Mom, look what we caught!

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by gcvmom, May 25, 2008.

  1. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    husband took all three kids to the reservoir-by-the-freeway to camp and fish overnight yesterday.

    Did they catch any FISH?


    But they did bring home HERBERT! (Yes, that's a chicken).

    I'm still in shock about this. The lake owner said easy child could have Herbert because the roosters kept picking on her (she is a bit bare of feathers in a few spots). We THINK Herbert is a girl... thus the name "HER-bert" explains easy child, who claims this amazingly tame (and stupid) creature as her own.

    Herbert now resides in the kids' playhouse. The playhouse has a fireman's pole in the middle of the ceiling, so we had to cover the opening and the doorway with plastic chickenwire since we get predators in our yard (coyotes, bobcats, racoons, owls, etc.)

    And GUESS what I found when I walked over to our lawn shed to get the rolls of chickenwire that were stored next to it?

    (Can you say, "Rattlesnake" without fainting?)


    After relieving it of its head, (yes, the neighbors even call me the snake woman...) I had easy child stretch it out and figure it measured about 3 feet: (Can you say "HUGE"?)

    After that bit of excitement was over (and the head was buried and the carcass flung down the hill), we finished preparing Herbert's coop: (Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home!)

    Needless to say, this has been a VERY MEMORABLE Memorial Weekend!

    Let's see... menagerie count so far:

    Whiskers the brown/white striped tabby.
    Harley the smoke-grey cat.
    Snappy the red eared slider.
    20 or so goldfish.
    100 or so mosquito fish.
    1 Western fence lizard.
    1 California Alligator lizard.
    1 Savannah monitor lizard.
    1 Chinese water dragon.
    3 Bahaman anoles.
    2 difficult child boys.
    1 easy child/difficult child girl.
    1 husband/difficult child.
    And Herbert the Chicken.

    My life is complete. :goodnight:
  2. tryinghard

    tryinghard New Member

    Her bert is adorable...looks like she\he needs some tender loving care.

    Snake..not so cute:sheepish:
  3. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    I don't know. I think Herbert looks lonely. :raspberry:

    *ducks and runs*
  4. GoingNorth

    GoingNorth Crazy Cat Lady

    That is very likely to he a SHE-bert, both based on plumage and the fact that that sort of feather loss is usually caused by being kept with one or more overzealous roosters.

    Poor thing was sexually harrassed.

    Actually, if you can make her a nice cozy little next box, she might be happy to produce some eggs for you by way of saying thanks.

    I suspect that if you ask Marguerite, she would have some good advice on keeping HERbert happy, as Marg keeps laying hens.
  5. Abbey

    Abbey Spork Queen

    ahhh...Herbert is adorable. The snake, on the other hand...get him OUT!

  6. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Well... hens, anyway. Most of them are too old to lay. Maybe we'll get an egg every few weeks in summer. We should get some retirees from the battery farm down the road, but we've been sort of relieved that the numbers have dropped off.

    husband was just looking over my shoulder as I pulled up your photos - it's hard to be certain because of the feather loss, but I would say Herbert is a hen. The tail feathers could have been plucked out, plus a hen-pecked young rooster will imitate a hen in manner and appearance in order to survive. They often drop their impressive rooster tail feathers when other more dominant roosters are around.

    Looking at the clean, smooth legs I estimate fairly young, maybe last year's hatchling.

    You probably need to house Herbert somewhere else, though - that timber floor is either going to get really cruddy fast, or rot through, or both. Plus, she won't be as comfortable there as a place on the ground. You could keep the place for her as somewhere to sleep at night, though, especially if you put in a perch for her with a box underneath to catch her droppings.

    We've found that putting up a tree branch about wrist thickness horizontally across the coop gives them a really healthy (and cheap) perch. They do best with natural wood, and we get a lot of windfall timber here (Aussie eucalypts drop branches all the time - some of them are called "widowmakers" for very good reason). You can then put something underneath to collect droppings, something you can get to easily and empty out. You don't want droppings on timber, especially soft timber, because they really eat it away fast.

    For chooks to get to during the day - they need fresh air, sunshine and soft litter to scratch. Our chookhouse is a compost heap, all the grass clippings go there as well as our scraps. The chooks eat a lot of it and their droppings fertilise the rest and make it break down very quickly. Worms will mmove in and other small creatures which the chooks will happily eat. They also love snails, so throw them in when you find them on your garden. The end result of the chook's "bedding" - we knock out a few bricks from the wall, dig out the rich compost and plant straight into it, the plants love it. We then shove the bricks back into the wall. The more concentrated manure from under the perch, that has to be aged and broken down or it burns plants.

    We built a rectangular brick structure, about 2' high, but with no mortar, just loosely stacked. We then put a timber frame on top, wrapped with chicken wire and roofed with sheets of fibreglass. Hessian sacks made curtains for the sides, which we could raise or lower depending on the winds and the season. If it gets really cold in your area for winter, you would need to check with other people in your area who keep chickens, to find out what works for them. But the compost heap idea does help to keep them warm, as it breaks down.
    Brick steps at the doorway allow both chooks and people to get in easily. Or you could use a small ramp.

    We use old ice cream containers as water bowls, locking one in place with more bricks and having another removable as an insert. Water must be changed daily because they poop in it. But you can pour the water right onto your plants and they love it. Maybe hang some potted geraniums on the chookhouse and pour the water into the geraniums.

    Feed - we use a standard chicken feeder, a hopper sort of thing but we put it up on bricks about 10". Not only does this stop them kicking litter and crud into their feed, but they also crawl underneath when broody. Or you can suspend a feeder, so it hangs about 10" above the ground. Watch out for thieving critturs, though - other birds, or mice/rats. That will also bring in the snakes. But at least you can legally kill your snakes - we can't, all Aussie snakes & lizards are protected. I'll have to open a photobucket account so I can post a photo we took of Monty, the large Diamond Python who often visits our chookhouse.

    Chooks also love a dust bath - a kids sandpit can be ideal, for the chook. Not so much for the kids.

    And a hen can be a good companion, as well as a useful egg layer. We feed ours a layer pellet mix, and give them our vegetable scraps and sometimes meat scraps (although you have to make sure it all gets eaten). Chunks of fat, for example - great! I also crush dried eggshells and feed them back to the chooks (in their feed hopper) to make sure they have enough calcium. Laying eggs can deplete their calcium stores.

    Enjoy! Herbert should build up condition really quickly. Here's hoping Herbert doesn't start crowing!

  7. Abbey

    Abbey Spork Queen of the punishments we had growing up was cleaning the hen house. It was NOT a pretty job. That was the most threat. "If you don't do this or're going to have to clean the hen house!!":scared:

    The only thing worse was Betsy the hog's area. Ewwww. She was one mean hog.

    Now, I probably shouldn't tell this, but when you grow up on a farm/ranch, you are easily entertained. Did you know that if you twirl a chicken around several times you can put them to sleep? We'd put their head under their wing and spin a good dozen times. These guys pass out immediately. When they'd pass out, we'd toss them like a football back and forth.

    Alright, alright...maybe that is why they ran from me every time I appeared.:wildone:

  8. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    When my brother was stationed in the army in California, he used to call that "dinner". They would get so bored on desert training missions that catch rattlesnakes and roast them on campfires...until they got caught. He said they were much better than the MRE's plus it was a he-man thing to do.
  9. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Just another note about cleaning up smelly henhouses - we've found with our giant 'compost heap' that if we keep it dry, it doesn't smell. We just have to keep the rain out of it and try to not slop the water when we change it (we use a bucket to carry it in rather than use the hose in there).

    If it does get wet and smelly - I sprinkle garden lime around in there. And we have about six hens in the space where you probably have one. Sometimes the rain blows in, and that's when I have to hold my nose and grab the lime. Otherwise - no problem. I still wear boots because I don't want to step in anything squishy, but generally there's no problem.

    Pigs - definitely muddy & smelly. At least ours were. But that was because we put a lot of water in the sty for them, they loved a good mud wallow. We kept pigs off an on, over the years, when I was growing up. I remember the last ones - a boar and a sow that my father called Porky and Bess.

  10. mstang67chic

    mstang67chic Going Green

    My mom and step dad had a couple of chickens for a while. (Fred and Ethel) They built a simple pen for them with chicken wire and 2x4's. It was completely contained with the wire and also had a little hutch inside. It was pretty big actually and gave the chickens plenty of room to move around......about the size of a large dog run. They would also use the chickens to clear out areas of the property. They would fence them in around a particularly weedy area and it would be cleared out in a matter of days. Because they lived in the country, they had to put them back in the pen area at night though to make sure nothing got to them. Unfortunately, they were gotten to by racoons at seperate times. You could tell because of the the little bloody handprints.

    I don't remember exactly what they fed them but I know mom would throw kitchen "waste" out for them......peels, veggie scraps, etc. I agree with Marg too....that play house floor isn't long for this world if Herbert stays there long.
  11. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    We have a whole chicken I think we have about 20 or so pens with roosters in them...if they are under about a year they can stay together but after that we have to separate them out to rooster and two hens. We do have some hens and a rooster or two running the yard to procreate. You dont even want to know our feed set up. We dont do laying hens so its all gamecock food.
  12. Lothlorien

    Lothlorien Active Member Staff Member

    Okay, I was cackling at the chicken! I just about yacked when I saw the snake! I would have freaked!
  13. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Lothlorien took the words right out of my mouth!

    I love the story and photos, though. Except the photos of the snake.
  14. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Wow! What an amazing wealth of barnyard knowledge y'all have!

    Marg and Mstng, thanks for the tips on coop care :) I figured we'd have to at least go to the feed store for a bale of straw to throw down in there based on the abundant nature of droppings in just a few hours' time... The floor you see is actually the second one we've put down 'cuz the first one rotted away from moisture and termites and was sagging badly -- although it's still under there. This structure is a good 7 feet high inside -- husband made it that way so he could stand up in there without smacking his head. It's all leftover lumber from our old patio cover... It's the favorite hangout for kids when we have Halloween parties :)

    I'll let husband sort out the wood issue. Likely with one chicken the damage won't be as rapid as with 6 or 10 or... easy child gathered up yard clippings from husband's mowing job yesterday and scattered them inside. I think this is going to be a good experience for her. We'll see how well she sticks with it.

    Abbey -- I think I'll keep your chicken sleep trick to myself for now ;)

    We've already got 3 compost piles and a worm bin that I toss kitchen scraps in daily and yard waste, too. Sometimes it gets to the overflowing point, so there will be no problem keeping Herbert supplied with a healthy variety of goodies to eat.

    It doesn't get THAT cold here. Occasionally it might dip down to the mid-30's (F) in the winter, but that's pretty rare. Last night was in the high 50's and Herbert was happy snuggled in a box of rags. I worry more about heat in the summer (low 100's), but I'm sure the shade of the coop and sufficient water will be fine.

    But I do think we should build a small box up higher off the ground, too. We propped a medium sized branch across the walls for her to roost on, but it wasn't secured and she knocked it down. We'll have to nail it in place today. It's about the size of my wrist and I think it will serve well.

    husband left the window open in the "coop" this morning, and Herbert wandered up the hill to the neighbor's yard. We don't have a fence, so this could be problematic in a few months when they come back from their annual trip to Germany with their westie terrier that doesn't understand boundaries! So I think we'll need to put some kind of fencing up to limit Herbert's unattended wanderings a bit. What do you think would be a good height to deter her?

    husband bought her some cracked corn and some other kind of feed for ducks and geese since they didn't have anything for chickens at Petsmart. I'll have to hit the feed store tomorrow. I can already see that we'll need a better arrangement for food and water.

    As for the snakes -- I think technically I'm supposed to try to relocate them, but whenever Animal Control comes out for a rattlesnake call, they destroy the animal. If it were any other kind (and we get lots of others, too) I'd actually be delighted with its presence since we do get wood rats in the lawn shed (husband hasn't learned to close the door yet). I'm sure that's why the rattler was there. We did have a weasle come last month and carry off a rat (and a baby bunny)...

    GoingNorth -- my mom sent me info on how to visually sex chickens -- Herberts feathers on her neck and saddle are definitely rounded vs. pointed -- plus no spurs on her legs. I feel pretty certain about the gender. Age is another story. If I had to guess, I'd say under a year, but I'm definitely NOT an EGGSpert!

    WG -- lonely never killed a chicken -- we are NOT getting another one. REPEAT...

    Tryinghard -- I admit, I've got a soft spot for critters that need a better home. Both our cats were rescues, and our turtle wasn't wanted anymore either by its owner. Castoff animals fit in well with our predominantly difficult child family :D

    SRL: I've never eaten snake before.... I hear it tastes like... CHICKEN!
  15. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    P.S. Sorry for freaking anyone with the snake photos! I understand how you feel -- husband is TERRIFIED of any and all types. I had to send him away before dispatching the snake so he wouldn't have a panic attack or pass out!
  16. Star*

    Star* call 911

    OMG!!!!!!! had I known that you had all THAT cool stuff I would have voted for YOUR house on the next reunion.

    You're a donkey away from having the perfect yard. lol

    LOVE HerBert
  17. tryinghard

    tryinghard New Member


    Yes, I too have a soft spot in my heart for anything defective! Even as a child I had rats, chickens, horses, sheep, dogs, cats, fish, ducks and cows!

    I now have four dogs and three cats. I think it does a persons heart good (and a difficult child's) to love and take care of something furry.

    I would have TOTALLY rescued that poor little chicken\rooster. The snake I would pass on!

    Have fun!!!
  18. amazeofgrace

    amazeofgrace New Member

    oh gosh I could not live anywhere where there were rattle snakes! Ugh we have snakes in NJ but you rarely see them, unless they happen to be on a hiking trail or something. UGh! that would so freak me out!
  19. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Holy Moly! What a day!!!

    I'd have totally freaked over the snake.
  20. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    I have to say that you are a better woman than me for dealing with the rattlesnake. :bow: