Friday, February 26, 2016

Psycho Hen.

Bantam hens are renown for being great mothers to the point the will try to brood anything if they're in the mood- other hen's chicks, baby rabbits, even golf balls. When they first hatch out a clutch they tend to be over protective giving a half hearted peck when fresh water or food is put in their vicinity but after a couple of days they'll realize no harm in meant and will allow any sort of activity around their babies.

Most of my hens are pretty easy going.

It was my luck that three weeks ago a two year old hen walked out with two small day old chicks resulting from an unplanned pregnancy. I grabbed an unused possum cage to catch them in and with some help from a visitor managed to get the babies in before enticing Mum with food.

Mother love can hurt 

That was my last non violent encounter with her. From that day onward she would scream abuse whenever I put my hand near her and I ended up with a mass of red beak wounds on my hands and arms. A week and a half later she leaped up and sunk her beak into the fleshy part of my forearm leaving a sizeable wound which bled on and off for two days.

My wound straight after the attack.

I never considered chicken keeping a dangerous activity apart from the occasional hit on the head with an over enthusiastic rooster at breakfast time. But I now approach Psycho Hen as I call her with a healthy dose of respect. Perhaps Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" is not so far fetched as I used to think.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Season Of The Chicks Part Two

28th July, 2014- Friend gave me four brown shaver hens from her giant flock. 

15th August- one of my new shaver hens died after having a slight cold when she arrived.
18th August- new replacement brown shaver hen to replace dead one.
24th August- another of my new brown shavers died from respiratory illness.
"Millie" shaver hen

7th September-Gina Lollabridgida hen had a fight Thursday ending up with a swollen black eye. That healed up but today I found her feet up in the paddock. Gina Lollabridgida hen had a fight Thursday ending up with a swollen black eye. That healed up but today I found her feet up in the paddock.
15th September- Gretchen pullet who has not grown at the same rate as her siblings passed away.

26th November- Gabriella turned up with one day old chick. Now ensconsed in woodshed.

11th December 2014- Lara the black bantam hen I was given seven years ago dies. Buried by the foxgloves.

9th January- Gabriella turned up in the middle of the garden with seven chicks.
16th January- one of Gabriella's chicks missing. Cat looking guilty.
31st January- Widget the Midget rooster passes away. No idea how old he was but he was ancient. Had recently lost his status as top “outside” rooster.
Widget the Midget Rooster

8th February- Gabriella's sister arrives with seven new chicks.
16th February- at 3.30 am heard loud cheeping from the woodshed. Discovered Gabriella's twin sister's chicks out of the cage. Inside was the hen pecking at a hedgehog which had already killed two of her chicks. Rolled hedgehog round to the veggie garden before blocking up any spaces in the cage where it could have got in.
18th February- someone ran over and killed Twizzle rooster out front.

3rd March- friend gives me a Rhode Island cross pair. Rooster is called “Jock” and I've named the hen “Isabelle Willis” after a woman my mother once worked for.
21st March- -heard anguished cheeping at 4am from woodshed. Hedgehog back in the cage straddling a chick. Managed to catch it and put it in a cat carry cage (later sent to live at another property). Found Gabriella in a bad way in the broodie cage. Covered with blood and missing feathers.
22nd March- Gabriella died in the night from her hedgehog related injuries and shock.
Jock the Gentleman Rooster.

2nd April- hawk took another of Gabriella's chicks.
12th April- drop in temperature & one of Gabriella's sister's chicks dies.
13th April- hawk took another of the now deceased Gabriella's chicks. Down to five- all males.
14th April- Gabriella's sister loses a chick with another looking seedy.
19th April- Molly the brown shaver dies after being repeatedly pecked in the face by a fellow hen.
30th April- my favourite chick of Gabriella's (a little gold female) died during the night.

21st May 2015- find a pile of black feathers near the fence. Suspect hawk killed a hen.
25th May 2015- Another of Gabriella's chicks dies.
26th May 2015- Gabriella's last two chicks die from cold (snow).
6th June 2015- cold weather killed white bantam pullet (the one addicted to eating grapes).
21st June 2015- old white fluffy bantam hen Georgia dies.

Season Of The Chicks Part One

Between early October 2013 and May 2014 I had a chicken explosion. At first there was the usual broody hen who came out of the bushes with a few chicks but then my landlord spread the remains of his silos across the home paddock next to me which resulted in the hens feeding freely and not returning to the hen house at night. This in turn led to them hiding away and hatching clutches of chicks. At one point I was feeding ten broody hens and their assorted offspring which saw my flock get up to numbers in the high sixties. This is the diary of those hectic times.

4th October, 2013-Gwendolyn the crowing hen arrived out from the bushes with five day old chicks this afternoon.
30th October- Just had to bury one of Gwendolyn's chicks which has died from the cold snap we had during the last 24 hours.Gwendolyn's other chick passed away after lunch. Bloody weather. This happened to a clutch last Autumn as well.

16th November- Another of Gwendolyn's chicks on its way out this morning. Alright late yesterday so assuming it was too chilly for it last night.
25th November- Landlord dumped a truckload of reject grain next door which the chickens have been feasting on. Result-no one wants to go to bed #HyperChickens

7th December- One of my missing hens (Gabriella) turned up this afternoon with four chicks... *sigh* They're a bunch of sex maniacs round here.
15th December- Found a white pullet Amy (last season's chick) with two new borns near the hen house. Hell of a job catching her.
27th December- One of my missing bantams has turned up- with nine chicks that I can count. Because what I really need is more chicks. What a job catching them with their mother & Widget rooster trying to attack me. Rearranged chick homes to accommodate them.
29th December- Just found two hens sitting on a pile of stinky eggs & when I lifted them off six had already hatched. #PsychoChookyMothers
31st December- One of Gabriella's three week old chicks died during the night. Nature is very harsh without rhyme or reason.

1st January, 2014- Went to let the chooks out of the big house & there was one of my missing bantam hens! With four yellow chicks.... Wrangling them was no fun. Now have six broodies with 25 chicks between them with two hens still missing somewhere in the pine trees or wilder areas of the garden.
6th January- Thought I'd seen a missing bantam hen yesterday near the shelter belt. Today she turned up again- complete with three chicks.
8th January- Another hen just arrived with one day old chick. Heaven knows where she'd been sitting all this time.
10th January- Just found one of Booffy's nine chicks dead. What looks like a haematoma on it's side so Mum must have stood on it. It's a rough upbringing.
13th January-Another hen has turned up with 10 chicks & is hiding in the garden under my bedroom window.Have put them in a cage in the woodshed with two of the other broods.
15th January- Have decided that 40 bantam chicks are equivalent to half a human baby- the bottom half. Same amount of poo to be cleaned up.
18th January-Murder! Just found Spike the rooster's corpse outside the hen house, beaten to a pulp. Bloody young cocks ganged up on him. A first in 23 years of chicken keeping.
21st January- Lovely rainy morning but unfortunately the youngest white chick in the woodshed had died in the early hours. The 6.2 quake last night may have been too much.
30th January- Gwendolyn hatched her last clutch on Oct 3rd 2013, raised them then immediately went clucky. Found three tiny (by little I mean just out of the egg) chicks in with Amy (bantam hen with two chicks of her own). Gwendolyn's a Mum again.

5th February- a chick killed by another broodie hen leaping about.
6th February- Just went to feed the chicks & found Boofy's smallest black one dead. I assume this cold snap did it as it was fine this morning.
10th February- One of Boofy hen's chicks not looking at all well. Quite chilled in this cooler weather. Brought it in & sat a container with it on a hottie. Chick was fraught & cheeping for Mum so wrapped it in an old hand towel, plonked it on my chest & we both went to sleep. Result- poo in bra.
11th February- Came home from shopping to find yesterday's sickly chick poorly again. Couldn't save it this time though. Just buried the chick and brought one of its siblings inside. Looks like it's on its way out as well. Poor hen has lost her three smallest.
13th February- Yet another burial first thing this morning as one more of Boofy's chicks passes away during the night.Just a mystery to me as it was eating.

7th March- Woke at 2am with Gwendolyn hen screaming in the carport & her babies upset. Today I find my white rooster dead headless in the shed #Ferret
9th March-A five month old pullet gone this morning.Not long dead when I found her- head gone.Leaving her body in the hen house with the traps for day. Mike found a tunnel near the hen house so he's setting up a trap (baited with bantam egg) in it. (The ferret was caught the following night and Mike shot it).
15th March- Yesterday Gwendolyn hen lost her black chick from the cold. Then while we were out a farm dog came in & dug up the ferret attack pullet.
16th March- Worst easterly I can remember in five years. Was out in the carport at 9.30pm trying to put more covers on the broody cages. This morning the hen house door had been forced open so chooks running loose.Gabriella hen hast walked out from underneath a flax bush with 10 chicks. Then went back under the flax so I had to do a chase & collection.
17th March- Trying to match the right chick with the right hen after all the various clutches have "mingled" is a nightmare.
29th March- One of Gabriella's little chicks (a black one) died after a cold snap. Another older chick was passing blood but turned out to be grapejuice.
30th March-Went out to feed the chooks & discovered Bessie & only five of her chicks sitting in her cage not wanting to come out at all. Saw a young white pullet way out in the paddock & called her back but her grey boofy headed sister has completely disappeared #Hawk

4th April-Bessie must have taken her six remaining chicks way out in the paddock where a hawk floating about this morning as she now has five. Gabriella's little chick I'd managed to save last week just expired. At that age when if Mum isn't sitting on them they chill.
5th April- A chilly night took out another of Gabriella's young chicks. Hawk scoping my place as well. Chicken apocalypse.
12th April- harrier hawk sitting out in the field on a pile of white feathers. One of my lot! Also another of Gabriella's chicks dying from the wet weather.
14th April- hawk took took third chick out of this clutch.
17th April- One of Gwendolyn's chicks dying from the storm. Brought her inside but not hopeful. Tried to shore up the hen house & goat shelter from easterly wind .
19th April- Sun at last but this morning one of Gabriella's chicks succumbed to the weather with two more looking seedy. Have them on a hottie on my bed.
20th April- another Gabriella chick dead from a cold night.
27th April- nippy morning took out another Gabriella chick.
29th April- cold took out the smallest of Gabriella's chicks. Down to two from ten.

12th May- Poor Billy died, Should have left him in a cage on his own.
19th May- Gwendolyn turned up without her little white daughter. Hawk again.
23rd May- Gwendolyn the bantam still missing.
31st May- Cold killed Gabriella's ninth chick.

6th June- Went to put Gabriella and her last chick in bed and it had disappeared. Hawk?


Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Kit Cat

Over the past few months of summer as the temperatures rose  Kit began to suffer from the heat taking refuge on window sills or near the door where a crack would allow colder draughts in to cool her. Then she began eating less. After years of watching her weight I began to watch it for the opposite reason as she slowly began to waste away. For a while she would eat a little and often so I would put her food away and bring it out again when she asked for it. Mike would arrive with sachets of "Dine" or little tins of "Gourmet" cat food, even bringing her freshly cut ham which she would tuck into.
Always a big girl Kit began losing weight

A week ago she was sitting on the back of an arm chair when I noticed she was drooling. Immediately I thought teeth as she was fourteen years old. The next morning we saw the vet who remarked that although there was a little inflammation there wasn't enough to warrant her loss of appetite. I knew her usual weight was six kilos but when she was weighed this time she was only just over two kilos. In a short time she had lost two thirds of her body weight. The young vet took bloods and gave her an antibiotic for her slight temperature before we took her home.

Later that afternoon he rang with the news that her blood results were all over the place and showed quite severe liver damage. He suggested that I try and get as much food into her as possible over the weekend and we would review the case on the following Monday. Meanwhile Kit acted the same as always, sometimes eating, always friendly, going about her usual business. Apart from her lack of appetite and weight loss she didn't behave like a sick cat.
Kit and I taking a selfie. Her last photo.

On the Monday Kit returned to the vet hospital and was put on an IV to pump fluids into her while she was also force fed to try and stop her liver eating her alive. While she was there the vet did one more test and rang me later in the afternoon to tell me that she had FIV (the feline equivalent of AIDS in a human). He said most of the cat population in New Zealand carry this awful virus but it can lay dormant and never activate. As Kit had lived the life of a couch potato with me and had never fought with other cats I couldn't understand how she would have contracted it but he explained she might have carried it since she was a kitten. As she came to live with me aged six years in 2007 she could have contracted it before I even knew her. The prognosis was grim- if they gave her antibiotics she might live another month or two but there would be no miracle cure. I made the hard decision to have her euthanised but asked they wait until I could get in the next day so I could be with her at the last.

Mike was coming with me to the vets at 10am on the 3rd March but was running late as he was trying to round up bulls to send to market. By the time we got to Vet Services in Waipukurau it was 10.20am and we were both pretty stressed. The vet who had been handling the case wasn't available so another one whom I had dealings with before brought us into an office where a nurse had Kit in a little bed with her IV attached.

In just one day Kit had gone downhill so quickly. Yet when I touched her and said her name she brightened up and began purring. Mike bent down and she raised her head up as she always did when he kissed her. The vet just put the anaesthetic straight into her IV and as it made its way down the tube Kit sat up before making a little growl and laying her head down on my hand passed away.

I cried. Mike cried. Even the vet looked unhappy but then he did have a broken collarbone. Later they brought her body out in a small white box with a blue dove stenciled on the lid and a bunch of dentata lavender sellotaped to the top. Later that day I buried Kit near Mishka my dog out near the big oak tree she loved to lie beneath.

Thank you dear Kit for your gentleness and your sense of humour. It was an honour to be your vacuumer.

RIP KIT 2001-2015


Thursday, October 03, 2013

Angel Goes To Hospital

After a week and a half of intensive petting Angel had calmed down enough for me to examine her coat which proved to be knots upon knots with a side order of tangles. When I rang the vet to book her in for a full South American (all over shave) the receptionist was certain a "brush out on top with a shave on the tummy) would suffice. My main concern was lifting Angel into the carry cage to transport her to the vet. Visions of me ending up in emergency did run through my mind but in the end I just picked her up and popped her inside without one growl or hiss. Angel was quiet as well.
Angel wearing her coat of many tangles.
When I dropped Angel in for her appointment I explained that she needed to be shaved right down to the skin as the knots were so bad although the vet nurse was more concerned with how I would react when I saw my cat again as apparently some owners do not react well to seeing their pets denuded. However I consider that aesthetics aren't important when it comes to the comfort of an animal. Especially a cat who has been wearing a bad weave the entire seven years she was away from home. The great team at Vet Services of Waipukurau assured me that she would be a different cat when I saw her again. They weren't kidding...
Angel still in her happy place after her experience.
When she arrived home later that day Angel immediately jumped out of her cage and ran over for a smooch. For the rest of the afternoon she was slightly Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds as the anaesthetic hadn't worn off completely. With her fluffy tail and ugg boots still intact she rolled around on the carpet while I scratched places she hadn't been scratched in years.
The Lion Of The House.
The vet staff said her coat was so badly matted that now it was gone her personality would change. This was after a nurse came out and said "Boy she's in a grumpy mood" when she fought to get her back in the carry cage. Although Angel was pleased to see her human friends again Joey the dog received a few punches when he tried to sniff her rear end. And as for the other cats... well with them she's lost all her street cred.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Return Of Angel

It is six and a half years since I moved to the Tikokino area and during that time I've often wondered what happened to Angel- my wandering cat who disappeared again a few months before I moved from Maraetuna Farm. My landlady's Dad was moving into my old place so I left a notice complete with Angel's photo and my contact details. When winter came I heard that she had returned, he'd let her in, fed her porterhouse steak, and let her go again. What we didn't realise was that the old man was doing this every time she returned from one of her jaunts away even letting her sleep on his bed. I of course had assumed she'd disappeared permanently.

A week ago my sister in law (who works for my now ex landlady Sandy) rang to say that Angel had started hanging around the old place but that the old man had moved to town and would soon be going into a home. As the cat was now quite wild and ran from everyone else Sandy suggested that she take her Dad back to the farm to try and catch her. It took two trips last Saturday but he finally managed to entice Angel and lift her back into a cage. By the following day Angel had been returned to me.
Angel really delighted to see me again.

Despite my fears she hadn't wasted away to a skeleton, in fact when I weighed her she was nearly 6kgs although her beautiful coat was completely matted right down to the skin. I left the top of the cage open and after an hour she jumped out and went to hide under the sofa where she remained for the next few days. However one evening she did make an appearance even coming up and smooching my hand. Then suddenly it was as if something clicked in her mind and Angel began snuggling like she used to although one false move would result in a hissy fit.

Demelza and Gypsy grew up with Angel and don't take too much notice of her although they steer wide of her grumpiness. Kit and Gemma however are mortified and spend most of their time on my bed. I am delighted to have her back after all these nearly seven years as I was certain she'd died a long time ago. Now that we're friends again I have to break her trust again as she needs to go to the vet to be shaved since she won't even allow me to touch her tangles. Hopefully when she's allowed outside again she will lose her wandering ways and enjoy her retirement as Queen of the Cottage.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

ANZAC Day at Pendle Hill

When I was a kid ANZAC Day was when TV stations would repeat a black and white war movie and ten old soldiers would meet at the local cenotaph to remember their fallen comrades. However in the past few years it has become a more popular event in New Zealand with thousands of people turning out to commemorate those young men and women who died serving their country. This year I took a trip with the occasional Stud Muffin to Pendle Hill, the old farm of his ancestors the Fletcher Family which also contains the family burial plot.
Pendle Hill on Wakarara Road 

The cemetery lies on a hill overlooking the farm and has graves dating back to the 19th century. Mike laid poppies on the graves of returned soldiers while I looked at the headstones. One poignant one was of Mike's grandmother who died when she was only 38 years old. There were pioneers who lived to ripe old ages and sadly one of a baby who only survived to seven months.
Pendle Hill Woolshed
The original homestead has been removed from the field where it used to stand although part of it now houses the Department Of Conservation office in Onga Onga village. The rest was too rotten to restore. However the wool shed still stands near the original house site along with a couple of old sheds and many totara trees.
Back Road Up Near the Ruahines
We drove up Look Out Road which is aptly named for the views and for the fact you need to look out that you don't get blown away. As it is near the Ruahines it receives much more rain than other areas which also meant we had to stop our trip because the weather became too rough.

I think of the young men and women who returned from war to continue taming this country, sometimes living a harsh isolated life in the back country of Hawkes Bay. There was no counseling in those days, you didn't share your nightmares with all and sundry but kept a stiff upper lip although you'd hear the stories of quiet suicides. Then there were the men who would never shoot a rabbit because they'd killed enough in the war. I wonder what they'd make of our poor sad country today? The celebrated selfishness and the lack of compassion which once marked the worst of the regimes they fought against. We do remember them but we must also remember that they tried to make the world a better safer place and that we are heirs to that legacy.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Optimistic Gardener

I have had a run of bad luck in the garden recently. Firstly we had the cold wet summer of 2012 followed by a winter where sheep, cows and various possums decimated my plants. Although I have wire cages over my veg plants to protect them from the chooks this didn't stop a possum from tipping them over at night and eating every single lettuce, broccoli and silver beet plant. As it was winter it was too cold to replace them so I had to wait until the livestock were under control before I could get anything planted. Then the drought arrived.
Scarlet Runner Beans
This meant that if you intended to plant veggies you had to be prepared to water them by hand and even then growth was slow. A built up bed by the chook house has been unloved since I moved in here four years ago but a few hours of laboriously digging out bindweed left extremely friable soil which is where I planted several scarlet runner bean plants. Originally there were 10 plants but a psychotic fence lifting ewe and her scrofulous half grown lamb made daily raids chewing down all but four. These were copiously watered and have since rewarded me with the occasional meal. The cost of the seeds? 50c from an Op Shop.
Various types of lettuce
Since I discovered there was more to lettuce than a limp leaf of Iceberg I've become a salad fan and every fortnight buy a few more plants to add to my garden in the hope of having a staggered supply across Autumn and Winter. These also had a tough time until I mulched the plants with bunny manure and untreated sawdust and now I'm getting several harvests per week.
Autumn Sedum

Now that the ravaged garden is beginning to freshen with heavy nightly dews it is possible to enjoy those plants that have survived the drought such as a the Autumn Sedum which blooms in the corner of the garden by a weeping cherry tree. In time its flowers will turn black and I will cut the branches right down to the ground where they'll hibernate until Spring which hopefully will herald a better year for the ever optimistic gardener.