A tough call: thoughts on not culling a chicken

From time to time good animal husbandry practice would recommend that you cull a sick animal.  I have a sick chicken and was coming to grips with that fact for a week now.

The problem?  An impacted crop.  Evidently, she had eaten something that was blocking her crop, and it had become engorged.  It was three times the normal size and…

“What did she eat?” you ask.

Who knows with chickens!  It could have been anything, a piece of plastic, some straw, a length of string or a large blade of grass, any of which can be fatal if it gets lodged at the exit of their crop.  The diagram below shows you that number 4 is the crop.  This is a pigeon’s inside view, but it is very much based on the same organs as the chicken possesses.

Photo credit HERE

You may click for greater detail or just take my word for it that it is the large organ at the base of the neck and resting at the opening of the chest cavity.  😉

In an effort to avoid further impaction which could lead to infection and death, I began a twice daily regimen of massaging my poor little barred rock‘s crop.  She didn’t like it, and squawked in protest each time.  I can’t blame her!   A couple of days during this time I felt we were making some progress, but then by Sunday she had become very weak and thin.  She had wobbly knees but was trying to eat in spite of the over-full crop.  I continued to watch her closely for signs of other sickness that would be contagious to the rest of my chickens.  While an impacted crop will not affect the others, a distressed and weakened chicken can fall ill to various pathogens in the environment. If not carefully monitored she can then spread these to the whole flock.

Monday night I went out to lock up the Chicken Palace and she was sitting low on the roost.  Her feathers were fluffed up, her head was sunken into her shoulders, and her comb had gone pale.  I expected her to be gone by morning and told Bob my suspicions.

Tuesday morning I went out to the chicken yard and tried to prepare myself to do what was necessary if she was still lingering.  I opened the door and as is always the case the girls and Grayson came bounding out looking for breakfast, and so did the little barred rock!  I watched as she drank lots of water, ate like there was no tomorrow, and nearly nosed dived each time she bent down to do so.  It was then that I noticed her comb was a bright red like is should be and her frontal profile was much reduced!

So my little Barred Rock looks awful and puny,

but she is definitely on the mend!

~*~

It was a tough call, but I’m so glad I waited before doing anything rash.

Shut up: there is no reasoning with a crazy woman

So yesterday my doorbell is ringing crazily, I get up and go to the door, open it, and…  Nothing.  No one is there, the mail lady’s truck is sitting at my post box and she is nowhere to be seen.

Weird.

I see that Helena my newest gosling girl is out and I run out for the tenth time to put her back inside her (electric) fence.  (How does she do it?)

Suddenly the mail lady comes dashing around the corner and I make out something like…

DOG!  CHICKENS!!!

I run to follow her as she goes back around the corner.  And there he is.  Twenty-five pounds of chicken terror on the paw and he has killed one of my chickens.   I have been chasing that little dog out of my yard for weeks now and finally told the owner:

“Keep the dog in your back yard or I will call animal control!” 

So after yesterday’s episode I called animal control.  Later, when I thought the parents would be in I go to tell them what happened…

Lowlights of the conversation:

“This dog???  He’s been inside all day!” (NOT!)  “That’s it this dog is dead!”  (I don’t want you to kill your dog I simply want you to keep it in your yard!)  “So the mail lady comes at 1:30, so why did you wait till now to come complaining?” (You were at work, I didn’t want the dog to get my baby goose too!)  The lady marches to the back of the property and I hear “MARWAR!”  (name withheld to protect the minor) “GIT OVER HERE NOW!!!   The rest was unintelligible except for the part about killing the dog again.

At this point I loudly interjected:  “I DON’T WANT YOU TO KILL YOUR DOG, JUST KEEP IT IN YOUR YARD!

We had this trouble (same neighbor) about a year ago when the two big dogs they owned then, got out and killed almost all of my chickens.  Their solution?  Send them to the pound. (You can read about that incident HERE)

Suddenly the lady is raging at me and calling me a liar, telling me her sons told her I had threatened to shoot them and their dog if they came onto my property again…

WHAT’S THIS?

Sorry lady but I don’t own a gun and I would never threaten anyone with being shot.  I tried to reason with her (it didn’t work) and finally told her that her child had lied to her and left.

Meanwhile… the neighbors got an earful.  I look over and there they are, standing there, just staring and cringing.

Why did I bother?

HINDSIGHT:  When dealing with a lady who goes from a conversational voice to shouting in less than  .00139 seconds, just shut up and leave.  There is no reasoning with an irrational woman and in a moment you will end up sounding just like her.  Honestly, just SHUT UP and walk away.  It’s better in the long run.

Next time I’ll come prepared.

Following Protocol: chicken courtship

I’ve read that roosters, for the most part, have had the proper protocols bread right out of them when it comes to courtship.

You see, when the rooster wants to get amorous he is supposed to dance in a circle around the hen and drop one wing like a fan touching the ground.  To my mind a polite rooster looks quite a bit like a Matador.  Now, if the hen is interested, she will drop down and wait…

I am certain that Topper must feel every bit like this Matador.  Can’t you just hear him?  

Topper: “Hennies, am I not handsome and irresistible?”

This morning he gave the Little Red Hen his best Matador impersonation and instead of the expected drop, she puffed up as if in scorn, and fiercely chest butted him!

Poor Topper!

Personally, I think he is a spectacular specimen of a Laced Buff Polish Rooster, but even Tippy won’t have anything to do with him and she’s a LBP hen!

So, even with his good looks and suave demeanor, he just gets no respect out there in the chicken yard.

~*~

Polish chickens are a varied breed!  Want to see more?  Look  —> HERE!

I found a bit on the *chicken’s mating behavior (if you are really interested to know more) but it is very technical –> HERE.

*Everything else was about Prairie Chickens.

So what do a guinea fowl and I have in common with Dr. McCoy in a Star Trek movie?

Have you ever noticed how sometimes our lives can mirror the fictional experiences of well-known and/or loved characters from favorite books and movies?  You’re going along minding your business, getting the job done, and suddenly you are inexplicably relating to a character or living a similar experience to theirs.  Here is what I mean…

Those of you who raise chickens know that you can only have one rooster for every 8 to 10 hens.  I have 19 hens and two roosters, Grayson and Topper.  So, everything works out peaceably and my little hens are safe from becoming bare backed and injured from too much attention…  Or at least they were until the weather became more springlike.

With the longer days and warmer temperatures the Guineas have been feeling “… in the mood for love” and very aggressive.  I thought up until very recently that I had two Guinea Hens, and one male Guinea.  I was wrong!  I have TWO males and they ignore the Guinea hen in preference to the chickens.

Suddenly all my hens are looking bare on their backs and are unwilling to come in from the pasture at night.  I hear a commotion and look out to see the white guinea chasing a hen and he is unrelenting.  He grabs to poor girls feathers and she runs about with him in tow until the guinea is left behind with a  mouthful of feathers!  I ask you, how much can one chicken take?

The Farmlet is no longer a place where happy chickens abide.  I have a decision to make and watching at the window I already know the answer to my problem.  I am not happy.

I round-up the white guinea at bedtime and put him in the holding pen so that I can ‘do the deed” in the morning.  However, when morning comes I find that the gray guinea has moved right on in and is now taking up where the white guinea left off…  I go into the chicken run and round up the other male.

As stated, the job is not a happy one and it is made all the more difficult for their strength.  They are beating me with their wings and making the job nearly impossible.  I almost give up.  Then I look over at my hens and see how much happier they are already.  They have lingered in the chicken yard this morning and are dustbathing and just hanging out with Grayson.  I haven’t seen them do that for weeks.

WARNING:  Now, I promise you I will not go all gory on you, but if you are the least bit squeamish, then do not read any further.  If however you ever intend to butcher your own Guineas you need to know what I discovered yesterday.

The anatomy of a guinea hen is of course made up of all the same parts as a chicken, BUT… they are not all in the exact same place as a chicken!

Here for your reference is a diagram of the anatomy of a chicken.  And by the way, I looked high and low for a diagram like this for the guinea hen, but there were none to be had.

Now, again the guinea had the same “innards” but they were not where I expected them to be… and this made cleaning them awkward…

And it was at that precise moment that I recalled the scene in Star Trek’s “The Undiscovered Country, when Bones (aka: Dr. McCoy)  is trying to save the life of  Admiral Gorkon and fails.  Now I grant you, my mission was not the saving of life, but the preparation of food for the table, but the consequence of not knowing the precise location of some important anatomy nearly made the job impossible!  As was unfortunately the circumstance for Dr. McCoy.

As you can see from the diagram above the chicken’s body is very rotund and the crop is located well down into her chest.  Her gizzard is pretty well centered in her middle and her lungs are  compact more to the anterior location of her spine.

Well, first off the guinea’s shape is elongated as in this picture.

So, in a guinea you will discover, should you choose to go there, that the crop is elongated and comes up into the neck region.  The gizzard instead of being into the center of the bird is located along the bottom and in the posterior region. The lungs  seemed to be all along the interior spine, and in my observation nearly twice the size of a chicken’s lung.

So why does this make cleaning a guinea harder than cleaning a chicken?  Well, it doesn’t once you know where it all is.  However, there are three organs you never want to damage or pierce (for health reasons) when cleaning a bird and these are:

  • the crop
  • the gall bladder
  • and the intestines

Your successful accomplishment of the task of cleaning depends on knowing these locations.  So why did I mention the lungs you ask?  Only because I was so amazed at how really big they were.  Which explains perhaps why they are able to make such a loud and ear-piercing noise.

So today was a very quiet day.  The hens stayed in the chicken yard for most of the day, only visiting the pasture in late afternoon, and everybody was in the hen-house by sunset.  All in all, enjoyable if you were a hen.

And that is as it should be here on the Farmlet.

NOTE:  If you butcher your own bird you must refrigerate and let it sit for 2 to 3 days before you freeze or cook it.  Otherwise it will be very tough and hard to chew!

Roast Guinea Fowl

Rub down the outside of the bird with Olive oil.  Sprinkle inside cavity with kosher salt.  Sprinkle outside of bird with sage and Kosher salt and let rest for 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350.  Place rack in a roasting pan, put bird in rack, add about 1 inch of water to roasting pan,  and carefully place into the center of the oven.

Warning: If you need to check the oven for any reason, then please stand back when you open the door to avoid steaming and or burning your face!

Bake for 22 minutes per lb. or until thermometer reads 180 to 185 degrees.    Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes before carving.