Thursday 5 July 2012

It's Easier If One Person Holds the Chicken & the Other Applies the Vaseline

...and other phrases you never thought you'd utter with a straight face before you moved to the country.

How about:  "I'll be right back, honey, I need to spray paint the chicken's ass blue."

Chickens have a pecking order, you see, (you knew that, right?), and the lowest hens get, well, hen-pecked.  We recently obtained 4 two-year-old hens from a local CSA farm that was "refreshing" their laying flock.  One came without any tail feathers, courtesy of the higher-ups in her pecking order.  We thought she'd grow them back, going from a flock of 100 to a flock of 7, but she brought the problem with her.  For reasons best known to themselves, her sisters from the CSA farm were still plucking her tail feathers.  I enquired about the problem on the local chicken list and was told to put Blu-Kote on her tail because the bare red skin is an agonist for chickens.  Blu-Kote is a veterinary wound dressing that comes in an aerosol can just like regular spray paint.  Its distinctive colour comes courtesy of gentian violet, and it stains anything it touches (skin, clothes, walls) like ink.  Because she wasn't hand-raised like our original three Golden Comets, she is harder to catch.  It's easiest to go out in the evening when she is roosting and spray her on the perch.  Unfortunately, it has been a month and there is no sign of her tail feathers beginning to grow back, so we may have to try something else.
Poor tailless Silver Laced Wyandotte is on the left.  The Barred Plymouth Rock on the right is quite proud of her magnificent striped tail.

Now about that Vaseline.  Chickens with tall, pointy single combs are prone to frostbite in the winter.  Vaseline (or, in our case, the more environmentally friendly Avalon Organics Un-Petroleum Jelly) provides the comb with insulation.  Holding a squirming hen under one arm whist trying to open the tube and apply the goo to the comb with the other hand in the bitter cold is possible, I've done it.  But it is much easier to have one person hold the chicken and the other apply the Vaseline.

Word to the wise:  If you do hear anyone in the city utter either of those phrases with a straight face, give them a wide berth.

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