Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Goats Have Landed

When we colonize the moon in the not so distant future, guess what dairy animal we are going to bring with us to live in our self-contained biospheres? Cows? Heck no! How could we possibly get them in our rocket ships? The Nigerian Dwarf Goat will be our small savior of all things cheesy and good. These little fuzzy things stand no taller than 20 inches, yet produce about a quart of milk a day with up to 11.3% butterfat. Here at Itty Bitty we wanted to be prepared for our future's new frontiers so we got ourselves a couple of these puppies. Well that's not exactly the reason why, but I thought it might make a catchy introduction to our newest additions.

Our new farm critters came from Oops Ranch in Lake County. They raise all kinds of tiny things up there, including miniature ponies. And to answer your question, no we are not getting one of those. I drove up on Sunday to pick up Lucy and Ethel, a.k.a. Lucille Ball and Ethel Mermen. They are not exactly your friendly petting zoo type of goats. Not having been physically handled too much, they are skittish and shy. I am a touch embarrassed to admit that I was completely unprepared for their arrival. The day before pick-up, I got one of those Dogloos off of Freecycle and didn't actually set up their pen until I had brought them to our backyard. Finding a place to store them while I built the pen was a challenge as the backyard is a giant construction site right now with only one side of a 3-sided fence erected. My DF (Disgruntled Farmhand) took charge here and tied them to a tree where they munched down my peas and the rose bush that we've cut back more times than I can count. I guess we won't have to worry about that anymore. By the way, if you need blackberry brambles or overgrown rose bushes removed from your property, the girls would be more than happy to help.

This is 3 month old Ethel:

She is the friendlier of the two, or maybe she's just smaller and slower and thus easier to catch.

Here is Lucy, looking like the anxious goat that she is:

Ute is in charge of taming the goats. In this pic, she illustrates her method.

That Dogloo, or I guess we should call it the Goatigloo, is hecka rad. So far we've determined that you can fairly comfortably fit (I love split infinitives!) 2 goats and 2 five year olds in there. I think Ute's technique is working:

Stop by for a visit if you would like to meet the girls.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Another Episode of Veterinarian's Hospital

I swear there is more drama around here than on a daytime soap opera. The plan for this beautiful day was to head towards the farmer's market to pick up some apricots and blueberries for preserving, bake some bread, and make some yogurt and sauerkraut. I was going to give you all recipes, but that brilliant plan was thwarted by an emergency trip to the All Animal Hospital. It was my fault. I was a careless, reckless oaf. Watashi manuko. That's the only thing I know how to say in Japanese. It means, according to Father Guido Sarducci in the movie Spirit of 76, "I am an asshole."

So I was getting the big chickens some fresh water while the peeps were pecking around their little lot outside. I went to close the door while 2 of the chicks were on the threshold. I figured they would just hop off, but Sweet Pea, kind of being slow and all, didn't get all the way off and her toe got squished in the door. Well more like torn off to the point that the bone was exposed. She made a squawk and hurried for shelter inside the cinder block that was laying in the pen. As an after thought, I decided I should check her to make sure she was okay. That's when I saw the carnage. She was bleeding everywhere. I popped her into a bucket and ran her inside to the operating table.

Ute was busy with her Bollywood Dance Workout when I shouted to her to come help me. I briefed her on the gravity of the situation and insisted that she hold the bird upside down while I cleaned the wound. Ute kept murmuring that her stomach hurt. I think the sight of the mangled claw was a bit too much for her. I pressed her on, firmly - o.k. angrily - coaxing her to be strong for Sweet Pea. Hey, I was panicked. Don't judge. After cleaning her dangling digit with peroxide and Neosporin, I made a pathetic attempt to bandage her up. She flicked that gauze off in a matter of seconds. I started crying, which led to Ute weeping. It was a mess. So I called my mother. She lived with chickens when she was young. She told me not to worry. I was still worried. So I told the Disgruntled Farmhand. He asked "Can you see the bone?" Yep. "Then you better take her to the vet." Great. This wasn't going to be cheap. And since time was of the essence, I didn't feel that I could spend the couple hours to further my online veterinary degree today.

After making several phone calls to find someone who would actually see a bird, not to mention a chicken, we made our way to the All Animal Emergency Hospital. We arrived just after noon with 4 emergencies ahead of us. Not good. Neither Ute nor I had eaten lunch. Come to think of it, I hadn't eaten all day. Ute was also beginning to exhibit the telltale signs of having stayed up the night before until 11 p.m, which included whining, tapping on the windows, sliding off the office benches, and exaggerated wiggliness to the point of rolling around on the floor. My patience had worn so thin that the only thing I could do to hold it together was to bury my nose in a celebrity rag mag. It was 3 by the time we saw the vet. All she did was clip off the hanging bits and give it a rinse. Probably could have done that at home. Then came the meds, which included a foot soak solution, pain meds, and an antibiotic. When I got the bill, I nearly passed out. I'm not going to tell you the total, but let's just say that the bird is literally worth her weight in gold now. It will take her a solid 2 years of eggs to recoup the cash.

Sweat Pea will have to be separated from the other birds for up to 2 weeks. I can't use the pine shaving bedding that I've been putting in the brooder because it might get stuck in the wound. Since there is still a chance that the bone could get infected, I'm keeping her on tea towels, which I will change out twice a day. Yay, just what I wanted, more laundry. When we got home, I plopped Sweat Pea and Ute down in front of the TV because I had heard chickens like to watch television. Sweet Pea did seem to enjoy the Power Puff Girls.

This whole event reminded me of the time when I was caught smoking at age 8 - yes, I was very advanced - and my parents told me that I would have to decide my own punishment. Though it was the middle of summer, I made myself a hot cup of tea in order to think this through properly, knowing that I would have to come up with something way worse than a spanking or being grounded. As I walked away from the stove with my freshly poured cup of steaming tea, I ran into the dishwasher with its door open. Instead of doing the right thing by walking around or setting the cup of tea down and closing the washer, I took my standard shortcut of lifting the door with my foot to let the bottom rack roll back into the machine and flipping the door closed. This trick had worked before... every time ... except that day. On that day, I flew over the dishwasher, teacup sailing along with me, and landed on shattered pieces of ceramic. One shard went so deep into the tip of my middle finger that my parents rushed me to the emergency room while I cradled the blood soaked towel that engulfed my injured hand. If I had been more careful and less distracted by having to think up really bad punishments for myself, maybe I could have avoided that entire traumatic episode. I should have walked around that dishwasher. And I should have scooted those chicks off the door frame. Why didn't I? Maybe it was because I was stressed about where we are going to put the goats that are being picked up tomorrow. Maybe it was that I was freaking out and distracted by the fact that I haven't secured a farm sitter for our August vacation. Maybe it's that I couldn't figure out how to adequately express my dog's anal glands this morning. Maybe it's because I'm an asshole. Well I certainly feel like an asshole. I injured the most harmless, sweetest bird of the bunch. And to be honest, if it was Petunia's foot that got crunched, I wouldn't be sitting here with a ridiculous vet bill. She is definitely an asshole.

To top things off, Miss Lorraine and Pearl have some sort of respiratory issue. I think it must be the same thing that Gertrude had. Pearl is sneezy and has boogers clogging one nostril, but Miss Lorraine is really suffering with a swollen pink eye, wattle, and ear/gland thing on the side of her head. They are both eating and drinking, but seem sleepy and out of sorts. Will this ever end? Am I destined to have chronically ill chickens? Do I have Munchausen by Proxy? And so ends another episode of Veterinarian's Hospital. Stay tuned next week when the Disgruntled Farmhand and Sweet Pea swap war stories.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Free Ranging Chicks

I am thrilled to report that Gertrude's eyes are completely back to normal. Well almost. She still has this look to her like she tied one on the night before, but it's a definite improvement to her condition last week. What the problem was? I have no idea, probably some kind of cold. At one point, her eyes were so swollen that I decided to separate her from the other chicks. If you ever want to traumatize a chicken, which I neither advocate nor recommend, just take her away from her fellow feathered friends. Several times we were awoken in the middle of the night to the sounds of desperate, frantic peeping, leaving us wracked with guilt. While Gertrude was on the mend, I attempted to clean out her small quarters. She grasped her window of opportunity, flying out of her box and over into the bigger brooder. Obviously, she was in complete despair for companionship. I let her stay. It just seemed too cruel to keep her away from her flock.

Since the weather had warmed up nicely in SF and the chicks were all relatively healthy, I brought them to the outside run where I blocked off a little area so that they would be safe from getting picked on by the big kids. Petunia was so beside herself with glee that she took a solid 20 minute dust bath. If you've never witnessed this act of everyday chicken life, it looks something like an epileptic fit in that "Oh my God, there's something wrong with my chicken" kind of way. Petunia also chased her peep buddies around the tiny bit of yard, administering harsh pecks if she saw that another bird found a treat. She's some what of - and I hate to say this but - an asshole. I dumped her over to the other side of my makeshift barricade to give her a taste of her own medicine. She made a swift determination that being a little fish in a pond with big fish was not for her. Wanting to return to being top dog, she figured out how to fly back over the wall in order to better reign over her minions. Well I guess she's a fairly bright little asshole. All I have to say is that she better lay some pretty green eggs otherwise she's headed straight for the stew pot. Sounds harsh, but that's life on the farm.

Friday, June 19, 2009

D.I.Y. Vet

"Paging Dr. Heidi. Paging Dr. Heidi. You have another patient." I'm getting a crash course in the compendium of chicken illnesses. I'm practically an expert now. Can you get an online Veterinary degree? Maybe I should try.

That's right, another chick has fallen ill. Poor Gertrude. I think she may have some sort of eye infection. She's got these 2 red puffy lumps on each side of her head above her eyes.

One eye is a bit watery and she wants to close it. I'm cautioning you now, if you are eating breakfast, DO NOT Google "chicken eye infection." Let me have made this unfortunate mistake for you. Gruesome doesn't even begin to describe the results you will come up with. As far as I can tell, Gertrude's situation is not too bad. She is active, eating, drinking, peeping, scratching, crapping - all the normal chick stuff. No signs of influenza. Her eyes aren't swollen shut or weeping gross gunk or crusted over. Just a little puffy, like someone on the morning after a few too many martinis. I consulted my new bible, BackyardChickens, and got some info for saline eye flushes and smearing Neosporin in the eye. It's cheaper than the recommended meds that you can only get from a vet. And I'm cheap, even going so far as to make my own sterile saline solution. I know that sounds totally high tech, but if you knew the truth, your snorts and guffaws could be heard all the way through my computer.

After a quick trip to Walgreens for an adequate eye dropper and some triple antibiotic, I set up for the procedure. I sterilized the field, a.k.a. the dining table (please don't tell the Disgruntled Farmhand), covering it with towels. Gauze, saline, eye dropper, and meds at the ready, I wrapped the bird in a tea towel - she didn't like it, in case you were wondering - flushed those glassy suckers and stuck the ointment IN the eye. Yes, you can put Neosporin directly in the eye, even though the directions tell you not to. It's amazing what you can find out on the internet.

All we can do now is keep our fingers crossed and hope that the maxim "misfortunes come in threes" holds true. In the meantime, check out our incredibly adorable chicken handler:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lazy Ladybugs and Mentally Challanged Chicks

We are sporting a serious tomato jungle on the front steps.

It's the only spot on our property where one is not blasted by tempestuous winds. And as I discovered a couple weeks ago, the gales that sweep across the backyard are no place for 'maters. I experimented with some homemade upside down tomato pots along the back fence, which ended in complete disaster. The winds literally whipped the poor plants, roots and all, out of the soil. So we moved tom central to the front entryway where we have about a dozen plants of various Russian varieties growing in containers.

But silly me, I made the novice gardener mistake of watering in the afternoon when the plants looked a bit droopy. Bad, bad Heidi. This little fumble landed me with a gazillion aphids, not to mention white flies and a couple other tiny winged critters. Of course there was not a predator in sight. My first move was to panic. It's what I do best in a crisis. Then I realized this would be the perfect opportunity to buy a tub of ladybugs to provide some summertime entertainment for the five year old. I heard rumor that they have a tendency to fly off if you don't release them at night, so we waited until it was good and dark and then dumped them on the plants. In the morning when we went to check on the progress of Operation Destroy Pests, we found the ladies clumped on top of the tomato stakes

and on the welcome mat,

aphids still a plenty and running amok. What's up with that? First lazy trees and now languorous bugs? Am I the only one working around here?

I'm sure many of you out there are chomping at the bit to get an update on those cute chicks. In general, they are well, though we did narrowly avert catastrophe a couple nights ago. Violet, my Swiss chicken, was looking droopy, doing a weird gaping thing with her beak, and making a slight honking noise. I went to the Backyardchickens.com message board to see what my sweet baby might have and came up with gape worm. This little wriggler lodges itself in the throat and basically suffocates the chicken. Not pretty. I read that sometimes you can see the worm in the back of the throat. So I grabbed my disgruntled farmhand and had him hold the flashlight while I made an awkward attempt at prying the chick's beak open. Easy? Yeah, right. Once those peeps decide they don't want to open up you couldn't jimmy that sucker with a pair of pliers. I held steady, waiting for a squawk, and then jammed my finger in the mouth of the peep. No worm. Phew!

Then I remembered something an old friend, whom also raises citified chooks, told me. One of her chicks had some similar symptoms to Violet, which required her to stay up two nights in a row squirting olive oil down the chick's throat and massaging its crop. When I felt Violet's crop, the lump at the base of the chicken's neck that grinds the food, she had a couple hard things that shouldn't have been there since she has only been eating mashed up feed. So I brought her upstairs, sat her on a heating pad, and went to work. But there was no way Violet was going to let me get any olive oil in her. She clamped her bill shut tighter than a miser keeps a hold of his money. I made several efforts which ended in the bird making desperate peeps for release or flying about the room leaving droppings here and there. I gave up and decided to stick with a plain ol' massage. She acquiesced and began stretching out her neck, looking something like a mohawked giraffe. Boy is her neck long - at least twice the length of the other peeps. After a half hour or so, she began crying for the company of her flock mates. I brought her back to the brooder, keeping my fingers crossed that I wouldn't find her stiff as a board in the morning. The next day she was practically her old self, prancing around, giving herself a little dust bath, and pecking at her friends. Then I witnessed the culprit to this whole fiasco. As Violet pecked at some of the pine shaving bedding on Sweet Pea's back, I admonished her not to eat it. She appeared to have dropped it out of her beak. And then what did she do? She went back for it and swallowed, thus reiterating the stereotypes about chicken intellect.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

To Bear or Not to Bear?

Is that the question? No. Shall the loquat tree be prey to the ax? Now that is the real question. Whether tis nobler to live and let live or take that paltry fruit producer down in one swift chop for the sake of space. I mean really, we don't have a couple acres to let lazy trees sponge off our precious resources. Everybody needs to do their job. Even Hamlet would agree.

So this is the first year since we moved into this house (2006) that the loquat tree has bore fruit, and let's just say it hasn't been an impressive crop. From the color of the fruit, I figure that it must be a Golden Nugget, which is supposed to have great flavor. And so far, the few little buggers that have ripened taste great. Something like a cross between a lemon, apple, and firm plum - juicy and sweet with a strong kick of sour. If anyone out there knows anything about helping a loquat produce more proficiently, please, please, please pass along the information. The poor tree is shaking in its roots just thinking about its potential demise.

The neighbors have two gorgeous dwarf apple trees that lie right up against our fence line. Fortunately for us, they have absolutely no interest in these trees so we are forgoing building a fence between our yards to give us access to those apples. Don't worry, we're not STEALING them; we did ask permission first.

As a side note, there seems to be some confusion about the first batch of chickens that we got. Miss Lorraine and Pearl are still alive and well. In fact, Lorraine is learning to sleep on her roosting bar and her wattles are developing nicely. She's really turning into a lovely young lady. Pearl is sprouting up faster than a pole bean and is almost as big as Lorraine. Her leg feathers, which were scant when we brought her home, are finally starting to come in. And... um... yeah, that means we have 6 chickens. Stay tuned for the arrival of the goats in two weeks!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Peep Show

We've got babies! And the cuteness factor is truly too much to bear. I have to exert every last ounce of willpower to refrain from constantly groping these little puffs of love. Poor Ute is beside herself with desperation to hold the chicks, but like all fresh newborns, they need their rest and as little stress as possible. We have a strict limit of only 2 holdings per chick per day.

The peepers seem to be happy in their makeshift cardboard box brooder, which I whipped together in exactly 5 minutes - 4 minutes were spent on finding the appropriate box. And according to the Chicken Lady, I've got the temperature spot on, illustrated by the little girls completely sprawling themselves out on the brooder floor.

Yes, I got the chicks from the Chicken Queen again. After much research, I discovered that chicks die... like often. Several breeders in the area won't sell chicks until they are at least 15 weeks old, no matter how much you beg and plead. Reason being is that they are kind of fragile until this stage and any little cootie that passes through could wipe out your flock before you even know anything is amiss. If you only sell older pullets, you are less likely to have customers screaming obscenities that you sold them sick birds. The illness that struck Miss Lorraine and Pearl (and possibly Broccoli), Cocci, is super super common in chicks. It's even in the soil in some places. The Chicken Lady has a lot of birds, maybe too many for the size of her barn. She is also new to selling chickens on a large scale, only having done it for the past 2 years. If you chat her up for awhile, she'll disclose the illnesses that have passed through her flock and what she has or has not done about it. I heard that Animal Care and Control visited her last year after a complaint was made and found that the birds were well fed and watered, and the coop was clean (I was actually shocked that her coop was so clean considering the number of birds flapping about). From my observations and from chit chatting with her, she seems to really love her chickens (and horses). I don't believe she is some horrible individual being cruel to animals and intentionally selling sick birds. But the main reason I became a return customer is the fact that she has the best selection of rare heritage breeds around. Until someone else decides to sell this extensive of a menagerie, I'll be shopping at the Poultry Palace.

Alright, alright! Enough about the purchase, now I'll show you the goods. My new baby is named Violet, at the insistence of Ute. She is a Spitzhauben, which I think I mentioned in an earlier post is the national chicken of Switzerland. I finally have my Swiss bird!

This is Ute's peep, Petunia. I'm not sure which breed she is, maybe a Buff Ameraucana?

Esteban gets two birds this time around, since he lost his dear Broccoli. He's got Gertrude the Brabanter

and Sweet Pea, who is possibly a Brahma. Whatever she is, she's got the cutest little feathered legs, which you can't see because they are tucked up under her.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Strawberry Madness

Ideally we would like to start growing our own food, however the state of our backyard has precluded us from establishing a decent garden this year. In between the piles of cinder blocks and a 5 foot high mound of dirt (remnants of the foundation work we did on the house over the past year), we've got some veggies growing in wine barrels. This is a great temporary solution while we finish the monumental task of landscaping the back acrelet, but won't quite cut the mustard as far as providing real sustenance for the table. In the meantime, we've decided to stock up on local produce while it's in season and preserve, preserve, preserve. This month is all about strawberries.

We headed down to Pescadero on Sunday to Swanton Berry Farms for some U-pick fun. It was a glorious sunny day, not too hot or cold, perfect for plucking loads of juicy red goodness. Ute did her best in an attempt to eat her weight in strawberries, Esteban dutifully filled his basket, and Mr. Tink made a racket about not being able to romp through the rows with his family. After collecting our 20 pound spoil, we ended the day at the beach with some sun and surf.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Composting Is Sexy

Rotting veggies, manure, worms, creepy crawly bugs of all kinds turn you on? No? They should. Getting your kitchen scraps, animal crap, and lawn clippings to nourish your soil so that you can grow your own food is totally sexy. Especially if you can do it in 17 days, a decomposition "quickie" so to speak.

On average, compost takes almost a year to fully decompose into luscious, crumbly hummus - that good coffee brown stuff that is like steroids for plants. AND you have to turn it with a pitchfork, which can be one foul smelling chore. Not so with a compost tumbler. This gadget is the total bomb. Give this puppy a daily spin and in a couple weeks you'll have quality dirt. But buying one can be pricey. So why purchase one when you can easily make your own? I picked up this compost bin on Freecycle:

I think it was meant to be able to turn, however that has been a fairly cumbersome operation in my experience. I decided to get it off the ground for easier tumbling. If you don't have a fabu bin like mine, just pick up one of those 55 gallon plastic food grade barrels with screw top lid. They are always for sale on Craigslist. Make sure you drill holes in the bin as compost requires aeration, otherwise you end up with anaerobic nastiness.

First I took some crappy scrap wood and made some posts.

Then I made some cross bar like things and nailed them to the crappy wood posts and put a metal bar through the bin, like this:

My disgruntled farmhand and I then mounted the barrel onto the posts. Voila! Sexy composting.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Escape from Fog City

May and June are the most precarious months for my mental health. Just when the weather is warming up in other parts of the country, we here in the City by the Bay are saddled with bitter cold winds and a suffocating fog that could make even the most Pollyanna-ish individual beg for mercy. Though Tuesday was not a particularly nasty day weather wise, the sky still held its average sullen appearance. So I headed off to Walnut Creek for some sunnier vistas.

My friend Barbara insisted on taking me on a nature hike very near her home. Along the route, we bumped into an enormous pepper tree growing in some one's backyard. Its weeping branches hung over the fence just low enough for us to grab some goodies. To be honest, I had absolutely no idea that people actually grew pepper trees in the U.S., let alone in my general area. I figured it was one of those things, like cinnamon, that had to be grown in some far flung Eastern country. Not the case.

Here's a pic of the booty. Looks like I won't need to buy pepper for at least a year.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cluckin' Chicken Crap

***WARNING*** There will be a great deal of talk about excrement in this post. If you are in the midst of eating, have a weak stomach, or find the topic too distasteful to bear, please read no further. You will be sorry if you do.

Lately, my nerves have been more frayed than the cat's scratching post. With the mystery of Broccoli's death remaining unsolved, I've taken to obsessive compulsive levels of observation of the chooks' behaviors, general appearance, eating and drinking habits, and excretion of bodily fluids. Miss Lorraine and Pearl seemed fine in all categories but one. And of course that one category would have to have been their feces. Yes, I have spent an inordinate amount of time dissecting and analyzing chicken shit over the last week. I know, you are soooooo jealous.

The day after Broccoli's passing, which was particularly cold and grey, I reluctantly trudged over to the chicken coop, heart in mouth, fearing that I would find another lady keeled over of god knows what. Fortunately, they were both bright eyed and chirpy, though looking a bit forlorn with the loss of their friend and everything. As I cleaned their bedding, I noticed that some of the poop just didn't look right. It was kind of pinkish and brain-like looking, and when I smushed it open I saw tiny specks of blood in it. I immediately rushed to consult my dear go-to-in-a-crisis friend, Google, and entered "blood chicken poop" in the search engine. The results were not encouraging. Apparently, this is a sign of one of the most common illnesses in chicks, Coccidiosis (Go ahead and try to say it. It's fun, if not humbling), and if it is not treated right away, deaths in the flock will follow. Evidently, we'd already made it to that point.

Coccidiosis, or Cocci if you can't quite spit out the full version, is a single celled parasite that naturally occurs in the intestines of all chickens. The problem for chicks is that their systems can easily get overwhelmed by these little buggers as poultry have the disgusting habit of pecking at their own, as well as fellow flock mate's, poo and consequently, ingesting more of the parasite, which eventually burrows into the intestinal lining, wreaking all kinds of havoc. By 12 weeks, most birds become immune, thus many a farmer give medicated feed to the babies until they reach this stage. I had the bright idea that I would go organic, thinking that would be in the best interest of everyone involved. I am now fairly certain that the green behind my ears can be plainly viewed from outer space. I bought these hens from someone who kept hundreds of chicks in her small barn; they were bound to have been exposed to a large amount of this parasite. I should have known... or maybe I should have read the whole book.

Coulda, shoulda, woulda, whatever! I needed to find the appropriate treatment... and fast. This is where the true trials and tribulations of raising poultry in the city reveal themselves. The cure? A drug called amprolium. Where to find it? Supposedly any feed store. Ha! The search for this little medication involved one heck of a wild goose chase in places that of course were nowhere near my residence. I began with a frantic and bogus trip to Half Moon Bay where I actually held the bottle of this stuff in my hands, but didn't end up purchasing it because the sassy young filly behind the counter crisply informed me that it was only for cows. Maybe I just looked like an uppity city slicker so that when asked if I could just figure out what the dosage for a chicken would be, she snipped "that's your deal, it's for cows." Apprehensive that I might kill the rest of my flock, I decided the chickens could wait until I returned from my weekend in Fresno for a three year old's birthday party. Certainly I could find this stuff in the Central Valley, being the heart of California farm country. Well, one would think. I called 15 stores in the greater Fresno area and only ONE told me they had the product I was looking for and that it, too, was for cattle. Are there no chickens in Fresno? Seriously? How is it possible that I cannot find the medication for the most common ailment of young poultry? The store clerk assured me that I could adjust the dosage for a chicken. To err on the side of prudence, I phoned up feed stores in the Chicken Capital of the U.S., "the egg basket to the world", poultry central... Petaluma. They confirmed the store clerk's advice. Problem solved. I picked up the amprolium and brought it to my ladies as soon as we arrived home on Sunday.

After checking in on the chicks and giving them their meds, I settled down with my computer to look for replacement peeps on Craigslist when I found a flaming post that finally put all my questions to rest. The post warned customers to BEWARE of the person who sold me my chickens, that she knowingly sells sick birds, and that it has happened to many people. Was I swindled by the Chicken Queen? Did I turn a blind eye to the conditions in her barn because of the tempting and vast array of chicken breeds that she had in stock? Maybe. I know I should be pissed off at this poultry farmer, but really I'm just relieved that I didn't kill the chicken.

FYI, for any of you out there who may need to know what Cocci looks like, go here (and I don't recommend looking unless you have to):


Here's a pic of the lonely ladies: