Blog posts from February 2012

Baby Silkie Update…

Feb 25, 2012

Well, despite a week of intensive nursing...nose, eye and rear-end cleaning, applications of VetRx, several doses of antibiotics...this poor little baby passed away last night. I do describe details of this kind of chicken care on my blog, so that those of you who are either new chicken keepers, or are thinking about it, get a broader perspective of the things you'll have to deal with once you own a backyard flock.

Babysilkie
For those of you not in the loop, this was the box of baby silkies dropped off at the garden center a week ago, that I've taken home to foster. This particular bird was already sick when they were left with us. It wasn't severe yet, but I could tell just by the way it hung back from the rest of the birds, and was a little "crusty" around the nostrils, that something was going on. I had to separate him/her immediately.

It's not ideal to have to isolate a young bird like this. They are social, and rely on eachother's body warmth for good health and vigor. But you can't risk the rest of the flock with any kind of respitory condition, like this baby had. After the first night we had him, he took a nosedive. Poor thing was barely able to breathe and you could tell there was probably fluid in the lungs. Based on symptoms, I figure this was probably CRD (chronic respiratory disease) or penumonia. It did not appear to be coryza, and it has as of yet not shown up in the remaining birds, thankfully.

It took me a couple of days to get the antibiotics, so there's no telling that if I'd been able to administer them earlier if it would have helped. He may have just been too sick from the get go. I cleaned his nostrils and eyes daily with VetRx, an herbal oil...and had to do some extensive vent (rear-end) cleaning due to build up. Now look, unless you are prepared to clean chicken butt...which is a pretty nasty thing, you shouldn't get chickens, lol. I even trimmed the feathers around his rump so that no more would get caught up in them. Poor, poor baby. Yesterday, I started administering a .1 ml dose of Tylan 200 (antibiotics). He got 3 doses, and appeared like he just might be improving last night...only for us to find him gone this morning. Now, you take a risk treating any bird with antibiotics, as it's hard on their liver, etc. Some birds can be allergic to them, although its rare. It's hard to know if he was just too far gone, or if the Tylan put him over the edge. Normally, this antibiotic is administered via needle, but this bird was just too tiny, too thin, and without enough breast muscle to support repeated injections. While oral doses aren't as effective as injections, they can still be effective.

All I can say is I tried my best. We even kept him inside in our warm office, where he at least had company and someone to chat at him in his/her last few days. What a heart breaker.

Bon voyage little birdie!

Now, the rest of the gals/guys are trotting along just fine. They are putting on weight and fluffing out. They've also gone crazy for the dried mealworms I've started feeding them (thinking about carrying those up at the garden center). I'll post some video of them tomorrow... smile

Baby Silkie Update…

Feb 25, 2012

Well, despite a week of intensive nursing...nose, eye and rear-end cleaning, applications of VetRx, several doses of antibiotics...this poor little baby passed away last night. I do describe details of this kind of chicken care on my blog, so that those of you who are either new chicken keepers, or are thinking about it, get a broader perspective of the things you'll have to deal with once you own a backyard flock.

Babysilkie
For those of you not in the loop, this was the box of baby silkies dropped off at the garden center a week ago, that I've taken home to foster. This particular bird was already sick when they were left with us. It wasn't severe yet, but I could tell just by the way it hung back from the rest of the birds, and was a little "crusty" around the nostrils, that something was going on. I had to separate him/her immediately.

It's not ideal to have to isolate a young bird like this. They are social, and rely on eachother's body warmth for good health and vigor. But you can't risk the rest of the flock with any kind of respitory condition, like this baby had. After the first night we had him, he took a nosedive. Poor thing was barely able to breathe and you could tell there was probably fluid in the lungs. Based on symptoms, I figure this was probably CRD (chronic respiratory disease) or penumonia. It did not appear to be coryza, and it has as of yet not shown up in the remaining birds, thankfully.

It took me a couple of days to get the antibiotics, so there's no telling that if I'd been able to administer them earlier if it would have helped. He may have just been too sick from the get go. I cleaned his nostrils and eyes daily with VetRx, an herbal oil...and had to do some extensive vent (rear-end) cleaning due to build up. Now look, unless you are prepared to clean chicken butt...which is a pretty nasty thing, you shouldn't get chickens, lol. I even trimmed the feathers around his rump so that no more would get caught up in them. Poor, poor baby. Yesterday, I started administering a .1 ml dose of Tylan 200 (antibiotics). He got 3 doses, and appeared like he just might be improving last night...only for us to find him gone this morning. Now, you take a risk treating any bird with antibiotics, as it's hard on their liver, etc. Some birds can be allergic to them, although its rare. It's hard to know if he was just too far gone, or if the Tylan put him over the edge. Normally, this antibiotic is administered via needle, but this bird was just too tiny, too thin, and without enough breast muscle to support repeated injections. While oral doses aren't as effective as injections, they can still be effective.

All I can say is I tried my best. We even kept him inside in our warm office, where he at least had company and someone to chat at him in his/her last few days. What a heart breaker.

Bon voyage little birdie!

Now, the rest of the gals/girls are trotting along just fine. They are putting on weight and fluffing out. They've also gone crazy for the dried mealworms I've started feeding them (thinking about carrying those up at the garden center). I'll post some video of them tomorrow... smile

Ready…set…plant tomatoes!

Feb 23, 2012

318782_2108
If you're in North Texas, you now have my blessing to go ahead and plant tomato transplants. Yay! A bit early you say? It's probably going to freeze again right? Yes, it probably will. But with tomatoes, the earlier you can get them in the ground here the better. If you're willing to keep frost cloth or water wall protectors on hand, planting now will ensure you the best opportunity to get fruit set before temperatures get out of range. Peak planting time will be right about mid-March, then it needs to taper off through the end of March. Then I'll cut you off April 1st, lol.

If we drop below about 35F, cover your tomatoes with frost cloth. That does the trick. If you want to read a bit more about tomatoes I have a number of posts about them on the blog- just "tomatoes" in the search box to the right and you'll get a list of posts. Enjoy!

Chicken Drama…Hawk attacks and abandoned silkies…

Feb 20, 2012

What a week of chicken drama. Yes...chicken drama.

As I posted last week, I lost my favorite and oldest chicken, Phyllis the Polish hen, to a hawk attack. With the drought of last summer, there seems to be a lack of small prey to go around for the big birds of prey.

Early Sunday morning, I got a call from my store manager at the garden center...someone dropped off a box of 5 Silkie chicks on the doorstep...no food, no water, left overnight. SIGH. The box said 3-4 months, but I'm not sure they are quite that old. Of course, he wanted to see if I would take them...we can't keep them at the nursery (we're already full).  How do I say no? Now, this was not what I was planning to do with what I thought was going to be my one precious day off...but back up to the garden center I went.

Silkie_box
Now, back to that hawk that did Phyllis in. She's a beast...big and fast. Talons about the size of my hands. Just as I was getting ready to leave to go up to the garden center, I heard a pretty big ruckus outside...so I RAN. There was the hawk dive attacking my silver Wyandotte, Kim Deal, inside their run.  I managed to get the hawk off and out without chicken in talons. What was left behind was a huge pile of chicken feathers and a traumatized Wyandotte. She let me pick her right up. After inspection, I realized she had a couple of big gashes down to the muscle, but no punctures through the body, that I could find. Not cool, but I was amazed she's survived at all. I treated her wounds with BlueKote...then decided she would need stitches or sealing. I opted to seal her wounds with super glue...yep, super glue. I watched her for a while then put her back in the coop. She eventually ate and drank a little, so at that point I figured I'd just have to wait and see. She seemed more energetic today, but I'll keep cleaning the wounds and may start her on antibiotics in a couple of days if there appears to be any sign of infection.

Back home I arrived a bit later with 5 baby Silkies to foster. It's hard to say no to baby silkies...I mean, how cute. Here's problem number 1: I don't have room for 5 more birds. I can probably hang on to two of them, but the other three would have to go. But here's problem number 2, the bigger problem with silkies: It's almost impossible to properly sex them...until they start crowing, or lay eggs. There are some physical characteristics that can lead you to assume male or female...but even then you can be proved wrong. Roosters are illegal in Dallas. So you see my dilemma. There is one buff chick that is significantly smaller than the rest, so there is a chance she is a she...but the rest could be boys.

Babysilkie

I don't know if this person who abandoned these babies decided they just didn't want them or decided they are all boys...in which case it's now my problem-I'll have to raise them for months to get to a point where I'll figure this out for sure..then if I do find I'm stuck with 5 roosters, I'll be in violation of city code and be responsible for trying to find them all homes. Even worse, I'll be attached to them. NICE. Really? Really.

Babychicks
So I set the babies up in my small mobile coop with a heat emitter. They'd obviously never seen the outside before, and it took them about a day to figure out they could walk on the soil and learn how to scratch. So cute. Unfortunately, when I got up to check on them this morning one of the babies was showing obvious symptoms of bad respiratory distress. Sick baby chicks are not a good thing...it usually means they're on their way out of the world. And you have to separate them from the rest of the gang so whatever they have doesn't spread. So now the poor sick baby is in it's own box in the garage, but it's not doing great. I've treated it with VetRx to try and relieve some of the breathing problems, so we'll see how it's faring in the morning. I'm sure I'll work some kind of magic that enables it to pull through...and then it will turn out to be a rooster, LOL. This is how these things work.

We'll be covering the entire chicken yard with bird netting, in hopes of keeping the hawk out...hopefully, she'll move on or find herself otherwise occupied...she ain't takin' any more of my gals!

Whew....I'm tired.

RIP Phyllis…you rocked.

Feb 14, 2012

So we lost Phyllis this weekend. You may have known her from her newspaper articles or news footage...she was my "show girl". Always ready for the paparazzi!

05-21-2009_NHG_21HenPhyllis_GLG2KHSJE_1Phyllis in her younger days, before her waddles came in...

She was the last of my original gang of girls, a Polish hen. I always figured Phyllis would be the first to go. She just seemed daintier and gentler than the rest...she was fine hanging out by herself and I'd often find her puttering about by herself in a corner of the yard. She was quite the independent.

Phyllis was a good layer, usually an egg a day. Unless she was feeling broody, which she often would; meaning that she just wanted to sit on everyone elses eggs. She would get quite perterbed with me when I'd roust her out of the nest, or snatch all the eggs from underneather her.

She was practically blind due to the volume of "hair" that eventually hung down to cover her entire face. Not to mention, that big puff of white feathers on her head made her a pretty easy target. I always had this uneasy feeling that someday her lack of speed and that big white target might just be the end of her.

And that's exactly what happened this weekend. I had noticed that Cooper's hawk lingering across the street several days before. Not that hawks are an unusual sight when you live so close to a lake, but when you keep chickens, you keep one eye on the hawks. Sure enough, she didn't survive the attack. Poor, poor Phyllis.

It might seem silly to some to love your chickens. But I loved Phyllis and am so bummed she's gone. Yes, yes, they are livestock. But dang if she wasn't just the funniest character...Miss ya Phyl!

All the grass is gone…

Feb 9, 2012

Ok most of it.

So here are some photos of my freshly made beds on the front of the house. They pretty much eliminated all but a bit of lawn up front. I have a few drought tolerant foundation shrubs planted in them to get started, but will be filling them in with all sorts of pretties over the spring.

Halleckwestside
The beds on the front of the house face North West...it's a tough exposure. Plants against the house get shaded a good part of the day, then get blasted with the hotest of afternoon sun in the summer. For foundation plantings, I went with a Southern Wax Myrtle, Juniper 'Wintergreen' for some height, Texas Sage 'Desperado', Loropetalum 'Ever Red', Nandina 'Obsession', Abelia 'Kaleidoscope'...there is also a grey leaf Cotoneaster on the corner for some accent. In the outer part of the bed I planted a Maple 'Red Sunset' to eventually provide some shade on the corner of the house. These are not huge trees, but should round out at about 40-50', 30' wide. So I planted the wax myrtle, loropetallums and abelias because while they can handle that hot sun,they can also do well in the shade that will eventually be cast on them by the tree. Now, the Texas sage may eventually have to go if it gets to shady, but that's not going to happen for quite a while. On the outer part of the bed I planted a dwarf Peach 'Bonfire'..this is a cool purple leafed peach that only grows to 6'-8', but produces normal sized peaches. There is also a Leucophyllum langmaniae 'Rio Bravo' thrown in there along with an Agave Americana and a Barberry 'Orange Rocket'. There is also an evergreen Wisteria over on the corner of the fence with some  transplanted Iris. I will add a number of different sun perennials and bulbs to this bed. I may even add some dwarf columnar apple trees againt the house.

Halleckeastside
On the East side of the house I basically mimiced the same foundation plantings, with a few spacing adjustments. This side is a bit more difficult because the part against the house and in the corner plants will receive even more shade..but still get blasted with the hot afternoon summer sun. It's not an idea exposure for sure (not to mention I have that giant concrete driveway that is a conduit for massive amounts of heat..ick. I have dreams of jack hammering it ALL up...lol). There is a Sweet Olive hiding around the corner and a Holly 'Nellie R. Stevens' anchoring down the far corner. I also planted a dwarf Apple tree 'Empire' over in the sunnier part. I plan on tucking in some Hellebores and wood fern in the shadier corner and adding some 'Spring Bouquet' Viburnum and a 'Mutabilis' roses to the far end. Plus any number of sun perennials and bulbs.

Halleckeastside2

We used the leftover stone to edge the front of the crazy driveway bed...


Halleckfront
All in all, I have lots of space to garden up front and I'm super excited..it looks pretty empty right now, but all of these shrubs I l planted will fill in to capture a lot of the corners. It will be crazy looking in no time! Check back for more plantings soon...

 

Spring Fever…new beds and seed potatoes!

Feb 4, 2012

I usually try to do my bigger landscaping projects and planting during winter. Here in the DFW area, our soils don't freeze so we can plant all year long. It's much easier for larger trees and shrubs to get established fall through winter, which helps get them through our hot, dry summers a bit more easily.

So I finally broke ground on one new foundation bed today...

Front west
I'll post more pics along the way. We'll be planting a tree and a few shrubs, but not filling in the entire bed today. I like to get a few foundation shrubs in and then play with smaller perennials and color afterwards...it's part of the gardening fun!

What else am I planting today? SEED POTATOES! Yes, it is that time folks. You have February to get your potatoes, asparagus, rhubarb and horseradish in the ground. Plus, you can plant tons of broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, lettuces and more right now. (you can get this stuff at North Haven Gardens in Dallas)

Alright...I've got to go clean the chicken coop...be back later with more photos!

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