Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chicken Chatter: Baby chicks and pasty butt

I posted about getting our baby chicks last May, and how much we loved them.  What I didn't mention was that one of them developed pasty butt the first night we had them.  I thought it would be best to share this story as many individuals may be thinking about getting chickens this spring.

In case you've never owned chickens--pasty butt is a common problem with raising baby chicks (excuse the language). It happens when their poop gets stuck to their bottom and hardens.  After this, they are blocked and can't poop anymore.  It is a deadly condition if not treated!!
It's important to check baby chicks for pasty butt.
I had done a lot of reading on chickens before we got them, so I had heard of pasty butt.  However, as a new chick momma, I didn't think about checking them for pasty butt.  The first day around 6pm, I noticed one of our buff orpingtons seemed lethargic, so I thought that she might have pasty butt.  I picked her up and sure enough, she had a lot of hard poo on her bottom.  I got some warm water and a wash cloth, and with a lot of persistence I got it off.

I watched her after this, and she wouldn't eat or drink.  All she would do was lay down to fall asleep--not a good sign.  I was scared that she might not survive.  I knew that after her pasty butt ordeal, she was probably dehydrated.  Since she wouldn't drink on her own, I decided to make her drink.  I made a sugar water mixture (1 tsp sugar to 2 cups warm water).  I put 1ml into a syringe and fed her the sugar water 1 drop at a time while holding her.  It was a slow process (she wasn't interested in drinking) but I got her to swallow quite a bit.

After this, I made her a little infirmary to go in the brooder.  It was just a plastic storage container that I put hardware wire over. She had her own little dish of food and water. This had two benefits.  First, the other chickens couldn't pick on her and she could rest.  Second, by being isolated I could tell if she was eating, drinking, or pooping.
Chick recovering from pasty butt in an infirmary in the brooder.
After a couple hours, she hadn't improved.  So I made another water mixture, this time with about 1tsp of molasses and a capsule of probiotic in 2 cups of warm water.  I read that molasses is a natural laxative for chickens, and probiotics are good for baby chick tummies.  Again, I put 1ml in a syringe and fed her drop by drop.

At this point it was late, and I needed to sleep.  I put the little buff in her infirmary and hoped for the best.  Honestly, I feared that she wouldn't make it through the night.  I woke up at 4am to check on her: she was alive, but still lethargic--she HAD pooped though!  I went back to bed hoping she would be ok.

At 7am, I woke up to "PEEP!!! PEEP!!! PEEP!!!".  The chicks were far from my bedroom, so this chick was really screaming to wake me up.  As a good momma hen, I sprung out of bed and ran to the chicks. The little sick buff was jumping up and down in her infirmary INSISTING on being let out.  I quickly took the wire off, and she sprung out!  And then she ran around saying hello to her friends.  I watched her eat and drink.
The next day she was energetic and playing.
I was so thrilled that she bounced back after the night before!  And I'm very thankful that I caught the pasty butt when I did.  Next time we get baby chicks, I will know to check for pasty butt frequently from the beginning.  After the pasty butt incident, I checked them for it multiple times a day and treated it before it became a problem.
Here is 'Sunshine'--1 week after pasty butt.
And above is the little chick one week after her near-death experience.  She's just as energetic and developed as the other chickens.  We decided to name her Sunshine.
And here is Sunshine as an adult.

Garden Organization: Seed storage

Do you grow your plants from seed?  If so, how do you store the seeds?

Because I'm just a home gardener, the normal seed packages frequently contain more seeds than I need in one season.  But many of those seeds are good for more than one season, especially if stored properly.  So what's a gardener to do?

Well, first she does her research!  This is what I found from NC State's horticultural department:

"If seeds are obtained well ahead of the actual sowing date (or are surplus seeds), store them in a cool, dry place. Laminated foil packages help ensure dry storage. Paper packets are best kept in tightly sealed containers and maintained around 40oF in low humidity. A good storage location would be an air-tight jar or a sealed, Zip-Lock-type bag in the refrigerator."

I love when gardening directions are really specific--frequently they are a little vague.  But this one told me to use a Zip-Lock bag and put them in the fridge!  I can't screw this one up!

I have a bunch of paper seed packets, especially since I just had my new shipment of spring seeds come in!  So in addition to storing them properly, I wanted to organize.

I decided to divide things up by plant family, because they would probably be planted around the same time. I used an index card to write down what was in each group.
  Then I put each group and the index card in a sandwich bag.
  Next, I put all of the sandwich bags into a large gallon bag, ready to pop into the fridge.
I feel so good about myself when I organize something. :)

How do you organize your seed collection?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

This week in the garden: Dec. 22, 2011

Happy winter solstice!  If you are a gardener, this probably isn't a day you look forward to.  The winter solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year.
Garden on winter solstice
I used to think of the winter as a time of no plants, and certainly no vegetables.  But my foray into gardening is starting to change my mind, and I'm beginning to realize the potentials of gardening in winter. For a truly dedicated gardener, there doesn't have to be much of an 'off' season.

This year was my first fall vegetable garden.  And my experience with it is making me realize that I could over winter many vegetables--kale, collards, tatsoi, lettuce, leeks, and spinach to name a few.  This year my fall vegetable garden was relatively small, but because of its success, next year I will plant MUCH more.
Mixed lettuce
I'm particularly loving fresh salads from the garden.  I think I could overwinter lettuce (especially under a row cover).
The tatsoi and kale should over winter without any cover at all.  I plan on growing a LOT of tatsoi next fall, to last me through winter.  I like it raw in salads, wilted in stir fries, or sauteed like collards or kale.  It is wonderful--easy to grow, tasty, and loves cold weather.
Georgia Green Collard
If you're gardening this winter, are you making notes in your garden journal?  Mine are: Grow more of EVERYTHING in the fall!  The exception perhaps is spinach, which has been a little on the pathetic side.

Now I'm looking forward to next spring AND fall!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Garden Organization: Time to plan spring seed starting!

Lettuce and radish seedlings
It's hard to believe, but it is time to plan the spring garden, and most importantly what needs to be started from seed and when.  I found that making a spreadsheet of this information was useful.  It can be challenging to know when to start plants inside, and when to move them outside, so having this information in a convenient organized location is very helpful.

Spreadsheet of indoor seed starting and outside planting dates.
I like to plan what goes into each tray in a logical order.  It takes a bit of time to organize this information, but really pays off when it is time to start everything.  I also like having everything in a spreadsheet because I can easily sort information alphabetically, by start date, outdoor date, or tray number.
Seedlings under grow lights
I do the same thing for the direct sow seeds (including a first and last outdoor date), but I haven't calculated the number of plants I need yet--since it is less urgent at this point.  I will fill in that information later in the season.

Spreadsheet of direct sow seeds with first and last sowing data
Now would be a good time to purchase seeds that you don't already have.  I'll be placing my order with Sow True Seeds this month. I'll also be organizing my seed starting supplies, washing my trays, etc.  Spring will sneak up on us before we know it.
Some of last year's seedlings under grow lights
Happy garden planning!
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