Sunday, 4 June 2017

Rescue chicken - Will she survive?

I don't know why I keep looking at Gumtree for chickens when I have 5 chickens already. But, last week, there was an ad for a free chicken - "don't know what is wrong with her." The description sounded like her vent was clogged and I thought, hmm I can go see what's wrong with her and maybe fix her up.

So I told the kids that after school we were going to look at a chicken. Would they like a new chicken?

There was resounding "YES!" screamed throughout the car, and they were all excited thinking we were getting a new chicken.

So I went to the place to inspect the chicken to see if she was salvageable. She could be dying, or ridden with parasites. When I got there, it was a delightful young couple whose home was full of DIY stuff - there were rose petals drying in the kitchen and the lady was juicing mandarins in the backyard, and offered me some.

I looked with dismay at my uggs as I glanced around their backyard, which is what the chickens appeared to free range in. Which is great, but there was chicken poo everywhere. Fortunately with careful stepping I managed to avoid excessive soiling of my sheepskin boots!

The chicken in question was standing quietly by the lady, and was quite placid. I picked her up and looked at her bottom which was covered in a dried whitish discharge, dribbling down her backside. Possibly vent gleet (or chicken thrush) which is treatable with some canesten and butt care. I looked at her eyes which seemed alert enough, comb was red and full and not blue or shrivelled and she seemed to be quite a young chicken. The other chickens were all 20 weeks old so she was at point of lay - she probably wasn't laying because she wasn't well.

A few days of isolation and butt baths with some heater and hair dryer butt-drying and application of canesten seemed to perk her up a bit. She was eating happily, drinking heaps and wandering around trying to find her spot in the pecking order with the other chickens. But in between she would stand still during the day and close her eyes. Surely that's not normal.

I had been feeling her crop wondering why she was sick in the first place. Did she have sour crop (which is yeast infection in her crop)? That can come from eating contaminated water or food. Her crop at the end of the day felt full and doughy, a bit different to the firm ball that the other chooks had at the end of the day. Just in case I bought some Nilstat (nystatin) to dose her orally.

This morning I went out to look at her and her crop felt very full. Ugh, I had read about trying to empty these crops by making the chickens vomit but I had tried multiple times with no success. So I'm going to just separate her again, more apple cider vinegar in her water, and give her mashed soft food and twice daily nystatin. I'd read that you give 1mL per 400g, but I think I'll just stick to 1mL per 500g and give her 3mL twice a day and see how that goes. Dosing her isn't too bad, prying a beak open for liquid isn't as hard as it looks. It's just the bum washing in the dead of winter which I baulk at. It's so COLD!

My son named her Lana (though at first he wanted to name her Tony which I said I didn't like since that was a boy's name) and so Lana has now become part of the family. If I succeed in fixing her we'll have another happy egg layer. If not... well, it was a free chicken.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

DIY tote bags - from new and recycled things!

My daughter's art bag was an old Easter Show canvas bag that was looking worse for wear so I asked her if she wanted me to make her a new one. She did so off we went to Spotlight to buy some material. The material she bought I was horrified with - there are so many NICE colourful duck fabrics we could have used but she chose a grey base with pink polka dots, and a plain green for the lining.

I used this pattern from a Russian website, which had nice easy to follow instructions.

I did the handles a little differently - I showed my daughter some ideas and she liked the plaited handles from this website.

So here is the bag in progress - using the first website's template.

I used hubby's old jeans to reinforce the bottom and cut off a leg hem to make a pocket. I used a herringbone stitch to sew the pocket down but I would probably have been better off using a small running stitch on it.

I used one strip each from the jeans, the lining and the polka dot fabric to braid the handles, and even let my daughter do some - if you look carefully at the back handle on the green lining strip you can see her stitches. She apologised for them being ugly but that's ok, it's her bag, it's nice that she did part of the sewing!

My son started carrying around the "sewing bag" because it's a good size for carrying around iPads, snacks, and books, so I thought I'd make him his own bag. I was inspired by this tutorial with a shirt and tie and I modified it to use leftovers around my house.

Hubby had a thick long sleeve winter shirt that was hardly worn but he didn't like wearing it because it was too hot - a shame because someone else could have worn it! However, the nice thick shirt now was becoming a sturdy bag.

I also took two old different ties to make two different handles, and was going to use the contrasting one as a fold over close for the bag. I realised that these two ties are expensive branded ties but they are dreadfully old fashioned so taking scissors to them wasn't the end of the world

Sewing the shirt closed is important! I should have done that before I sewed the 2 squares together. To make the bag a little more boxy, I cut out symmetrical squares from the bottom corners to make a flat base like in my daughter's bag, but smaller. Another thing I did was sew a hidden pocket which opens with one of the buttons on the shirt. I like the idea of a secret pocket!

For the lining I had some old Thomas the Tank Engine thicker canvas like fabric which I bought for the kids but never used. I measured 14cm from each edge and attached the tie handles. Because the tie is assymetrical, the 14cm measure to the middle of the tie. I sewed the narrower end into the lining, but left the fat end of the tie inside the bag - I might use it to make a loop to put a drink bottle or something in.

Here is the finished bag, taken whilst we were eating breakfast. You can see the contrasting tie as the opposite bag handle and the tongue of the tie which folds over to the opposite side as a bag closure. I was going to get a magnetic snap and sew it on as a formal closure, but I worry that it will affect the look of the shirt bag. The contrasting tongue can also be just folded into the bag if nobody wants to use it as a closure, but it does look quite good as a tie/shirt when closed!

All lovingly hand stitched! My backstitch is now looking very tidy - I think I might try making some with my sewing machine and see if I can make the bags stronger or more durable. Looks like we'll have shopping bags galore!

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Ewww! My first encounter with head lice

Head lice. Nits. Just reading those words makes my scalp itch.

For the first time in my life I saw head lice. And they were in my OWN CHILD.

The feeling of horror and shame when you find out it's your child! I was mortified! I felt like a bad parent. I felt like I never wash my child. I felt like she was suffering some sort of neglect!

My daughter had been complaining of an itchy scalp. I had been sifting through her hair earlier in the week but not noticed anything but on Friday when I was doing her hair I did notice something that I thought could be nits, but I wasn't sure. She'd never had it before and then I was working both Saturday and Sunday all day so I couldn't look again till Monday evening.

So on Monday I went to the areas that I saw the possible nits. I had seen nits on patients before, so I knew they cluster near the back hairlines. I was picking them out and putting it on sticky tape so I could see better. They were stuck quite hard to the hair but I could still pull them off.

And then I saw something moving in her hair. Immediately I went hunting for it and I grabbed it and stuck it to the sticky tape. Yep, it was a louse. GROSS.

I yelled to hubby and showed it to my daughter and she killed it.

"Why did you do that?" I asked. "I want to show your father."

"Because it's yukky!"

I rolled my eyes. I yelled to hubby that our daughter had lice and he needs to look in her hair and I need to go to the chemist right now. He came down with a comb and said we will comb them out.

"No!" I said. "You need to kill them first or we'll have lice everywhere!"

He found another one with the comb and I went off to the chemist and bought two bottles of nit shampoo. My memory of head lice shampoo is that it smells revolting and was full of chemicals. There were so many brands to choose from, I had to ask the pharmacy for advice and I walked away with an extra nit comb as well. There are lotions, shampoos, conditioners! I opted for a lotion that you apply to dry hair.

Now, I am not new to lice. After all, I saw the chicken lice. They were an orangey colour but the human ones are darker, more brown/black.

So off I immediately checked everyone else's hair for nits or lice. Boys are great with their short hair because there is nowhere for lice to hide. I can practically see my son's whole scalp coz his hair is short and there were no nits. Hubby too got checked and he was clean. But I couldn't check myself, so I decided to just treat myself because nobody knew how to check or what to look for.

So I marched my daughter to the shower and we sat naked in there whilst I poured nit killer on her head and hair and rubbed it in. She has such long hair it nearly used up the whole big bottle! She apologised to me about her nits and I told her it's ok, Mummy should have checked earlier.

Once I made sure all her hair and scalp were wet with lotion, it had to be left for 10 minutes. So we did my hair, which is fortunately short. Time to attack her hair with the nit comb.

The lotion is good because it acts a bit like a lubricant so I can pull the nit comb through her hair. I still had to do a bit of detangling but I started in sections and I was amazed at what the comb picked up. I put it on a tissue so I could look closer at them. Gross. I don't really WANT to share a picture of it, but for those who have never seen them it might be useful to see them...

It is actually quite rewarding doing a nit comb. Getting stuff off her head made me feel like I was doing a good thing. I was relieved when we did my hair that I didn't get anything so I was nit and lice free.

We washed all the sheets and then I was worrying about the couch and things that she had been lying on. However, the NSW health info sheet on head lice said that lice cannot live for more than a few hours off the head, so there is no need to worry about blankets and pillows. I was surprised. But there is still possibility of nits falling off and hatching, I suppose.

Someone at work was surprised my daughter made it to the age of 9 and never had it before. I am more worried about how to prevent it happening again!

Apparently head lice repellents (like tea trea oil sprays) are not effective. Basically it's just not putting your head next to an infested one. Braids and ponytails mean less stray hair around, so my daughter will be having her hair tied in tight braids every day!

Friday, 10 March 2017

Chicken Diaries - Moulting season!

Egg production has fallen right off and going down with it are feathers!

I can easily recognise Spotty's brown feathers all over the place, but there are also white feathers around too. Mary's egg laying has decreased too, probably 2-3 per week, but Cacciatore continues to lay profusely with 4-5 eggs a week still. Bubbles is also laying, with 2 eggs per week. Her eggs are getting a bit bigger too.

Chickens moult in Autumn, and because of the amount of energy and protein it takes to make new feathers, they can't make eggs. That's fine though. I have bought some mealworms to supplement their protein requirements and I'm wondering if I should start up my own mealworm farm. 

I've seen pictures of chickens in a full moult (called a hard moult), where they look very threadbare. This is not my chicken but you get the idea.

My chickens don't look like that though. They seem to have lost their tails and their neck feathers a bit - which is called a soft moult. You would probably not know they were moulting if you hadn't seen the feathers that are scattered all over the place which make it look like some fox got into the hen house.

Regardless, it appears that it will take them 2 months to get their egg laying back. I may have to cut down on egg giveaways because we are only just keeping up with our demand.

Friday, 24 February 2017

I love this dress from Cue

I have a few items in my wardrobe that I absolutely LOVE. This dress I bought from Cue during the Boxing Day sales is one of them, and embarrassingly I wore it 3 days in the same week and saw the same person twice!

When I first saw this dress I thought it was a top with a pleated skirt. However it was a dress with pleats at the bottom and the front zip is so convenient and the print so feminine! It is my new favourite dress and each time I have worn it I have received lots of compliments. So girly girl!

Monday, 20 February 2017

Chicken Diaries - Managing over the summer

This summer has been dreadful. Fortunately Spotty survived her heat stroke and I took a few measures to try to keep the chickens cool. There were even hotter days over January and February with the temperatures soaring up to 46 degrees Celsius, and it was fortunate that those days someone was at home with the chooks to keep their water changed and cool.

I came across something on Raising Happy Chickens about Heat stroke and it listed 10 signs of heat stress. Poor Spotty had 9 of them!

1. Panting.
Chicken's can't sweat so they pant. I see this when the temperature is above 33 degrees or so.

2. Rapid breathing.
If they are also not eating much because of stress this can be a bit of a vicious cycle, increased work and energy used but not much reserve.

3. Loss of electrolytes.
Apparently this causes depletion of calcium - and I had a lot of shell-less eggs which is probably due to the electroylte imbalances.

4. Wings are outstretched and feathers more erect.
I see the chickens with their wings outstretched a lot in the hot weather, especially the smaller hens. I don't notice it as much in my heavier chooks which is probably why they are more prone to overheating.

5. The bird stops eating, and drinks large amounts of water.
By the way, chooks don't like warm water! So they will drink cool water preferentially and I noticed they run straight for the new water I put out. On one of those 46 degree days the water was so hot it was probably on the hot side of a hot bath!

6. Diarrhea.
Raising Happy chickens said this was directly related to drinking more, but I think that stress will play part of this as well. Bubbles was still having diarrhoea 3 days after those 46 degree days. This will contribute a lot to that electrolyte loss!

7. The chicken become listless, droopy and disinterested.
Well, that will happen when sick. This is where Spotty was at. I am surprised it is at number 7 - I would have thought it would be at number 9.

8. Egg production and quality is likely to be reduced
My chooks don't lay on hot days and I don't expect them to with all their energy spent on keeping cool. I have had a LOT of shell-less eggs this past month - probably around 8 or so? - which I directly attribute to the heat.

9. Staggering, disorientation and seizures.
Spotty could not walk. I think if I hadn't intervened, she would be dead. I think I was very lucky she survived reaching this severe heat stress!

10. Collapse of system and death.
Well, that speaks for itself.

So here are my backyard tips for keeping my chickens cool.

- Plenty of shallow buckets of water

I have recycled disposable scrub bowls from work and stockpiled them at home and they are perfect for placing water out all over the chook's ranging area. I change the water when it gets hot, and try to put some in each of the spots that gets shade during the day.

- Allowing the chooks the full range of the garden

I have their inner enclosure and then the whole garden. On usual days I just let them free range in the enclosed area which is around 25 square metres. On hot days they can move to the shade near the house, or hide in the dirt in the corner of the garden.

- Misters/sprinklers

I have a watering system which sprays a mist and I pull it out of the watering area to mist a patch of grass nearby. Unfortunately the chooks don't like being sprayed with water! But if they do, it's something to keep them cool. The grass at least gets a bit wet so technically by evaporation it should be cool as well.

- Frozen water bottles in water

They are actually a bit nervous about the bottles floating in their shallow scrub bowls but it does keep the water cool if I'm not at home to change it!

There are many other ideas that people have had, including frozen treats to give to the chickens, or watermelon, but so far, in those 45 degree temp days, the chooks manage to make it through without dying or getting as bad heat stroke as Spotty did.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Chicken diaries - Poor roast chickens

The chickens managed to survive Christmas with me away, and also a brief New Year with me away, but the hot weather is what has brought my poor babies low.

Today was a scorcher of 39 - and I had put plenty of water out - but I rushed home to find my chickens sitting in the shade, panting. All of them got up to great me, bar Spotty. Spotty was sitting on the grass panting, and looking like she was having difficulty breathing.

When I picked her up, her bare butt was even more obvious than it usually was, and it was a soft swelling and bulging. I put her into a bucket of water, and she must be sick because she let me pick her up and sat there in the water for a while. Usually Spotty is the most skittish of all the chickens.

She looked very unsteady on her feet and was even closing her eyes, so after leaving her to sit on the grass a bit more and finding ants crawling all over her, I decided to dropper feed her some water as she wasn't drinking water.

I only managed to get 100mL in I think, and she swallowed it all. However, I have put her in the isolation cage that I bought for Snowy's broodiness.

Spotty had been well, as she was eating from my hand yesterday and running around as usual and also laid an egg. I am sure she is suffering from heat exhaustion.

Tomorrow will be a bit cooler but it's another scorcher, even hotter, on Friday. I don't know if I will have a dead chicken by then, but at least I will be home the next few days to help look after them. I might have to leave out more buckets of water for them the cool themselves down with this summer. I have also made some iced bottles to put in the water to keep them cool.

Fingers crossed, and praying for the recovery of my dear Spotty.