Guess what…

Uh, huh. Go ahead…just what you’d hear from your 10 year old…chicken butt!!!!

Oh, geez, I never would have thought that keeping chickens would result in such things, but I had to wash Maisy’s butt today. Here’s Maisy, last year just before she started laying:

Maisy as a pullet

Maisy as a pullet

Once she started laying last year (on September 8, 2007 to be exact) she has been my most reliable layer, producing one large, delicious egg a day. So, I have to cut her some slack today when she “misfired” and apparently laid an egg without the hard, outer shell. Unfortunately, she also somehow squished it in the nestbox, making quite a mess of it and herself.

So, this morning when I figured out what had happened, I quickly changed out the dried leaves in the nest box for some new ones, cleaning out the drippy mess she’d made. But I had to wait until later this afternoon to clean her up. She was a mess: the feathers on her back side were matted with egg residue, and quite gunked up. I didn’t want to just leave her that way; after all, I know baby chicks can get “pasted up” and be in trouble, and didn’t want to run the risk of a similar thing happening with my best laying hen.

When I finally had a break in my relentless schedule of conference calls today, I prepped the laundry room sink with a basin of warm, soapy water, some clean towels, and the blow dryer. I went into the yard, picked Maisy out of the run, and quickly brought her inside. The other chickens were quite flustered to see her leave; after all, Maisy is not just the top layer, she is the top hen in my little flock. So, to see their queen whisked away was quite a disturbing thing to them.

The bath itself wasn’t so bad. Maisy struggled a bit after I plopped her into the basin of soapy water, but she eventually just gave in to the experience. I’ve never had cause to bathe my chickens before, and frankly I don’t really want to repeat the experience. I only washed the parts on her that were mucked up, as I didn’t want to get her too dripping wet considering the cool weather.

The blow drying was brief, too. I only have one of those dryers that is hot and fast or hot and slow, with no cool setting at all. Since I didn’t want to overheat her, I only briefly blasted the wet areas with the dryer.

I returned her to the run about 10-15 minutes after stealing her away, and everyone seemed happy with that. Maisy seemed unaffected, which is the best result I could hope for. So, now that I’ve tended to the bums of both a baby chick and a full grown hen, I have to say that the baby chick experience was definitely less wacky.

Ahhh…the things we do for our pets…

Snow birds

Snow birds

Between Saturday and Sunday morning we got about 5 inches of snow. I snapped the photo above on Sunday as I headed out to collect the eggs and give the girls a little treat (some squash “innards” from our dinner the night before).

The girls got their first taste of appreciable snow while we were out of town. They didn’t seem to like it one bit. According to my housesitter, they basically stayed inside the run after that first snowfall. But I thought I could lure them out, and indeed I did.

Treats and food go a long way when training animals. My dogs respond very well to food treats and affection when I’m training them, and I figured chickens couldn’t be much different. It only took a one visit with a handful of raisins, and the girls were out the run door and into the snow. I could see they didn’t like how unsteady the snow made them. Little Selma actually flew a short distance over the snow so she didn’t have to walk in it. Their feet aren’t quite like snowshoes, you see, and so they sink into the powdery snow when they step on it. They don’t like feeling so unbalanced.

When I head out to open their coop every morning and then back to shut it up in the evening, I compact the snow with my foot steps. So, they’ve found they can just follow my trail to get to the gate. Now they come up to the gate on their own when they hear me coming outside during the day.

I don’t know if they can understand words like dogs can, but I was quite full of praise for them yesterday when I saw how they had trekked over to the gate all on their own. I thought they were quite brave and said so as I cooed over them and gave them their treat.

I know they’re chickens, but they’re precious to me nonetheless.