Bird breeder's thoughts on whatever…

8-31-15: A Good Life — August 31, 2015

8-31-15: A Good Life

I said good-bye to a finch today.  It was a twelve-year-old female cordon bleu that has been here since she was about a year old.  Originally half of a pair, she lost her mate many years ago but kept on going strong without him.  She was a beauty, and a feisty little thing as well.  Whenever I’d have to catch her, she was one that would bite viciously!  It always seems so odd to have such a tiny little thing biting like that – as if they have a chance at intimidating something that surely must seem ginormous to them in comparison!  And yet, a bite from that fluff of feathers would indeed get your attention.

The last couple of days we noticed she was fluffed and not her usual self.  I knew the end was coming, and this morning she allowed me to pick her up and hold her for a bit, with no real fight left in her.  I put her down in a little “bed” of tissues and in a short time she was gone.

All of our animal friends grab a place in our heart, some more than others.  A beloved dog is like losing a child almost.  Thinking of some that have had to be put to sleep still brings a tear to my eye even after more than a decade has passed.  You might think a finch wouldn’t warrant much reaction.  After all, there is no real one-on-one interaction.  You don’t hold them and pet them.  Still, when one has been with you for almost twelve years it’s a piece of your life and one that brought you joy, and it’s sad to lose them.

I think it’s important to remember that things come and go in our lives, and we have no idea how long we will be blessed with any of them.  So take an extra minute to enjoy those little beings in your life that add so much to it.  They make us better people.  And while you’re in a reflective mood, stop and think about the people in your life that make your life worth living.  We have no idea how long any of them will be in our lives either, and we will surely miss them when they are gone.


8-29-15: PROGRESS!! — August 29, 2015

8-29-15: PROGRESS!!

We have been struggling with a few issues regarding both the adult chickens and the six-week-old banty chicks.  The issue with the adults has been hens that seem to forget to eat when they are broody, resulting in their ultimate demise.  The chicks’ issue is a failure to go into the coop at night, resulting in hubby having to bodily grab each one and deposit it inside.  Both issues have been troubling and I’ve been searching for remedies.  I can finally see success, though I’ll feel more confident when they continue over time.

With the broody hen problem, I’d been tossing her out into the yard many times throughout the day, but each time she’d immediately gone back inside and back to a nestbox.  This past week I decided to take it a step further, and lock them all out into the yard first thing in the morning.  Or more accurately, I had hubby do so upon letting them out in the morning.  So he’d open their hatch, they’d come racing outside into their yard, then he’d close the hatch behind them.  Several hours later, once I had completed my inside bird chores, I would go out and let them back inside.  I needed to be sure they were getting adequate water and that anyone who needed to actually lay an egg had access to the nestboxes.  The last few days I’d been locking them out again in the afternoon, after tossing scratch feed into their yard.  When I finally saw the most broody hen eating the scratch feed I had a feeling things were going in the right direction.

Today, for the first time, our mille fleur broody hen, MF, went outside with the rest when Scott opened the hatch!  This is HUGE!  A major accomplishment!   I’m not sure if she will have any setbacks or if the broodiness is now officially broken – at least for the time being – but we will keep a close eye on the situation  I think that once we add the younger chicks to the coop that will also change the dynamics in a major way. We will be more than doubling the number of hens in that coop, and I would think that would make it much less likely for one hen to monopolize a nestbox and get away with it.

As for the chicks, last night they ALL went into the coop on their own!  I had been removing their food dish at 4:00 in the afternoon, and only returning it at dusk.  Several hours without their food being accessible made them eager to get at it when it was returned, and this seems to have done the trick after several days of conditioning.  It is a bit of a pain, but I think once they are in the habit of going inside at dusk they will continue to do so even without the added allure of the food.

Things are looking up!


8-26-15: Now it’s Chicken Games — August 26, 2015

8-26-15: Now it’s Chicken Games

We lost a broody hen last week.  These cochins get broody and won’t come out of the box to eat.  We had read that you should toss a broody hen out of the nestbox any time you see her there, and that eventually she’ll get over it and forget about nesting. We’d been doing that, and the one hen seemed to be coming out of it, but then she died.  Thin.  Not good.

We redoubled our efforts on the other two that had become broody.  I went outside multiple times every day and tossed them out of the boxes.  The blue cochin seems to have gotten out of the mood, thankfully, but the mille fleur is intent on sitting.  Tossing her out of the box for the umpteenth time yesterday, I could feel her keel bone.  Thin.

Time to pull out the big guns.  This morning Scott opened them up before going to work and then shut the door again, forcing them to stay outside away from the nests.  When I had finished tending the birds about three hours later, I let the chickens back into the coop.  Every trip outside to the coop today, the mille fleur was still sitting.  I toss her out of the box, she comes right back.  So at 4:00 I tossed her out into the yard and again shut the coop door.  I also tossed some delectable morsels out in their yard, consisting of some scratch feed and some squash seeds.  The others were excited and gobbling them up, but Mille Fleur, now to be known as MF (!)  merely climbed the ramp and waited expectantly at the door of the coop.  She’ll have a long wait, as I intend on keeping them out for at least two hours.  Maybe this will work.  If not, I suspect she’ll also end up dead, which frankly sucks.

Next year we are going to separate Roo (or another roo if this one continues to charge at me with evil intent) and the two Puff Heads (white headed black Polish bantys) into the small coop and collect fertile eggs.  We want to hatch out a dozen or so Puff Head x Cochin mixes, hoping they will take after the Polish girls and NOT be broody.

As to the fourteen banty kids that are six weeks old today, we are still working on getting them to go into the coop at night on their own.  Yesterday I had the idea of taking away their food from about 4:00 till dusk, then putting it back inside the coop to hopefully lure them in.  We had some heavy duty storms yesterday, so I jumped the gun a bit on putting the food back inside because there was a lull in the storms.  Even so, all but four kids went inside fairly quickly, and in the end only two had to be grabbed bodily and tossed inside.  Tonight I will try to wait just a bit longer before giving them back their food, and I’m hoping we will fare a bit better.

What fun it is to play these birdy games!


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8-25-15: Those Crazy Parrotlets — August 25, 2015

8-25-15: Those Crazy Parrotlets

Okay, they’re not crazy per se, but at times I think they are driving ME crazy.  I have them separated into two cages; six in one cage and now five in the other since Joey went home yesterday.  I love getting a group to “pose” on one hand while I take a picture with the other.  I think perhaps the end result gives the impression that this is easy.  Rest assured, it is not!  When they are younger and more pliable it’s not as bad, but right now they all have tiny little minds of their own, and when one takes off for parts unknown the rest of the crew is right behind.

Trying to find out where five or six have gone is not as easy as one might think.  When I’m lucky, they all go in the same general direction.  Occasionally, they seem to just fly in every direction.  Almost every time that happens, I quickly locate and wrangle all but one.  Where is the last one?  It’s sometimes a mystery.  Yesterday one had turned into Bat Bird and was hanging from the bottom of the archway between the kitchen and dining room.  Quiet as the proverbial mouse.  Took me about ten minutes to finally see him hanging there. Today the hiding-in-plain-sight spots were hanging from the fuzzy dice that used to grace my PT Cruiser and on top of the plush furby that hangs in front of the window.


So far the trickiest one to find was a few days ago, when I spent a good fifteen minutes searching.  You know where he finally was found?  INSIDE the plastic bag that hangs open with a bunch of Spot’s treats inside.  He was snuggled down amid the various bags and looked to me like he thought it was a fine new hangout!  Now that’s one of the first places I check.

They are very good at playing hide and seek, these kids.  The trouble is, I am always “it”.


8-24-15: Brrrriiiinnnng! — August 24, 2015

8-24-15: Brrrriiiinnnng!

This being a Monday, I was cleaning the birds this morning when the phone rang.  Since I was expecting company today I didn’t feel I could ignore it, so I answered.  I’ll paraphrase, but it was close to this:

“Ma’am, this is Microsoft and I am calling to tell you that over the last several days we have noted suspicious activity on your computer which we believe is a virus.  When you allow me to access your computer I can fix this problem for you and”

This is where I break in on him.

“I can’t believe you are wasting my time with this idiotic call.  Do you think I was born yesterday?  You are a complete a**h*** to call someone and try to pull this bu**sh**.  Don’t call me again!”  and I slam the phone down.

The alternate response is this:

“I should give you my bank account numbers and credit card numbers and turn over access to my machine immediately so you can fix this!   However do I thank you?   A**H***!!!”   and slam down phone.

Hard to believe that anyone falls for these scams, but apparently they do.  What kind of person would stoop so low as to do this kind of work for a living?  The only clue?  They always seem to have an Indian accent.

Then there is that b**** RACHEL.  You know, “this is Rachel at Card Holder Services.”  That Rachel.  She should be shot.  Most annoying is that Rachel now often has “Name Unavailable” and a Caller ID number showing the call is from my own local area, causing me to answer the phone thinking it could be someone we know.  I used to “dial one now” to talk to a representative, and then either leave the phone off the hook till they finally realized they’d wasted their time, or give them the spiel I used this morning about wasting my time, etc.

We’ve even seen OUR OWN PHONE NUMBER come up on the caller ID!  Sometimes we hit these calls with the very calm “do you know there is a very stiff fine for spoofing the caller ID number?  Do you know that my caller ID shows that you are from my town? ”  Usually at this point they hang up, but occasionally you will get one that will argue with you.  Sometimes if I’m not busy, keeping them on the line as long as possible is the best part of the game, since they are not making other calls and not making any money off of ME.

I’ve never been much of a phone person anyway.


8-20-15: Chicken Saga Continues — August 20, 2015

8-20-15: Chicken Saga Continues

Last night was the fourth day for the banty chicks being allowed out into their yard, and it was the fourth night that Scott had to physically grab each one and toss it back inside for the night.  My memory sucks, unless it is for things in the ancient past or (as with all women) for wrongs done to me,  but I really don’t recall the last chickens being this pig-headed and downright stupid.  As I said, my memory being not the greatest for things like this, who knows.  They may have been just as slow to get the point.  Regardless, we do wish they’d begin to cooperate soon.  It’s lucky that once night falls, they all gather in a group near the outer door so it’s relatively easy for Scott to reach in and grab them.  Had they decided to pig-pile in the far corner, things would be decidedly more tense come nightfall.

The chicks are looking great, though, and it’s hard to believe they are only five weeks old.

In the big coop, we’ve been dealing with a broody black hen for the past few weeks.  We kick her out of the nestbox every time we see her, which is supposed to help break the broody cycle and has indeed worked in the past.  When broody, they no longer lay eggs, so it’s important to try to break the cycle.  I go out several times a day to check on them and replace their water, especially with this heat we’ve been having, and each time I also check for eggs and boot out the broody hen.  As of today, it appears we have THREE broody hens!  While we really love the cochins, these girls are very quick to go broody.  Once the young hens are integrated into the flock and begin to lay, it won’t be as bothersome since we will still be getting enough eggs.

And then there is Roo.  I’ve written about Roo here before, and how much we worried over him last winter when he seemed very arthritic and had such a hard time getting around.  Then how he recovered so completely come spring and we gave him his own harem of two in the small coop so we could collect and hatch fertile eggs.  Now he and his harem have been back in the big coop for weeks, and he has grown more and more obnoxious each day.  The Roo we loved has turned into an ass.  All I have to do is walk up to the coop and he comes charging at me.  Thank goodness we have their yard enclosed.  It’s for their safety, but the way things are now it’s also MY safety!  I showed Scott last night how Roo will follow me around the perimeter of the yard, in a very hostile manner.  He’s a small, feathered beast!  Maybe the addition of his daughters in another month or so will keep him frazzled enough that it will take the target off of me.  Or maybe he will feel he has that much more to defend and get worse!  He’d better watch his step, because he has some very lovely sons growing up right now that would love to take his place!


8-18-15: Bantam Babysitter — August 18, 2015

8-18-15: Bantam Babysitter

That’s what I am.  A babysitter for the bantys.  We started letting them go out in their yard on Sunday, and that night had to grab them and toss them back inside.  Not the sharpest crayons in the box, but they will learn.  I just wish they’d learn FASTER.  I have let them out each day since, after I give them food so I know they are at least having breakfast. Many times throughout the day I go out, shut off the electric fence that is attached to their wire, remove the shavings from their water, and try to coax them inside where the food is.  Then I take a bit of their food and sprinkle it just inside the hatch and also scattered on the ramp, hoping to entice them to climb up the ramp and go back inside.  We know they are capable, because we saw them do it, but the idea that their food is inside seems to be escaping them. So each time I give them a bit of food they act like they are starved.


Last night Scott had to once again grab them and put them inside for the night.  I’m sure tonight will be the same.  I hope it doesn’t take them too long to get with the program.  Good thing they are so cute.  🙂


8-16-15: Bantys in Paradise — August 16, 2015
8-13-15: Meteors — August 13, 2015

8-13-15: Meteors

Last night Scott and I went out on the deck at 10 PM and were happy to see the sky was actually clear.  Tons of stars were visible and the Milky Way was really spectacular.  We have a gorgeous sky up here in the country.  So we settled onto a glider to see if we would see any meteors since last night was supposed to be the peak for the Perseids.  This meteor shower is known for meteors with long, lingering tails.  The last few years the meteor showers have been disappointing.  Almost every one was plagued by a full – or nearly full – moon.  Even in our sky you miss an awful lot of them when the moon is so bright.  Last night really had the perfect conditions.  Dark, clear sky, and a really nice breeze that was not really even cold to us.

We were rewarded with a really nice show.  There were some truly impressive ones – big and bright and with great tails!   Lots of smaller ones, too.  Sometimes we’d see three right in a row, one after the other with only seconds in between.  It was great.  At about 11:30 I had to take a break to give the baby parrotlets their last feeding of the day, so we went inside for about 20 minutes and then went back out.  Scott likes his sleep, and it tends to kill him to get too little, so I really have to hand it to him for being a trooper and staying up with me.  🙂

The air did start to get damp and my throw was covered in dew, but the meteors were still coming so it was hard to tear myself away. We finally called it a night somewhere around 1 AM.  I’m hoping tonight the sky is again clear.  If your sky is clear, get yourselves out there and check it out!

8-12-15: True Feather Dusters — August 12, 2015

8-12-15: True Feather Dusters

When I feed the baby parrotlets, I close the doors off the dining room because at least half of the babies can fly, and fly well.  They’ve been clipped, but they still fly.  The idea is to limit altitude, and the hope is that they simply glide downward.  In reality, with such tiny little birds, even clipped they can zip around pretty well – some better than others.

I’ve been opening the Vision cage door, and whoever climbs up first is the next fed.  They are now at the point where sometimes a small herd of them – and at this point it truly seems more apt to call them a herd than a flock – will charge the open cage door.  Depending on my mood, I will either peel all but one off the door and redeposit them back in the cage while I go on to feed the one, or I may pluck two out at once and feed them side by side.  Since the older ones in particular are now refusing some feedings completely, having a bit of competition tends to make them at least go for a bite or two.  However, there is that added feature of flying which figures in to the dynamics.

At the noon feeding today, the herd was relentless.  It was two at a time all the way, for the most part, but I ended up with three remaining in the cage at the end.  I opened the door and these tricky monkeys FLEW on out and right by me.  One to the top of the bookcase, one to the front of the finch flight, and one to the top of the aquarium, where he made a bee-line for the opening on the hood where the filter is.  Of course that is the one I made a bee-line for, and got there just in time to pluck him out of the water!  What a goofus.  Then I went to round up the other two, and one of them being a particularly good flier he was dusting my ceiling for me.  The other flew in back of the aquarium, to one of the places where it’s more of a pain in the neck from which to retrieve them.  Of course.  I grab him, and the “swimmer” is off again, this time dusting the top of the finch flight.  It continued like this for close to five minutes.  I get one or two, and the third is off.  Get him and one of the others takes off.  Spot was watching this from his crate, and I think he may be convinced we’re all insane.  Finally I nab all three at once and go back to try to coax any or all of them to eat a bit.  Now the food is too cool so I have to heat that back up.  One of the three starts to take off again and I nabbed him mid-air!

Finally, the three are on the counter and I’m giving them a few bites.  Each one is safely plopped into the Kritter Keeper once he’s fed.  After popping in the second one and beginning to feed the last kid, I find the kids have learned a new trick: how to get out of the top door in the Kritter Keeper.  Up till now they hadn’t managed the feat of actually jumping/flying out the small door onto the top.  Well they know how now.  🙂    From here on in, the top door on the Kritter Keeper will remain closed once a baby is deposited inside.

I really like these little feather dusters!