Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Happy Monday turned into Challenging Tuesday

Practically overnight, life here on Critter Farm has gone from peacefully chaotic to, well...disturbed.

Poor Pip's in trouble:

It appears that a gang of chickens (mine) attacked him. Why? I have no idea. Everything had been going so well among the dozen of them. Even between the two roos, Pip and Roopert. The facts? Well, the chickens were all in their outside run and, as I went to let them free-range for a bit, I noticed a few hens with bloody beaks. Predominantly, it was Spongebob (below), the Buff Orpington, and Rose-Uppity, the Rhode Island Red:

Initially, I thought it was the hens who were hurt. But then Pip walked by. The picture below is actually after I washed a lot of the blood off, but this weird coagulated, congealed stuff that I couldn't wash off his feathers remained:

I'm in a quandary. I don't know how to keep Pip safe and I can't believe my hens actually went for him...

Jim helped me wash him off:

and administer first-aid. Dr. Naylor's Blu-Kote is my friend even if my hands are stained purple now. Poor Pip then spent the rest of the day and night sequestered in Roopert's crate:

He's still in there, as a matter of fact. I'm terrified of putting him back in with everybody.

And then the next bizarre event...Roopert. Just what WAS he thinking when he ATTACKED JIM FROM BEHIND yesterday?:

Jim had been trying to usher all poultry out of the berry patch when Roopert hung back and sneakily jumped him.

Roopert had actually done this twice to my son, Aidan, over the weekend, too, but we laughed it off, thinking it was Aidan's red metallic athletic shoes that were inciting him to fight. Guess not.

So, just what does this all mean for the roosters of our small farm? If Roopert is exhibiting aggressive tendencies toward others now, at 21 weeks old, what's he going to be like when he's all grown up? He's never been anything but sweet to me, but I can't have a pretty boy hanging around, randomly attacking visitors to the farm.

And Pip...even if Roopert were removed from the equation, would the girls continue to pick (literally) on him? I'm not sure who started the whole back-end abuse, but the girls seemed more than willing to keep at it. Will Pip ever be safe with my flock?

Adding insult to injury yesterday, I also seem to have devloped a manure management problem:

Perhaps it was the recent change in weather and the slight air inversion of late, but walking out onto my side porch yesterday, the unmistakable smell of "zoo" was in the air. While I do love all animals, this was a bit...rank.

And, sigh, my blueberries. I may have mentioned that I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 blueberry bushes scattered around my garden. Fourteen of them are in one section, the blueberry garden. It has come to my attention, over the last week, that someone is eating my berries who isn't ME. Or my family:

No leaves are disturbed, or munched, or eaten...just every single ripe, or almost ripe, berry is unmistakeably absent:

I have maybe 9 bushes now that have some berries still waiting to ripen, but the remainder ...every berry-bearing branch has been stripped bare.
So, into dusk last night, Jim and I were trying to hang deer netting across the bushes that still might provide us a few berries:

Today - Wednesday - has been spent (sort of feeling sorry for myself) mulling over yesterday's events and trying to figure out what to do on these many fronts. If anyone has any advice for me on any of the above, I'm ready.


  1. Stink. (And I'm not referring to the donkey dung!) Roosters do present a bit of a quandry, don't they? They're beautiful. They're full of personality (not all of it appealing). They're handy to have around if you someday hope for little chicks to add to your flock... But they can be aggressive. They can crow at ungodly hours. They fight amongst themselves... What's a chicken keeper to do? So, stink, I say!

    I so relate to your feelings over finding your injured Pip. When we found our baby who eventually died as a result of peer violence I literally lost sleep over it.

    I wish there were an easy answer. But know that I can relate and will keep you in my thoughts!



  2. The birds may be your berry munching culprits. They love berries, especially the red and purple ones. They tend to pick the ripe ones.

    My guess is that Roopert is only attacking the males in his life. Sort of like an adolescent boy trying to prove himself with other males. My rooster didn't have males around so he challenged me exactly 3 times. Each time I yelled at him and made myself appear larger by standing up and raising my arms in a menacing fashion (yeah I know, comical)It seemed to work. He stopped challenging me after those 3 tries. If you haven't read up about roosters "spurs" on their feet, please do that soon. I didn't know about having them trimmed or removed when they are young and I lost a hen due to my rooster fatally injuring her with his spurs during repeated mating. His spurs cut right into her skin while he was holding her with his feet. I didn't notice that shw was injured right away because her feathers hid her wounds. As soon as I found out that he had injured her, I separated him from my hens forever after. He had his own little house and yard adjacent but not mixed with hens.

    About the hen abuse. Once a chicken gets injured and is bleeding, the other keep picking on them. You already know that and you know about Blue Kote. You can keep the wounds clean with soap & water and an application of hydrogen peroxide daily, and if they are really severe, some vets will sew them up. I had to have that done to one of my hens several years ago. I kept her separated in a dog crate in my living room until she healed enough to go back outside, and then I had to reintroduce her to the others slowly. She is one of my surviving two. 8 years old now.

    Well, that's my chicken experience for ya. I have no input on the manure issue. Manure management isn't my "thing".

    Sorry to hear you have such stressors on the farm right now. Good that you share them with us though.

  3. Can the donks get to the berries? We had a pony that could pick blueberries with his lips without damaging the plants.

    While you decide what to do with Roopert you can check his spurs. If there's any length to them you can trim them and round them off to help keep people safer. You cut them much like a dog's nails, being careful of the quick. You probably already know but just in case - don't bend down near him, turn your back on him, walk directly toward him and watch out especially for kids. He can probably jump to reach a child's face. We tried separating two roosters last year. My very chicken experienced friend took the mild rooster and I kept the dangerous one. We thought splitting them up would help. The mild mannered roo started attacking when he'd been in his new home a few weeks. Roosters will fight to the death and they intend the death to be yours.

    Poor Pip. He's the wall starer, isn't he? If he's "weak" in any way the other chickens will probably kill him. It's for their safety, to keep weak genes from the pool (how do they know this??) and protect "survival of the fittest." I wonder at times how something so pretty and soft can be so cruel.

    Can you rake up the manure near the house, mix it with soiled bedding and compost it? Breaking up the piles will help it break down faster in the pasture. If the chickens will scratch it down it will break down faster too.

    Good luck with Pip. When it rains it pours, doesn't it.

  4. Pour PIP.... I think he is the red headed step child... He will probably never fit in.
    No pooping signs maybe.?
    It seems if an animal were getting the berries, that there would be leaf damage too... but I don't know... the deer here root in the compost for kitchen scraps.

    Good luck... have a better thursday!

  5. There is something about the "hair" on the heads of polish chickens that bothers the others. We had to give our rooster and hen to the neighbors because the other chickens just all of a sudden started attacking them. They were all raised together from chicks. I have another friend that had the same problem.

  6. Ya know girl, I tried to warn ya! Somtimes you just need to learn the lessons of chicken brutality for yourself though. They just seem so sweet and not capable of all the atrocities other people experience, don't they? Truth is, if Pip were mine, I would not subject him to the brutality anymore...ever. You cannot watch them all time, after all. And the girls will most definitely do this again. Hopefully they don't start picking at eachother's vents have to watch for that. Once they draw blood from one of their own, they have been known to try to do it again, and the vent is an easy target. Even if they behave for the rest of the season, you'll have to be vigilant about this during the boring winter months. Gosh girl, I'm sorry. I wish I had better news for you. As for Rupert...he couldn't have chosen a worse target, could he have? If you decide to try to keep him, I would recommend putting him in his place daily, and never turning your back on him. No rushing or running near him and have the boys feed and give them treats too. He needs to learn to not bite the hand that feeds him and just who rules the roost. Some people pick the roos up by the feet and hang them upside down a bit when they get agressive to show 'em a bit of humility. I've never tried it, but I've heard it works. If there's anything I can do, my friend, let me know! xoxo

  7. I don't have any advice chicken sis I just know what I did. Every rooster I have owned has turned mean and was a problem so that is why I made the decision early on, with this batch, to find mine a new home. I hate being attacked by a rooster because they are so fast it's hard to defend yourself. I love just having my hens. All is peaceful.
    On the poo problem, do you pick up the pasture and compost it in a pile away from the house? Horse and I am assuming donkey poo takes a long time to break down. I am still finding horse stuff a year and a half after my horse died. It's a lot of work to pick it up in the pasture but it can help.
    Good luck with wading through these new developments on Critter Farm.

  8. Sorry farmgirl, I can't be of any help. I can only say when the misery rains, it pours. Sometimes this farm life is the best thing ever and other times it just plain sucks.
    I'm thinking of you.

  9. On roosters.

    I've found that having one helps the hens not pick on each other (My wife says this works in her office too, one male, even a rather useless one, gives the girls someone to pick on.) Two roosters, however, is two too many. Send one of them down the road. We had the same problem with our silver lace wy. He was aggressive toward everyone. He eventually learned to give me my space (getting booted across the yard a couple of times helped him remember) but would attack, children and other adults. He now lives with an older guy up the hill from us. He has two hens to keep him company and lots of coons to fight with. So far he is winning.

    On the manure problem. You already have the perfect tool for making poo into fertilizer and eliminating all the flys and other pests in the process. CHICKENS. They love the stuff. Get some poultry fence and a charger from premier 1 and put them into rotation on your pasture. You will be amazed.

  10. I'm sorry about this problem. You have lots of advice I'm sure. I really would be in a quandary at this point. Seems you need to find homes for the boys. Go back to the idea of "no roosters". I had a rooster once...just a rooster and a couple ducks. He was a true gentleman, came from a farm that had to get rid of him. If anyone wants to know...they can do fine on their own. Looks like you've got a handle on the berries now.
    Good luck Danni, I'm thinking of you.

  11. All I can tell you is that every rooster we have owned as well as the roosters my parents had a a child have become mean. It was worse when there were multiple roosters of course but even just one would turn mean. Ditto with everyone else on the drawing of blood...once they experience it they love to just pick pick pick.

    We chose two years ago to become a roosterless farm. The last rooster we had attacked our little granddaughter and I will not tolerate that. It is no problem to keep bringing in new little chicks we purchase every two years as the older hens age out of laying. It is very peaceful now and I love it.

    So sorry about that but certainly part of farm life. The poop....same. Part of farm life.

  12. Oh sorry! I forgot to tell you about the blueberries. We have around 20 bushes of different varieties and one year we lost the entire bunch to starlings.....hundreds descended upon the bushes. The next year we tried netting the whole thing which was a total pain because it is a big area. The birds still got in from underneath just not so bad. However, since then I have discovered that I have to pick the entire patch of all ripe berries and even though a few birds still come in they don't bother the green ones. We have an over abundance this year and after leaving them for two days to see what happened with the birds we noticed a huge difference in the bird population. They figure it out very quickly. I pick morning and night right now.

  13. Oh Danni I am so sorry for you. As you know I have absolutely no advice for you but I feel your pain. It is so sad when things aren't going right!

  14. Of all the replies I really appreciate the straightforwardness of Farm Mom. I think she's right on the mark in your situation.

    I'm so sorry Danni. I saw you add a comment on someone else's blog mentioning something bad had happened and I felt sick and worried for you.

    I know how much you love both of your roos, but you really cannot subject Pip to anymore violence. The next time he might not be as lucky. This time doesn't look too good either. That congealed stuff looks like muscle, fat and tissue sticking out.

    Pip would make a wonderful 4H project or a breeding roo for a Polish Chicken farm. Or even a pet. I'd suggest finding him a new home ASAP.
    As for Roopert, he really did choose the wrong person to attack, didn't he? I bet hubby's patience is wearing thin. Finding Roopert a new home would return peace (and safety) back to your farm.
    You could certainly try to work with him as others have said, but could you truly ever trust him around men and boys...and eventually any children playing on your farm.
    Not to mention the safety of your hens when Roopert starts breeding them. He's a big boy who'll probably get big spurs, and hopefully he'll happily let you trim them.

    And then there's that frustrating annoyance of crowing. Winter is coming. You might not want to be doing the same garage/kennel routine every day and night...not to mention the yuk factor of having to hose out a kennel when it's freezing outside.

    I know it's breaking your heart considering the options. You are a critter lover and having animals is something you've yearned to do for so long.
    Unfortunately animals, especially farm animals often do the unexpected(as you've learned from the donkeys, too) and you've got to make tough decisions.

    I had to make a very tough decision yesterday myself and my heart is still hurting about it. I'll probably post bout it on my blog when some time has passed.

    As for the manure, donkey poo reminds me of pears. Horse poo is called apples. Go figure.

    Anyway, I know your area of the country is wetter than ours, so this might not work well for you, but all of our horse manure is scooped and spread out along our fenceline.
    We break it up with our muckboots and the apple picker(pitchfork) and the horse helps break it up to, by walking on it. Within a week all of the manure returns back to the earth, and then we start all over again.

    Of course, we have no humidity and only sparse rain and we only have one horse, so our manure, so far, hasn't been a problem.

    I'm sorry about your blueberries, too. If it makes you feel any better, you're not alone. I've been terribly depressed seeing all of the wonderful blogs full of pictures and reports of beautiful fruit and veggie harvests.

    You see nothing has been growing here this year. I was so happy when we bought this house last year because it has a fruit orchard. Something I've wanted for a long time. When we moved in I saw the hundreds of peach pits spread around the property and the apple trees were covered in delicious ripe apples.

    But we had a late May freeze, June hail storms, terrible wind until June, a drought from May-July followed by monsoon rains all of July, and cold temps in the 50's for most of May and into July, with a few pockets of 90+ degrees scattered irratically.

    All of this has ruined any chances of getting any sort of fruit or veggie harvest this year. Not even our apples look to be growing. I've been so depressed and sad about this, I just can't even post about it on my blog. Too sad. :(

    So chin up. You've still got all those bags of luscious raspberries, and many good harvests from your veggie garden. And soon you'll have apples, too. Enjoy a few for me, k?

  15. Thanks so much, definitely know what I'm going through, moreso in fact because I haven't lost a chicken yet from chicken-on-chicken violence. It's ugly, it's horrifying and it's especially hard since we've raised these little guys from day-olds. No easy answers...that's for sure.

    Thanks, Jen, I appreciate you sharing your chicken wisdom with me, you've had chickens for a long time. I was all ready for the spur-thing (Roop doesn't have any yet), but I really thought my boy would be different from all those "nasty" roosters I'd heard about. sigh. Another innocent and naive piece of me is gone forever. :-)

    Hi robin (seasonseatingsfarm) - Nope, donkeys can't reach the blueberries and I'm sure if they could they would be like a herd of elephants, destroying everything in their path. LOL.
    I'll keep my eyes out for Roopert's spurs, he has next to none right now - only bumps - fortunately.
    Pip is not the wall-starer, but it's his sister, Dot, who is. Nutty runs in the family I guess. He just sits there and takes the abuse. Can't figure that one out. Fight back, DAMN you, PIP!

    Regarding the manure...yes, I need to go out and rake up the stuff that is closest to the house - it's a bit complicated, though, due to the steepness of our property and the ability to get a wheelbarrow up and down those dern hills...
    Thanks for your advice, Robin!

    Hi tocco... "NO POOPING" signs??!! Ah ha ha haha! You gave me a good laugh today - thank you!! Really needed it, too. Since I'm not sure if donkeys can read, would the international symbol for no pooping be more appropriate, perhaps? :-)

    Hi peggy, isn't it a shame? They're so funny and interesting looking - what is up with the gang picking on anything that looks different? Sounds like I'm definitely not the first person to have this issue, though, eh? :-(

    Hi farm mom...yes, you did. sigh. but YOU still have roos...if you can make it work, why can't I? (whine, whine)
    Just for clarification about Pip's injuries, it wasn't his vent that was damaged. It was right at the base where his back ends and his tail begins (on top). Very odd place...a bunch of feather picked out and then...well, you saw the rest. I'm taking a number of steps as I write this to try to keep Pip safe until I figure out a solution.
    On a bit lighter note, though, SERIOUSLY, could Roopert have possibly chosen a *worse* target than Jim to attack? :-)
    Thanks for the support, Ang (Agnes)

    Hi know, as much as you love the peace of just hens, I absolutely adore the crowing of my roosters, and the good stuff they bring to my flock..this nasty ugly stuff can take a hike, but my roosters...I'm having a hard time imagining my small far without them. I'm soooo sad. :-(
    Regarding manure - we, too, are still finding stuff from the horses who used to live here. I've shoveled some of the donkey's, but not all - the steepness of our property makes this task virtually impossible to do on a regular just need to draw an invisible line on how close I'll let it get to the house and try to keep that area poop-free...

    Thanks for your thoughts, sugarcreekstuff, you're my pal. :-)

    Hi alan - I love your comments - you give *excellent* advice! I love the idea of the poultry fence and letting my chickens go crazy on the flies! Now what did I do with my Premier's around here somewhere...

    Hi egghead...yup, no attacking the grandchildren...seems like this would be a bottom line with me, too. But since I don't have any (yet), I'll extend that bottom line to sons, nieces, nephews, friends, husbands, etc...silly me, though, in my head, I'm *still* trying to figure out a way to make this work!
    Regarding the blueberries - I've been watching for the flocks of birds...and seen none so far. I also don't think we've had a single starling yet out here...we had them a lot when we lived in the city. Believe me, I'd be like you, picking every morning and every night, if there were any berries to pick! The blueberry bandit has always been one step ahead of me so far. Hopefully my netting will allow me a few pints of berries!

    Judy!! You've got enough experience with these farm blogs now that you should TOTALLY be giving out advice! LOL :-) Thanks for your support - it is always appreciated. And I'm still trying to figure out a way to get a dozen of my most beautiful eggs over to you in Florida! :-)

    Hi twinville, thanks for your kind words. It's the unexpected yucky stuff that gets me down, you know? All the turmoil seemed to have completely settled, all was well, (and believe me, I PAY ATTENTION), yet this totally caught me off guard. I must keep the animals in my care safe, yet when they do damage to each other, what's a gal to do. Nature is cruel. Obviously, it's gonna all work out - but at this point, I just can't imagine my farm without my beloved roos. I love their beauty, I love their personalities (mostly), I love, love, love their just feels like "farm" when they do that. They could crow all night long and it would lull me to sleep. (well, that's probably stretching it a bit, but I'm being passionate, so stick with me here.) :-)There's only one individual here on Critter Farm who doesn't appreciate the rooster vocalizations and we all KNOW who that is! :-)
    But, hey, I'm so sorry to hear you are going through something difficult, too.
    Thanks for the "chin up" - I will do as you say. :-)

  16. I'm so sorry Danni! The bit of something you see hanging from Pip's wound is his oil gland. He needs it to work. It's what they use to preen their feathers. They dip their beaks in the gland and then go to work cleaning feathers.
    As for the hens participating in the attack---my hens will do the same thing. For some reason, my roo has not adjusted to having two new hens added to his flock. He attacks them as though they are males. Once he gets started, the hens join in just like a pack of dogs.
    Rupert is still young enough to tame, but for Pip's sake, find him a new home. I'm sorry you're having such a rough time. :(

    I think Alan hit the nail on the head about the manure. If you are brave enough, let the hens out in the pasture with them. They'll have that manure picked to bits in no time---looking for undigested grain and bugs. Good for the chickens and good for the donks.


  17. We have had some bully chickens over here too. We always had to segregate after because they go right back at them.

  18. I am so sorry that you are having troubles at your little haven over there. I, of course, have no advice on this whole chicken/rooster thing. I can only imagine how hard it must be to be in your shoes right now. You have raised all the little buggers since they were itty bitty chicks and you love em to pieces. Hard not to think that if you love em hard enuf that they will all do nice things! Hard for me to imagine your farm not having a roo crowing all the time.

    Im sending super good thoughts your way. Some extra strength, too, so that when you decide to put everyone back together again it all goes well for ya and things are happy again.

  19. I don't have any advice. I'm just sorry things are tough right now. Having animals can add a lot of joy but also a lot of difficulties to our lives.

  20. I don't have any roo issues because we had to get rid of ours.
    I suggest you head over to and goto the forums. There are so many wonderful people over there, very knowledgeable and I'm sure someone will have a good answer for you.
    As far as the "zoo smell" goes, I'm right there with you. I got ducklings for my birthday and talk about a stinky animal! Woooweee! I got Khaki Campbells-we have 8 left. 2 died. They stink really really bad! Have you tried hay?

  21. Hi Danni, welcome to farm life! It seems like it is a never ending looking for solutions, keeping the peace, etc! I have had mean roosters, they go to new "homes" (re:stew pot), there ARE nice roosters that stay that way....usually they are ones that are scared of you. :) I have also had multiple roos that got along but it is rare. Chickens do turn poo into minuscule particles, composting as far away from the house as possible works best for us. If I don't get out and pick our blueberries, all kinds of varieties of birds will remove them for us.
    If nothing else, farm life is a continual learning experience (but well worth the effort). :) Take heart!

  22. Dang Princess, what happened? I leave you alone for a couple of days and everything goes to hell in a handbasket.

    Pip's gotta go. He's gonna git kilt otherwise, and that's assuming he survives this little mishap (what with his glands all akilter). The only question to me is whether you can intimidate Roopert into submission.

    You really need this? You couldn't record some crowing and just play it on your iPod now and then? Maybe save your love for Spongebob the Cannibal?

    No, I spose not.

    Well, solidarity, chicken sister. I had to snuff one of my first chicks because of disease, and it's not at all fun. Still, that stuff's part of the game, I'm afraid.

    As for your blueberries. Hm. I can think of lots of candidates-- not the least of which is rats.

    Mmmm... rats...

    Recently killed one of those, too. Given that I didn't eat meat for 20 years or so, I sure do kill a lot of stuff now.

  23. Jim and I just butchered 2 of my roosters last weekend. The Australorp I'd thought about keeping was beginning to "size me up" and I won't tolerate aggression from a bird. He was a tyrant with the pullets and I was tired of hearing their screams, so off with his head. He's in my freezer now. The other rooster wasn't guilty of any crime other than being a rooster I didn't plan to keep from the get go. Best chicken I've had in a very long time I must say! We learned how to butcher chickens on the interwebs using Google. Great info out there, if you're thinking of thinning your flock.

    Manure is part of living with animals. I use it as organic fertilizer on all of my plants, trees and lawns. After a few good rains, it's washed right into the soil.

    I had to separate my Barred Rock pullet, Sweet Pea, when the youngsters were still kept inside the coop without going outside yet. I sprayed her butt with Blue Kote and put her in a dog crate for only a day, then let her go rejoin the flock. After that, no one bothered her. I think she's grateful to me on some level too.

    I honestly think that Polish chickens excist merely for the amusement of other "normal" chickens. Everyone I know who has them has complain about them in some forml I'm glad I don't have any. He would make it a day with my herd!

  24. Hey Dorothy! Yes, I know they didn't attack his vent, I'm just the hens, once they really start laying good....the vent is a really easily available target. Just trying to warn ya of what could be ahead! ;) Well, in all fairness, I had 14 roos to choose from. I was very careful in choosing my second roo, because he needed to be ok in his position, as blackbeard is. He was low enough on the totem pole not to want to challenge Spike, but not so low (as PIP clearly is) that the hens won't have him. He fits nicely into the middle, where I need him to be. But, I also have a lot more girls than you do, enough to keep Spike busy and not worried about Blackbeard. Two roos in such a small flock as yours rarely works. I'm sorry my friend. Make your decision soon, and be decisive. You'll feel better when it's done, and the barnyard is in a better place. Oh, and if you'd like, I can tell you more about what I do with Spike, if you think it will help.nWish I was there!! xoxo

  25. Oh Honey, you're just havin' it right now aren't you. I'm sorry to say I have no advice for you as I have no experience. But I wanted you to know you are in my thoughts and prayers. Hope all straightens it's self out soon.


I ♥ it when you leave a comment.