Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Fantastic Five early days until present. Sort of ;)

So now that we have new babies, I had to come up with a name for the first round of babies this year - from the feed store, all Ameraucanas - to differentiate them. These were born the first day of March, 2017, roughly. They were a week old already when I brought them home, but other than being confused about why she had babies so quickly, the broody hen sitting on the nest gladly took over the job of raising them for me. Yay, except that now these 5 babies (er, almost adults now) are terrified of me and if I approach then, they run, screaming hysterically.

This is a problem at night because with the exception of Cheeks, they refuse to roost ON the roost with the other hens (who were born first week of April, 2016, and don't like these newbies and let them know they are lowest of the low in the flock hierarchy) so they roost IN the nesting boxes that hardly anybody uses for actually laying eggs in. So when I'm poking around in the nesting boxes and under them, where most of the eggs are laid, they are flapping and crying and generally freaking out. Silly nitwits.

But, annoying as all of that is, they are wonderfully unique in feather colors and patterns. Which of course I don't have many pictures of yet, oops. Before they were moved to the big coop with the rest of the flock, they spent a few weeks without mamma hen, cuddling together on the hayloft stair at night. Pretty cute.

Top left to right:  Cheeks (Cheeks II, to be exact) and Alexa
Bottom left to right:  Sunrise, Cheese (facing the opposite direction of all the rest. So typically Cheese), and Bandit

Now that they are semi-integrated into the flock, they do all still hang out together almost exclusively during the day, doing their own thing in their own group. Teenage clique!

(repeat photo from last post)

Cheese is named for how much her face resembled Cheese from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends when she was younger ;) Love that crazy show! Will add more pix of the other babies soon.

MORE babies! Homemade babies!

One hen decided she wanted to raise some chicks, so she hid in a nest way up high in the hayloft so I wouldn't find her.

She collected 9 eggs and shortly after I found the nest, hatched 7 babies! These will be a mix of buff Cochin and Austrolorp (unless other hens were also laying in this nest, but I kind of doubt it).

I am wondering if this is the same hen who raised the Ameraucana babies for me (see below photo for the prettiest one, Cheese!)or if it is a different hen.

All the Austrolorps look alike to me! I need to paint designs on them or something....

Here is a great photo of Goldie, the (currently) only rooster. Although with 7 home-hatched babies now here, we may have more roosters soon....

Also, a great photo of Nibbles, who is now an only dog. Sadie developed renal disease and we had to put her down eventually.

Thanks for sharing your life with us, Sadie girl! Hope you have LOTS of chickens to obsess over wherever you are now :)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Berry bushes

After last summer's heat wave + drought, I was worried my new berry bushes didn't get enough manual watering. But last week I found new growth on the blueberry bush and yesterday, a little tendril peeking out from the old canes on one of the raspberrys! Yay!

Friday, March 10, 2017

baby pix

It's odd how they all look so different but are all supposed to be Ameracaunas. I hope they all still look different when they grow up! Then they can have real names instead of Bandit I and Bandit II  :)
One (or some?) keep finding new ways to get out of the barn, then crying piteously to get back with sisters and mama. I hope the rest of the flock doesn't hurt them if they keep getting out to explore!

The yellow baby I have named Alexa, so far the others are Bandit and Smudger (I and II).

Sunday, March 5, 2017


I had a broody hen for over a week, she was very devoted to the idea. So I bought 5 Ameracauna chicks (colored eggs in fall! yippee!) from the feed store and slipped a couple under her wings each night. She adopted them without a murmur and seems quite proud of herself ROFL! They are so adorable, even more so when I don't have to stress out about if they are warm enough or is that heat lamp gonna fall....

Sunday, December 4, 2016


A drizzly, joyous day last week! We have been having drought for months...so finally, this rain is a serious blessing, especially for the wildfires raging out of control in the region. Also, most of Gatlinburg burnt to the ground (except for the main street, which is ironic because that was the ugliest part). A sad night for thousands.

People may have been happy about the rain, but the donkeys weren't:

They do have a barn to go in, and in fact today (more rain) I fed them the ration balancer left over from Angel's stint with her poor baby before she died and then I tossed a bale of hay down into the stall where they can freely come and go. They munched for a while and enjoyed dry hay, as opposed to the now wet round hay bale in the field. I guess I need to build something to keep the round bales out of the elements in the future. Right now they are just covered with a tarp, to the left on this picture: 

So glad to see everything drinking up the water. I hope we don't lose the berry bushes, strawberry plants, garlic, rubarb, and any trees....I'm pretty sure the Jerusalem Artichokes didn't make it, but I'm leaving the tubers (whatever might be left) in the ground, hoping they will grow next year. Same with the berry bushes. You never know!

Monday, November 28, 2016

School stuff, but fascinating...

This is mostly a test ;) I want to see if this actually DOES embed the powerpoint into the post, since there isn't an "embed" button on my blogger dashboard that I can see...

A presentation about prions, the structure (not actually a microbe, oddly) responsible for mad cow disease and other diseases:   Prions, A Presentation

Here is the readings for the slides:
I'm going to talk about prions today. First off, there isn't really a consensus in the pronunciation - some say prions and some say "pree-ons" so sorry if I confuse you!

Prions are a misfolded protein found on many cell membranes, particularly nervous system tissue. we aren't sure exactly what is usually does. The normal configuration is referred to as PrPc (cellular). The misfolded configuration PrPsc (scrapie) where the structure alters from alpha helices into beta sheets that pack tightly together into amyeloid aggregates that disrupt the cell function and interfere with tissue function. The ends of the aggregates are fibrils, which contact adjoining prion proteins and trigger this post-translational rearrangement and add them to the aggregate.

Prion-based diseases are not curable and are fatal. Because of the affinity of the prion protein for neural tissue, the diseases are all neurodegenerative. Scrapie has been the bane of livestock farmers since at least the 1700’s, all they really knew was that it was incredibly infectious. Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, or TSE, also known as mad cow disease, emerged in the 1980’s in Great Britain, where some infected sheep parts were rendered into cattle meal which infected the cows, and when the beef was eaten, it then infected people and eventually was strongly linked to sudden increased emergence of the variant Cruetzfeldt-Jakob disease. Chronic wasting disease, CWD, is the disease affecting
the cervid family – deer, moose, and elk. This was my research focus. There are also other prion based diseases.

CWD was first identified in Colorado in 1967 but now is found in 23 states and Canada, in
wild populations and deer farms. Like other prion-based diseases, CWD has an incubation
 time after infection from 18 months to over 20 years. During this phase, the deer may display muscle wasting, excessive salivation, and weight loss. Near the end, the acute clinical phase develops, asts around 2-6 months and includes hyper-excitibility, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions, and eventually death.

Transmission - Only cells that can express the PrP protein can become infected. Researchers have studied transmission routes. Plant leaves can become infected from direct contact with prions or plant root uptake from infected soil. After infection, even before the onset of the acute clinical phase, the deer shed infectious prion particles into the environment. Once death occurs, the body contains a large volume of infectious prions that can be carried to water sources via runoff, or contaminate the soil when the body decomposes. Contaminated water can also come from slaughtering facilities. Ecto-parasites such as certain fly larvae and mites can transmit prions from one species to another.
Holcomb et al, 2016, used computer modeling to determine the volume of shedding from infection until death from saliva, urine, and feces. it predicted that one lethal dose around 9 months post-infection increased drastically by 15 months, to over 10 lethal doses.

Prions are notoriously difficult to eradicate from surfaces or to disinfect tissue. The prion in tissue has found to still be viable at 600 degrees Celsius. And of course, removing plants, soil, water, and ecto-parasites from infected pasture, fields, or forests is almost impossible. The World Health Organization recommendations from 1997 only include “Variable or partially effective” methods. I assume if they had better suggestions, they would have updated this information.

But, there are researchers investigating prion treatments. Ding and his associates have done many ozone treatment studies. Because prions will bind to solid organic particles in water, gravity separation to remove these from wastewater, followed by ozone treatment, can neutralize the water to a safe level.  Marciniuk is investigating the possibility of developing vaccines for protein aggregate diseases and others that may be similar, including Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s diseases. There are some challenges involved but they are hoping to use the misfolded protein as an antigen. Hou’s research that our immune system uses infectious aggregates very similar to prion-caused aggregates suggest that this kind of infectious protein may be more common in the natural world than we realize.

I would like to raise deer on my farm, that is why I wanted to research this disease, and there are some risks. Unknowingly buying infected breeding stock has the potential to transmit prions via ectoparasites to other animals on my farm or to nearby farms. If contaminated, the pastures would be unusable for any animals raised for consumption (by humans or other animals) for an unknown length of time. Another would be the possible contamination of slaughterhouse facilities and its wastewater, and inability to safely decontaminate them. And, disposal of bodies after death and loss of investment money.