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This woeful beastie is Mapp Chicken, today. I really should have snapped a photo a couple of days ago — you can see here, the pinfeathers are already well grown on her neck. Monday, her neck was as nekkid as an oven-ready broiler.

And her tail! Just a sad nub of pink flesh (that thing we call the Preacher’s Nose and the Brits call the Parson’s Nose – or is it the other way around?).

Reminder: Mapp as she was meant to be. Sexy, sexy bird.

Molting is triggered by the first cold snap. It signals chickens to stop laying eggs, drop their feathers and divert all the protein they would have devoted to egg-laying into feather-building. It means they’re all fully feathered up and cozy by the time the real cold weather hits.

But it also means they face the first cold of the season part naked with uncomfortable quills sticking out of their tender places. They’re cranky as shit.

Which birds molt and how completely is affected by a variety of factors. It’s a rule of thumb that the better the layer, the more quickly and thoroughly the molt. Commercial layers — the kind bred to lay an egg a day for the first year — apparently lose them all at once, overnight. You go down in the morning and find a coop full of feathers and a bunch of joke shop rubber chickens on the perch.

Think of that, and this picture when you see photos of ‘abused’ birds from factory farms — this is what even a pampered family pet looks like during a partial molt.

Good weekend, and keep yer feathers on!

October 21, 2016 — 7:39 pm
Comments: 10

Infinite are the arguments of chicken keepers


It’s that time of year again: the time when hippie chicken keepers claim that pumpkin is a natural chicken de-wormer. According to this bomb thrown into the Keeping Poultry at Home forum, probably not. Though, having read the article, I think the most you can say is not proven. Still, everyone’s chickens love pumpkins, so why not?

Except mine. My flock has an irrational fear of large, frightening vegetables. I hung a cabbage in their run once (a thing you’re supposed to do to keep them amused) and they didn’t come out of the henhouse for three days. Until I made the horrible thing go away.

A big orange beachball puking seeds would probably give them avian PTSD.

October 11, 2016 — 6:42 pm
Comments: 8

The lean season is upon us

buttercup The old girls have stopped laying completely. The young ones have banked it down. Six chickens, one egg a day.

To be fair, head chicken is molting, headcase chicken never lays more than a dozen a year and I don’t know what’s wrong with Vita. I switched from pellets to crumb and that didn’t work out so good, so I’ve switched back.

The cold is upon us and there are feathers everywhere.

Here’s a nice little article from Modern Farmer on the Inner Lives of Chickens.

Do Chickens Have Feelings?

Yes, says British researcher Jo Edgar, who determined that hens, at least, experience empathy. He designed an experiment that simulated chick stress and found that the mother hens behaved as if they themselves were experiencing the pain—a classic sign of empathy. Chickens are also known to display mourning behavior when another chicken in the flock dies, and they will show signs of depression if they are removed from the flock and placed in solitary quarters.

Also hens are notoriously promiscuous, typically mating with several roosters at a time. They have the unique ability to eject the sperm of inferior roosters after copulation[!], however, ensuring that their genes will be coupled only with the most studly cock around.

And A surprising number of people suffer from fear of chickens, a condition known as alektorophobia. My mother-in-law is a chickenphobe. Also my nephew, which was fun — Mapp had a fine time chasing him all over the garden.


Recent research has shown that chickens can distinguish between more than 100 faces of their own species and of humans, so they know who you are and will remember you if you treat them badly. They’ve demonstrated complex problem-solving skills and have super-sensory powers, such as telescopic eyesight (like birds of prey) and nearly 360-degree vision (like owls). Chickens are the closest living relatives of the Tyrannosaurus rex (researchers determined this in 2007 by testing proteins from a particularly well-preserved T-rex leg bone), and they outnumber human beings on the planet 3 to 1.

So, you know. Watch yourself. The Time of Chooks may be at hand.

October 4, 2016 — 5:53 pm
Comments: 10

Not my chook


Stole this chook off’n FaceBook. I tell you, I like FB so much more now that I’ve quietly unfollowed a bunch of people and added chicken, history and beer groups.

Anyway, this girl has just gotten back from the vet, where she was diagnosed as having gone blind. Judging from comments under the picture, this is not hugely unusual, even in otherwise healthy hens.

In any kind of serious poultry setup, such a chicken would be culled. But hobbyists will make accommodations and blind chickens can apparently do well. The important thing is putting their food, water and bedding in exactly the same place.

The most famous blind FaceBook chicken (why yes, there is such a thing) is Mumble. (Her gallery is here, but I think you have to be a FB user to see it). She was hatched entirely without eyes, which doesn’t look horrible. In fact, Mumble is weirdly cute.

Even most hobbyists would cull a seriously deformed hatchling (Mumble’s owner was advised to do so), but she seems a thriving, happy bird. She’s a year old now, I think. In that time the owner has been contacted about eight other chicks hatched in the same condition. Nature is weird.

Honestly, we should use the domestic chicken as an emblem of something. Fortitude. Placidity. Calm in the face of adversity. Just getting the hell on with it.

Anyhoo, this is a long weekend here. It’s not celebrating anything particular, it’s just known as the August Bank Holiday. And, believe it or not, it’s the last public holiday in Britain before Christmas.

These people need Thanksgiving. They could call it Hooray, We Got Rid of all those Wretched God-Botherers Day.

Good weekend!

sock it to me

August 26, 2016 — 9:25 pm
Comments: 13

Chikken science


You know I’ve always told you that a chicken’s position in the flock is signaled by the size of her comb? Well, I found me a gat-dang scholarly article about it.

The question of whether attributes of the combs of laying hens have any consistent relationship with dominance behaviour has yet to be answered unequivocally.

Nonsense! I told you it did, didn’t I?

Pullets (n = 120, Hy-line® Variety Brown) were allocated randomly to eight groups of 15 hens for 32 weeks. Over this period the length and height of each hen’s comb was measured regularly to estimate the total comb area and hens were weighed. In weeks 3–10 the aggressive interactions between hens in each group were observed to calculate a behavioural dominance score (David’s score) for each hen.

David’s score is a measure of the dominance of a single member of any group of animals using the formula DS(interactionmatrix, prop=c(“Pij”, “Dij”)). No, I’m not shitting you. No, I don’t have a clue. Google if you math.

The luminance, purity and dominant wavelength of the colour of each hen’s comb was measured in week 27 using a telespectroradiometer.

What would you give — WHAT WOULD YOU GIVE — to watch an actual scientist apply a telespectroradiometer to a chicken’s floopy red hat?

There was no association between body weight and dominance score but there was a significant inverse relationship between dominance score and the dominant wavelength of the comb (gradient of slope = −0.067 ± 0.023, P < 0.01).

I buy this. My dominant hen is the smallest in the flock. She’s a fearsome little beast. Though I’m not entirely sure about the gradient of the slope of the dominant wavelength of her headgear, TBH.

This indicated that hens with combs perceived by humans as more yellow-red than pure red were generally more successful competitors. Further research is required to ascertain whether or not hens utilise this information on comb size and the underexplored area of comb colour to assess the competitive ability of their opponents.

“Stay away from Edna today, fam — she’s looking a little orange, iykwim.”

The underexplored area of comb colour. Hoo! Why didn’t I go into chikken science for reals? Oh, yeah…I can’t math.

Anyway, there you have Violence the Chicken as a young layer and three years later as Boss Lady.

Two of the three new girls are laying for sure. Possibly all three, but I haven’t caught Colette on the nest yet. When I stuck my head in the coop this morning, Rosie was on the nest and she shrieked at me. It really is like walking in on a teenager in the bathroom.

sock it to me

August 18, 2016 — 8:53 pm
Comments: 7

chicken problems


Not original. I pinched this off one of the many chicken groups of which I am an unashamed member.

I think all the eggs I’m getting from the new girls are coming from Jenny. She’s the only one I ever see on the nest. But damn, she churns one out almost every day. She’s the one that looks most like Lucia, too, so it’s no surprise she’s a superstar.

All my little peckerheads are doing well and loving the Summer.

Another weekend of good stuff lined up. I’ll report back next week. Have a good one!

sock it to me

August 12, 2016 — 8:33 pm
Comments: 3

‘Merica intensifies


Yes, that’s a bald eagle. No, I don’t suppose most falconers are allowed to keep one, but these guys breed all kinds of endangered hunting birds. Though I’m happy to report that old baldy is no longer endangered.

Another pic from the fete over the weekend; a falconry exhibit. Cool stuff, but I realize these things are repetitious. That’s partly what I like about them; they’re the same every year.

This was the fete that has the miniature horses and the guy who herds Indian runner ducks with border collies. If that rings a bell, this one always happens on the same day as the one with the really good boot sale (read: flea market) and we dash to get to both of them.

It was followed on Sunday by a music festival we’ve never been to, and we haven’t been to it again. We got there and the whole village was full up. No place to park.

This weekend we have a steam rally and an event in aid of the RNLI. Can I take the pace? Good weekend, all!

sock it to me

August 5, 2016 — 9:36 pm
Comments: 10

Friday Chikken Update


The new girls in the onion bed (I can’t call them the little girls any more; they’re as big or bigger than the old girls). Pic horribly out of focus, sorry — I don’t know what my camera was focusing on, but I took a whole bunch of these today and they’re all bad.

Funny thing. I was sitting out in the garden playing the banjo this afternoon, as you do, with the chickens happily pecking around me in the grass. All six of them suddenly leapt up, tear-assed across the lawn and gathered together in one spot, someplace behind me. After a minute, they slowly dispersed. This happened three or four times before I got up and turned my chair around to face The Spot.

We’d left the casement window in the kitchen unlatched — the window I throw chicken treats from. Periodically, a gust of wind would catch the window and blow it wide and they’d dash over hopefully. With me sitting there. All praise the generous and mighty Window.

God bless them, chickens are stupid. And greedy.

Ektually, the news is that there’s no news. Chickens come in to lay between 20 and 24 months weeks, and the new ones are 21 and a bit. I stare forlornly into their nest box every day. Their faces are all red, though — that’s how biology tells roosters it’s Go Time.

Yes, the two speckledy hens (who are biological sisters) interact with each other more, often leaving the lavender Odd Chicken Out. Yes, the old girls are still picking on the new girls. Well, all except Head Chicken — such things are generally beneath the dignity of her office.

I’ll let you know when I finally get an egg from a noob. Good weekend!

ATTENTION – ATTENTION – ATTENTION: Jenny has laid her first egg! When I let the girls out this morning, she was sitting on the nest, so I waited in the garden. Glad I did – after she laid it, she was pecking at it hard. Probably a case of WTF IS THIS?, but if she’d penetrated to the delicious innards, I’d have a real problem on my hands.

sock it to me

July 29, 2016 — 6:46 pm
Comments: 8



Do those chickens look amused? No, they do not. Chickens probably have the least sense of humor of any animal I’ve ever dealt with. Chickens are serious birds.

I’m not taking credit for this stinker. It was sent to me by someone named Mad Ivan.

But the chicken article everyone is sending me is this one: mosquitoes hate the smell of chickens. They are almost never found with chicken blood in their systems, and putting a chicken in a room results in up to 80% fewer mosquitoes landing in the traps.

The BBC’s somewhat bizarre headline for this story is Chicken odour ‘prevents malaria’ research in Ethiopia finds. The Mail’s headline is the rather more jaunty (and accurate) Forget mosquito repellent! Sleeping next to a CHICKEN will keep the blood-sucking insects at bay.

I have not yet convinced Uncle B to try the experiment, even though he suffers horribly from mosquito bites such we have to sleep with all the windows closed and an insecticide plugin. I have made the case that chickens fall asleep instantly when the lights go out, but he’s made the counter-argument that my chickens burble volubly the moment the sun comes up. Stay tuned!

Good weekend, y’all.

sock it to me

July 22, 2016 — 9:38 pm
Comments: 18

The 9 types of combs recognized by the American Poultry Association


Heyyyyyy wait, that’s only eight! I was robbed, random internet article!

I know what you’re thinking: what is that there purty Satan bird with the wicked horns and where can I get me one of them? From the link, I guess it’s either an Appenzeller, Crevecoeur, Houdan, La Fleche or Sultan. Yeah, I dunno either.

Not obvious in the picture: the strawberry comb is more of a raspberry comb, with a deep indentation in the middle. Couldn’t help thinking about all the shit that would get in there and get infected and stuff.

Chickens have the best resting bitchfaces in the aminal kingdom, don’t they?

The Labour Party is descending into farce. Jeremy Corbyn is a bugfuck-crazy Marxist Bernie Sanders type. He won party leadership by a huge margin because the chirruns love him, but he’s electoral poison. The other Labour MP’s have tried in vain to kick him out of the nest, so they put his deputy up to run against him for leadership. In fact, they weren’t even going to put his name on the ballot at all, but they lost their nerve on that. The chirruns would kill them. They’re already throwing bricks through his challenger’s headquarters window.

I’d enjoy the hell out of this if the Tories weren’t such shit right now.

See? I’ll make you beg for chikken blogging!

sock it to me

July 12, 2016 — 9:40 pm
Comments: 13