Friday 15 November 2013

Ernest Goh - Chicken Beauty Pageants

I am really heart warmed to see the photographic work of Ernest Goh.  He has done a photographic study of chickens to showcase their beauty, the depths of their character and their specialness as a wonderful animal, that many people take for granted. 

Here is a short video of the photographic project he conducted: Ernest Goh - Chicken Beauty Pageants

Rosie - one of our would be pageant superstars. 

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Best Water Container for Chickens - Flowmatic Feeder-Drinker

Best Water Container for Chickens - Flowmatic Feeder-Drinker

I am a HUGE fan of the Flowmatic Feeder-Drinker (pictured below) as our preferred water container for the chickens.  The last few I have bought have been from ebay for $6.00 each (postage additional).  They come in a variety of colours and I have bought new ones as we now use them for the dogs outside water containers and after 6 - 8 years the Flowmatic bowls can get a bit tired looking. 

The reason I prefer them is that they are just the base, the vessel that holds the actual water is a plastic soft drink bottle - 1.25 litre size, 2 litre size (depends on how many hens you have), they all seem to fit.  I have noticed that Coke have changed their bottles to a flimsy plastic with a tiny neck so I tend to use anything but their bottles now.  When the soft drink bottle gets a bit old and dirty, I can opt to throw it out (if I choose not to clean it) and replace it with a brand new one - the old one getting recycled as part of our council's bin collection scheme.  The label of the Flowmatic says that a glass, flagon bottle will also fit but I've never had one to try it out. 

The other benefit is that I can keep the lid of the soft drink bottle and in the Summer time I fill up the bottle half way with water, put the lid on to avoid spills, freeze it overnight, the next day I remove the cap, top the bottle up with fresh tap water and insert it into the Flowmatic - thereby giving the girls really cold water for hours at a time. 

I have also found mini plastic drink bottles which I fill completely with water, freeze and then put in the base (bowl) of the Flowmatic to keep the water chilled.  This is a good system if I haven't already organised the main, large soft drink bottle into the freezer the night before - it's also a better option this way if you have a small freezer space. 

I clean the Flowmatic bowl with the garden hose on a high and strong spray setting, with the bowl on the ground so I don't get a bath at the same time - it removes the majority of any built up slimy substances within a few seconds.  An old toothbrush, brushed around the area where the bottle spout is inserted, finishes the job really nicely - no soap, just water and the brush.  It only takes a few minutes to bring it up to near new again.  I find I can spray it with the hose every 1 - 2 weeks (usually when I replace or refill the soft drink bottle) and get the brush onto it every 1 to 2 months. A clean handful of wet, grainy sand, rubbed all over the Flowmatic also does a great job at cleaning off the grime - well rinsed off afterwards of course. 

In the Summer we keep 2 to 3 Flowmatics in the pen in different locations, so that at all times the hens have access to at least one source of water that is out of the direct sun light and therefore not boiling hot once the ice has melted. 

I'm not saying other drinkers are poor but this is the best one I have found so far - cheap, easy to keep clean, large bowl for easy access for the hen (they don't bend their neck awkwardly to the side when taking a drink), stable (we keep ours on flat ground against the fence line and we have never had one tip over) and they last for years and years. 

Flowmatic Feeder-Drinker - available on ebay and many other sites. 

Monday 4 November 2013

Elderly Hens - letting go

 Elderly Hen - saying goodbye

Our beautiful brown red Pekin hen Selene has not recovered from her winter moult this spring. Usually her comb shrinks and loses its red, waxy sheen and she drops weight and energy from around May – September.  Just when we begin to worry about her, suddenly a spark ignites into a massive production of weight gain and good health.  Her comb doubles in size, it reddens and glows shiny and new and her dominating behaviours triple as she brings the flocks into line for the laying season.  However this year there was no new life, there was only the beginning of some seriously concerning signs of ill health.  From early October we noticed that Selene seemed to be unsteady on her feet.  She needed to be lifted out of the sleeping hutch or else she would be the last to leave and would struggle painfully down the ramp to the ground.  I initially removed the roosts from the sleeping hutch as I found that making her way over these was the biggest problem in getting up and out in the morning.  However when I found her unable to step down less than 2 inches off a slightly puffy pillow, I knew she was in real trouble.  She also had begun to need regular cleaning (washing in the laundry trough) of her rear as her droppings were accumulating there within two days.  She could not preen herself or scratch her face as she was so unsteady on her feet.  The Vet found no sign of cancer in her belly and so we started by treating her sore legs with anti-inflammatories.  By the end of that weekend I knew that she was making no improvement and considering she had not been sick even one day in the seven years we had her, I knew the signs that our girl was finally succumbing to her long life.  So we arranged an afternoon appointment for her. 
She was so good, so trusting and gentle as the Vet slipped a gas mask over her little face and we held her close whilst she succumbed to the anaesthetic.  It was a quiet and graceful end to our beautiful lady.  The other girls cooed over her little body at home and she took her place next to Rosie, our recently departed Wyandotte under the rose bush in our back garden. 
This leaves us with three hens.  Alice our wheaten Pekin, Farrah the black Silkie and Jewel our oversized, black Pekin bantam.  I was always worried that Jewel would go totally feral if Selene passed away and she was left in charge.  The truth is with such a small flock in such a large pen, that competition is virtually nil, so Jewel has in fact not bothered to exert herself over either of her hen sisters.  So we’ve smoothly moved to a three hen flock without a hitch.  The only problem being that we hate to see so few girls in our garden, especially as we can not restock the flock under the current cloud of the ILT virus.  It’s been a heck of a year with so much loss and so much sickness.  We thank our lucky stars for the ladies we have left but I worry every day as to who will be next and  what we will do when we have only one girl left with no one to give her the company that hens absolutely must have to ensure their happiness.  
Selene - October 2013.  Seven wonderful years as our top girl.