Cat & Mouse

The cat always brings her victims back to the house and parades them around to show off her victories over the local birds and mammals. Most of the times the birds are still alive so we expedite the suffering and give the cat the now dead “toy” back. Yesterday she brought a mouse in unharmed, and played with it for a while in the basement. I’m sure the mouse was acting in self-defence, but if you watch the video it looks like the mouse is playing back. Midway through the video, the mouse went up my leg and then ran off, disappearing into one of the basement rooms.

The morning after, we found their play-date had come to a tragic end for the mouse. Later in the morning, our cat started to bring back baby mice from outside, one by one, gently in her mouth and left them on the back doormat.

The cat's new family.

The cat’s new family.

I think the cat’s intent was to kill the mother to lay claim to the pups to keep as her own. It all started to make sense: we told her earlier last week that she was fixed and she’s been taking it kind of hard.

Chickenless

As of this morning at about 6.30, we are chickenless. Both remaining birds were attacked by a sex-link we had and had lost feathers in the process. The one bird grew everything back fine, but the other didn’t and got into a habit of picking herself. With a bare rump, she wouldn’t have made it through the winter, so she was dispatched along with her pal the white columbia.

Now the search is on for new birds, or we may wait until spring and get some eggs to hatch for our flock in our new incubator (apparently arriving by UPS today!).

New addition to the flock

Well not really a new chicken, and not really a bird we were expecting to keep. This morning I noticed the cat with her first (as far as we know) kill. When I walked up to congratulate her, I quickly took back my high-fives and “booyahs” as she hadn’t killed our new friend, the dove. At first glance it didn’t look too bad, no blood, nothing hanging off or twisted in the wrong direction so I took it off the cat.

I thought the eyes looked pretty. The cat thought they looked delicious.

After carrying it around for a while and calming it down I decided to let it go, to soar back up to the heavens, to sing its song once again….ah shit, can’t fly still. With the epic release spoiled by its injuries, I picked it up again and created a temporary home for it on the patio where is can rest up away from hungry cats and people trying to get it to fly.

I don't think we'll be eating this bird, so does anyone have any ideas for a name?

I’ll keep you posted on how it’s doing. Hopefully it’ll mend and be on its way.

All Reds are gone

We are now down to two chickens. Last night I dispatched the last of the original red sex link hens we bought back in July of 2011. She was over a year old and her egg production was still going strong but she had turned like the other red, and become a cannibal. The barred rock and columbian were getting pecked at and losing too many feathers, so the last red had to go.

I don’t think we will restock in the future with red sex links. Our first had a heart problem, and the last two turned into vicious cannibals (which apparently is common in this breed). The barred rock are, in my opinion, the best bird for temperament and egg laying. The barred eggs are the tastiest, but they tend to not lay in the cooler months.

So, lesson learned. The reds all lived a good life, having the outdoors, fresh grass and bugs, plenty of food and water; things they wouldn’t have had in your average factory farm.

Bully Hen

A couple of weeks ago we went away for the night and left the chickens with plenty of food and water, and the neighbours next door with the task of egg collection. While we were gone, one of our original Red Sex Link hens decided to take her mild bullying of the other birds to the next level. We came home to find her pinning another RSL to the ground and ripping feathers and flesh from its back. One of our other birds had a wound on her comb that we assumed was also from the bully. It was definitely a gruesome sight to come home to. Excitedly entering the backyard, looking forward to seeing the hens again, cooing and  strutting, I found a nasty problem.

What to do with a hen turned cannibal? Emergency head removal surgery. Don’t worry, there isn’t anything graphic in this post.

The next day before work, I crept out in the dark, grabbed our bully from her roost, and dispatched her. 100% humane, not to worry.

Then the work begins. First, it’s plucking. This is the second bird I’ve had to dispatch (the first had a genetic disease, so it was a mercy kill), so I already had some knowledge of what to do. Plucking CAN be easy. Boil up some water, dunk the bird (dead of course) and then after a few seconds, dunk into a second bucket of cool water. This USUALLY helps loosen the feathers. This bird was defiant even in its current state of headlessness.

40 minutes, sore fingertips and a pair of pliers later, the bird was plucked and ready to be processed. I won’t go into the butchering details, but if you are interested, How To Butcher a Chicken (http://butcherachicken.blogspot.ca/) is a great step-by-step guide.

One note, as the above blog only butchers pre-lay birds, they don’t get to see a very interesting bit of the bird. Hens have multiple eggs inside of them at varying stages of development. Our bully had about a dozen that were mainly just yolks, ranging in size, as well as a hard-shelled egg. A few hours later and that egg would have been laid and brown in colour, rather than white in the picture below:

These eggs are edible, but as I was butchering, the bully had a last hurrah and defecated on the counter (my fault really, I pushed down on the wrong bits). Once contaminated, eggs must be disposed of. The meat on the other hand can be cleaned and still used. Here is the dressed bird:

After the meat relaxed for a couple of refrigerated days, we had a lovely soup. If you imagine the taste of chicken, as mild as it is, multiplied by four, you’d have the taste of the above. Not gamey or tough, although, five hours of cooking helped.

A friend of mine said that next time I dispatch a bird, I should do it in front of the other hens as a warning. Funny, but I’ll pass.

As for the victims, they were treated with the appropriate ointment and all are healing well.

The truth about chicken keeping

This was posted on Backyard Chickens (http://www.backyardchickens.com) earlier today so I had to share. It’s a nice little comic strip that shows how easy it is to fall in-love with the idea of keeping hens and then the inevitable reality. Here’s a snippet but for the full strip see further below (worth the read):

I’ve had a few people ask about our hens and remark about how much they would like to keep a small flock in their backyard/townhouse complex/apartment. One simple fact seems to stop their fantasy dead in it’s tracks: You may have to mercy kill a bird. There’s no guarantee of this, but chickens can get injured or sick, and the vet bills (that’s if you can find a vet who will treat them) are outrageous considering the cost and lifespan of the bird.

Take a read of the strip (http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~atwu/firstcultural/chicken.html) and have a laugh and maybe think twice about getting them.