge out the back. I immediately knew it was a prolapse. “You have GOT to be kidding me.”

I’d never had a chicken with a prolapse before, but I had read a bit about it. It happens when a hen or pullet lays an egg and the body gets so strained that some of the vent or oviduct gets pushed from inside to the outside of the chicken’s bottom.

I quickly got her into a cage and gave her vitamin water but I couldn’t do much else in the dark of night, with, once again, a baby that needed me back in the house. I hoped the prolapse might retract during the night, while I thought about all the things. The chicken was youngTulip, one of Morpheus’ black daughters.

In minor cases a prolapse can be treated with warm water, gently pushing it back in, applying an antiseptic and administering vitamin water. However, once a chicken has a prolapse it’s extremely likely to happen again. And again. The chicken will require frequent monitoring to make sure other chickens don’t peck at any case of prolapse. You can reduce or maybe halt laying by keeping the chicken out of the light for longer and feeding a lower protein food. But it is an ongoing commitment.

From a breeding perspective, this is not very helpful if you want this chicken to lay eggs for hatching. You want to be able to gather enough eggs in short spaces of time, you want them to be of good quality and you don’t want the hen to be in pain. Also, there’s a possibility that the inability of the chicken’s body to lay well could be passed on to her offspring.

I thought about all these things. But the main thing was that this was not a minor prolapse, it was a big one. I don’t know if it could all be pushed back in and even if it could the scale of it made it more likely to be a recurring problem that was just going to cause her pain. I opted to cull her so she wouldn’t be in pain anymore.

Poor, beautiful Tulip got stuck with a nasty prolapse.

It seems to be Murphy’s Law that all the chicken problems happen when I’m incapacitated and I have to cull chickens, at least some of whom may have at another time been treated, or at least had treatment properly attempted. It’s been a bad chicken season. Then again, maybe it’s better if I haven’t had much choice in the matter. I have to believe that some good will come of these things. Things have settled down in the last couple of weeks and everyone, except Ninja who’s still in the latter stages of moulting, is laying. Weirdly, one of the other pullets has been laying giant eggs some days with no problems.

The latest development is that some eggs are in the incubator. The Little Fulla can help with looking after the chicks and have one or two that are his for Ag Day at school. I was just thinking that it would be helpful if Morpheus would go broody and last night I found her broody in a nestbox sitting on Helen Cluck’s egg. Good Morpheus. In two weeks hopefully she will be raising at least some of the chicks. She now wears the mantle of Master Broody. I declare it a new chicken season.

We have just gone into Level 4 lockdown for a few days after the first confirmed case of Delta in New Zealand. I am approaching this with an attitude of thankfulness for all the good things, like The Husband getting to be home for a few days. Now if the stormy weather would stop for a while we could get more things done outside…

Getting trapped under the back carport during a downpour after putting the chickens away.

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