Well folks, we uncovered a bit of a rats nest here at the Ebed House. Some of you may read this post and pass judgement on our foolishness…I will own it. We weren’t real smart. A few years ago we decided to start keeping chickens, and why not? We had land and the most adorable little out building that would make for a great coop. It was even in a wonderful location, not too far from the house, but just far enough.
We have had two years of blissfully happy free ranging chickens. We have learned so much from and about them. Like the fact that a good free range hen will not only eat all kinds of bugs and ticks, but on occasion she may enjoy a snake or hunt down a mouse! Our smallest hen was our best mouser! I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself. A few months ago our flock taught us our hardest lesson to date.
This is Floppy. She was one of my favorite hens. She was a faithful layer with a great personality. Floppy was not much of a mouser, but she could take out a grasshopper like pro. (a skill she learned later in life). Floppy came down with Wry Neck. Wry Neck is when a bird’s head turns upside down, the bird can even fall over backwards…it got really bad when she was afraid. I removed her from the coop, put her in a quiet place and started her on a special diet. Then I researched. What was Wry Neck? Why did she have it? Could she get better? Did we have to put her down? Would the other birds get sick? The questions were endless…
The news wasn’t great. Some people have luck with an egg and vitamin E diet and a quiet restful place, but nothing is a guarantee, and there were endless causes…everything from genetics or sickness to a bad peck on the head. How do you treat something when you don’t know what the root cause is? So, I started to pray…yep, prayer in the practical everyday parts of life.
The weeks went on and Floppy did not get better. We had to put her down. My sadness was mixed with confusion at wanting to really know what was going on with our flock. I ruled out the likelihood of genetics as well as a bad peck on the head. She was not a breed prone to those types of issues and at 2 and a half years old she could handle a good pecking. That left sickness or her environment. She was a healthy bird…no signs of any illness in the coop at all…that mixed with the nagging reminder that we never did a lead paint test on the coop before we remodeled it…WHAT? Why didn’t we do that?
Mike picked up a lead test on the way home from work….there was no question…lead. Then began the struggle to figure out what to do. We had 10, seemingly healthy birds…I went back to researching. The only way to get any real info on how bad our flock had been exposed would have been to do testing on each bird…we love our animals, but we were not going to run a bunch of expensive tests to find out that they had to be put down. I am sure that seems heartless to some…but it was the decision we had to make. We do not have another coop or the finances to just purchase one. Even if we tested the birds and sold the healthy ones we could not make back the money from testing and I didn’t want any chance of passing on lead issues to another family.
We put down the flock. I thanked each bird for the joy she brought and told our roo that I was proud of his protective instincts and then Mike taught me how to put down a chicken…The horable business was done in 10 minutes and a hard lesson was learned. I hope that our hard lesson can be learned by others….When you upcycle something old, make sure you know what it’s made of!
We have been discussing what to do…Should we clean up the lead paint in the coop and start over there? Should we start over and build a movable coop? Should we just hold off a few years until we have a better idea of how we plan to use the land…maybe build a coop in the goat barn. I resigned myself to holding out a few years because I don’t think it is smart to put the money we would need to into the out building. Mike, on the other hand, has every intention of building a movable coop.
So we continued to pray, asking the Lord for some direction…one way or the other…that week I received a check in the mail…an unexpected gift with the note…’just for fun.’ Movable coop it is! I placed our order for chicks the next day and they will be here in mid March!
We have learned a lot in the past 2 years, and I am excited to start with chicks this spring! The twins are excited to take care of them too. There will be many photos to come! We placed an order for 25 straight run chicks. Gold Laced Wyandottes, Plymouth Bard Rocks, Easter eggers and a mix of Brahmas. We will end up with some roos to butcher in the fall and maybe a few extra pullets to sell.