Archive for January, 2013

January 8, 2013

Oh, poop! (How to Give a Chicken a Bath)

Ahhhhhh, yeah. The girl whose top fear about getting chickens was dealing with poop, has met her nemesis. Chicken poop.

Before getting chickens, I’d heard they poop a lot. And they definitely do, but not as much as my imagination had led me to believe. I envisioned chicken poop everywhere, on every surface in the coop, in the run, in the nest box, on the roosting bar, in their food, in their water, on the walls, in my hair, on my clothes, in-between my toes… Somehow, through all of that, I failed to imagine poop sticking to their feathers. Seriously? How did I not think of this one?

So a couple of days ago I went out to the coop to have one of my daily visits with the girls, as I sat perched on the edge of the door frame we chatted away. I asked how their day was going, told them about mine and they mm-bawwk-bawwk-baaaaawwwkked in return. We had quite a nice conversation while they dined on the apple core treats I’d brought for them. When they were finished and our conversation was winding down they turned to get into a single file line and march back up their ladder into their coop for a little rest. I always love watching them walk away because, frankly, chickens have really cute butts.

Zydeco (the hawk looking chicken) has very cool tail feathers and Billina and Jolene have the cutest fluffy butts, or at least they normally do. That day, Zydeco went first, marching her way up the ladder with her tail feathers following at attention, followed by Jolene, strutting in the fancy-pants way that she does. Then Billina whipped around to follow, only something was following her… something was stuck to her fluffy butt. “What on earth?!” I thought to myself, “What the…. Oh,no!” You can imagine the horror I felt when I realized that Billina had big glob of poop stuck to her feathers. “No! No, no, no. That can’t be. Uh, uh. No…”

“Great. Now what?” I remember reading that baby chicks will occasionally have that happen and all you have to do is get a wet paper towel and wipe it off. But baby chicks are little and this chicken and her poop are not. Much as I hoped it would, I knew no wet paper towel was going to fix this mess. So I watched the girls go into the coop, then turned away and walked back to the house, trying to pretend I never saw it, but I couldn’t.

“Maybe she’ll clean it up herself.” I thought to myself, knowing full well that would be nearly impossible. “Maybe it will fall off.” Sure, it’s 10 degrees outside, that’s not going to “just fall off” any time soon. Nope. In my gut I knew I was going to have to deal with it. The rest of the day I couldn’t get it out of my head. That afternoon, my son went out to check for eggs. He came running back into the house and said, “Mom…. This isn’t good…” I know he expected me to be surprised, but unfortunately I already knew what was coming. “…Billina has a big bunch of poop stuck to her butt.” “Uh, yep, honey. I know.” was all I could muster up in response. He started drilling me with questions as to how we were going to get it off. “I have no idea.” I mumbled.

Then it dawned on me. “Can you give a chicken a bath?” I mean chickens usually give themselves dust baths, and I’ve never seen a chicken swim. I wasn’t even sure if they were supposed to get wet. Everything I’d heard told me water and chickens don’t mix and coops need to be dry. So I did what any other good Chicken-Mom would do. I Googled it… “how to clean poo off a hen’s bottom in winter”.

Much to my relief (and disappointment) I found it! Sure enough. You can give a chicken a bath! (And someone had posted detailed instructions as to how to go about doing it here.) Okay, that was solved. I need to give Billina a bath. That should be fun. So I waited another day, okay maybe it was two or three. I kept hoping and praying this problem would take care of itself (I’d read that it could), but instead things just kept piling up on her rear end.

Oh, poop!

Oh, poop!

Then I panicked, my thoughts running a muck. “What if she can’t lay eggs?!? None of them laid eggs today! They do EVERYTHING out of the same spot (the vent). What if I don’t take care of this? She could get all clogged up and DIE and it would be all my fault!” Thankfully, she laid an egg about an hour after my chicken-death thought so I still had time to plan. After stalling long enough, I knew it wasn’t going to resolve itself and finally got up the nerve to give the girl a bath.

According to Tilly’s Nest it’s supposed to go pretty smoothly. Here’s how it went for me:

Tilly’s Nest: Create a washing station.

  • Me: Check.

Tilly’s Nest: Once you catch the chicken, while holding your hands over the wings, loosely wrap their head and upper body in a dry towel.

Ready for her bath!

Ready for her bath!

Me: Go out to coop with a bath towel and pick-up chicken by holding her wings in. Proudly come back to house with towel over her back and tail leaving her head and neck fully exposed. But I got her. Check.

Tilly’s Nest: Place the chicken in the bin with soapy water. Cup some water with your hand and wet the soiled area. Yes, there really are not too many feathers there once wet. You will then be able to loosen to poop off the affected feathers by rubbing each feather between your fingers. Be careful not to pull the feathers. Also, clean the feathers very well around the vent. This may take some time. Once satisfied, transfer the chicken to the rinsing bowl and try to remove as much soapy water and remaining poop from your bird.

Washing feathers

Washing feathers

  • Me: Attempt to remove the worst of the poo with a paper towel and realize it’s a frozen glob. Place chicken in the wash tub with soapy water. Cup water with hand and splash at chicken’s butt. Stare at poop, willing it to fall off into the water. When that doesn’t happen, splash more water at chicken’s butt. Repeat 25 times so you don’t have to touch poop. Give up and grab scrub brush to “gently loosen poop from feathers” without ripping them out of her butt. Once all signs of poop are gone, run fingers through feathers to make sure they are clean. Check.

Tilly’s Nest: Once rinsed, squeeze the excess water out with your hands and then towel dry your chicken.

  • Me: Completely forget about squeezing excess water. Beg for assistance to take soaking wet towel off of chicken and put dry towel on. Make sure she’s still alive. She’s too quiet. Husband swaps towels and chicken is alive. Check.

Tilly’s Nest: Now, move over to the drying station. On the lowest heat setting and speed begin to dry your chicken. Keep the dryer constantly moving and continually fluff the feathers as you dry with your free hand. After about 5 minutes, poof, your chicken’s beautiful fluffy butt will return.

Getting a blow dry!

Getting a blow dry!

Fluffy butt returns!

Finally – Her fluffy butt returns!

  • Me: Move to drying station (towel on floor with hairdryer nearby). Have husband hold chicken while fluffing feathers with one hand and holding hairdryer with the other. Question how many hands “Tilly” has. After about 45 minutes, poof, Billina’s fluffy butt returns! Be in pure amazement as to how “good” she was and how much she must have liked it. Check.
Happy chicken...

Clean, dry, happy chicken…

  • Carry chicken upstairs to give her a treat. As she snubs pears and acts like she can’t see them, panic briefly thinking you got soap in her eyes and made her go blind. Realize she’s not blind and wasn’t being “good”, she was terrified…
Three fluffy butts!

Three fluffy butts!

  • Return chicken to her coop to be with the other girls. Pat yourself on the back for giving a chicken a bath. Go in and wash out sink. Wash hands five times. Check and check.

So there you have it. One of my worst fears about chickens came true and I not only survived, but did just fine.

Conquer another fear. Check.


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January 7, 2013

Weightloss Resolutions: Are you in the 38%? (And A Public Service Announcement)

If you’ve been watching TV at all in the past week, weight-loss is a hot topic as it is every year at the beginning of the year.  Today I heard that about 38% of Americans have weight-loss as their New Year’s Resolution this year.  I’m not sure how that compares to previous years or even the validity of that number, but assuming that is correct, that’s a pretty big percentage of our population.

Most years, during the first couple of weeks into the new year, I try to tune out all of the weight-loss commercials, programs and news stories.  Tonight, I could not. I cannot honestly even tell you what show was on because I wasn’t really watching, but was working on other things and was too lazy to shut it off after the news was over, but then there was a story of a woman by the name of Valeria Levitin.  When her picture came onto the screen I happened to look up and my jaw dropped.  I couldn’t stop staring.  Horrified, my eyes were glued to the screen through the duration of her story.  Valeria, like many others, was talking about weight-loss, but not in the way you might think.  Valeria suffers from Anorexia and is speaking out because while she is struggling to stay alive, girls are idolizing her.  At age 39, Valeria is 5′ 8″ and a mere 59 pounds.  She is literally skin and bones, her body is dying and yet she is receiving fan mail from girls asking how to be like her.  Valeria is in the news, speaking out, because she doesn’t want anyone idolizing her.  If you haven’t already seen her story, I recommend you do, however, I will warn you that the pictures and video of her are disturbing.  Horribly disturbing.  And while I feel awful saying that, I’m writing this to help share her message.  She is going public because she is suffering, can no longer digest food and doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else.

I wish I could say my “public service announcement” ended here, but it doesn’t.  Almost immediately following Valeria’s story, was a very brief story of Paula Deen’s weight-loss.  Paula Deen  is known for her cooking, but her recipes, until recently, are far from healthy.  With their sugar and butter and fat are they tasty?  Sure.  Healthy?  Absolutely not!  So while I commend Paula Deen for her weight-loss, I think it’s important to remember why she lost weight.  Paula was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes which is typically brought on by diet and being overweight.  I’m not going to say I know what it’s like to be her or to have Diabetes, because I don’t.  I have family and friends with the disease and have talked with them about the impact of diet, which leads me to my next point.  I am extremely angry with the message Paula Deen is giving people!  She originally claimed that she lost weight because she cut back on Sweet Tea.  While she may have done this, it wasn’t the full truth, but that wasn’t what angered me.  Tonight, while watching the clip on her weight-loss, Paula Deen said that you can still eat whatever you want, you probably just can’t eat as much of it.  I wanted to scream,  “NO YOU CAN’T!”

We’ve all heard it, “everything is okay in moderation”.  I’ve come to cringe when I hear that.  I used to think that too, and use it when I wanted to justify what I was eating, but in the past year I realized that I used it all of the time.  I could justify nearly anything by using that phrase. But over time I realized that while I may be able to fool myself into thinking that phrase made everything okay, but my body begged to differ.  Sugar is sugar, butter is butter, fat is fat.  Although we may lie to our bodies, our bodies know what we are doing be it too much or too little.

I didn’t want to write anything about Paula Deen based solely on that quick clip, so I surfed the web looking for proof that it had been taken out of context.  It had.  Sort of.  I saw quotes of her saying, “I eat more salad and more vegetables.” But I also saw a quote of her saying her weakness is buttered biscuits and that “you can have two, you just can’t have them three times a day”.  Oh.  My.  Goodness!  Please don’t let Paula fool you.  This is NOT moderation!  Moderation is eating healthy every day and having treats once in a while, not going from six buttered biscuits a day to two a day.  Two a day is still fourteen in a week.

I realize that many people have weight-loss goals for their resolutions.  Five pounds by vacation, twenty pounds by my reunion, etc.  and while most people may do better or feel motivated by a goal date, I’d offer that if weight-loss was your resolution that you consider revising it instead to “eating healthy” or “living healthy”, meaning changing your focus from your weight to your health.  While I’ve been fortunate to not have severe weight issues, I have been on both ends of the spectrum.  When I was young, I couldn’t gain weight not matter how I tried and while some people may say “Lucky!”  it wasn’t.  In high school I weighed 110 at just under 5′ 8″ and on more than one occasion people stopped to ask me if I was anorexic or bulimic.  And I was always called “skinny”.  “Skinny” began to burn in my ears.  My weight stayed that way until my early thirties and then after I had my son my weight jumped around.  At one point someone asked me if I was pregnant again when I wasn’t.  For a woman, that’s about the worst thing you can hear.  Devastating.  But at the same time, it was a wake-up call.  I started looking to make changes, healthy changes.  I wanted to get back to when I felt good and felt good about myself.

Some might say I’m sensitive about weight, but honestly, I’m not.  Very rarely do I step on a scale.  These days I go purely by how I feel, what I’m eating and whether I’m getting enough exercise and sleep.  In other words, my focus is on being healthy.  I don’t diet.  I don’t do weight-loss challenges.  I don’t focus on what I can’t do, but what I can.

Last year I did 3 or 4 challenges through the 8 Weeks to a Better You! blog.  These challenges taught me to shift my focus away from just food, diet and weight, to living a healthy life.  I started Clean Eating a few years ago, but found myself still looking for more.  Last year, through conversations with a friend, I found out about the movies The Gerson Miracle, The Engine 2 Diet, and Forks Over Knives, among others.  These movies opened my eyes to the reality of food, the American diet and its connections to Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes, the list goes on.  This awareness led me to Vegetarian Times and ultimately to The Flexitarian Diet book by Dawn Jackson Blatner.  After years of searching, I finally feel at home with food.

I now eat many plants (fruits, veggies, beans, etc.) and limited grains.  My portions, while not much different in size, are drastically different in proportions.  No longer is meat or pasta a “main dish” and salads and veggies are no longer “sides”.  If I were to eat what we should have as a “serving” of veggies at a party I would clear off nearly half of a veggie tray (etiquette prevents me from doing that)!  Cow milk is no longer in my fridge, and has been replaced by soy milk, rice milk or almond milk.  I’ve experimented with a lot of foods I haven’t eaten before and am very pleasantly surprised at how much my whole family likes them.  (My son asks what we “get” to have at the next meal.)  My husband, who grew up on meat and potatoes and never ate salads or vegetables now eats everything I make.  He has seen changes both physically and on the scale and says that he didn’t know that he didn’t feel good until we made the change.  And while I haven’t weighed myself lately, my body has changed and I feel really good.

So while 40% of the population has New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight, I ask you to think less about “losing weight” and more about being healthy because if you eat good food and take care of yourself, your body will figure out the rest.  And if you choose to simply “lose weight”, I beg you to do it for the right reasons, do it to improve your health, not harm it.  And if you know of someone who may be doing it for the wrong reasons, please show them Valeria’s story.

Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!


January 2, 2013

“Good” is Going Viral in 2013!

Do you feel it?  There is an incredible positive energy buzzing about this year.  Two thousand thirteen, can you believe it?!?  I can’t tell you why I think it will be a good year, it’s just a feeling that I have (that and maybe because it’s lucky thirteen).  I know, I know, the media has been yapping about us careening over the “Fiscal Cliff” like Thelma and Louise for months and everywhere you turn there are people preaching the doom and gloom of what is going to happen “if this” and “if that”.  I turn it off.  I don’t listen because I don’t believe it.  “Poo on them” as my Grandma would say.  You can call it ignorance, you call it nievity, you call it what you will but don’t call it optimism, because to me, optimism can be a facade.  Sometimes I think we, the general population, try to be optimistic when we have a bad feeling about the way things are headed.  So we try to change fate by changing what we say, by being “optimistic” on the outside, but inside we still feel the same bad feeling, so our optimism isn’t authentic.  So my feeling about 2013 isn’t optimism, I truly have a good feeling about it.  I believe that the Universe has heard our calls for help and for change and in my heart I believe good things are coming our way.

Some of my friends and family have recently gotten new jobs, job offers and new positions within their current companies, which is super exciting for them.  And their excitement is contagious.   In fact, I believe that their excitement will spark excitement with others, spreading like a virus (only it’s a good virus instead of a bad virus) making excitement and positive energy go viral.

I have a good feeling about other friends and family as well.  People who really struggled in 2012 or people who took jobs just to have a job instead of something they really like. I have a feeling that good things are coming their way too, which is really cool!

This weekend I will start on my new adventure as well, this weekend marks the beginning of the 2013 Urban Farming Certification program.  (Woo hoo!)  So you can bet your britches that I’ll start talking dirt, er, um, I mean, soil, again very soon!  I also plan to launch some new things with my business this year that I put on the back burner in 2012 and I’m very excited about that too.  Plus, I’m leaving myself open to other opportunities that might not even be on my radar right now.

I once heard that “whatever you think, will be”.  In other words if you are negative, think doom and gloom and you have an energy of doom and gloom that doom and gloom will be brought your way, much like a magnetic force field.  But if instead you think about the positive, the what ifs, the what could bes, then you will be pulling positive energy your way and ultimately bringing those possibilities into the realm of reality.  Therefore, our thoughts really can control our destiny. Pretty cool, huh?

Last year, 2012, was a good year for me, not a bang-up year, but not bad.  There were a lot of cool things that happened (like getting chickens, for example) but I was really anxious for 2012 to end and 2013 to begin.  (Frankly, I could hardly contain myself.)

So, yes, I’m smiling on the inside and smiling on the outside because my hope for you and for all of us this year is that if you haven’t already, that you feel the vibration…. catch the excitement, catch the “good” that’s going around because my prediction is that “good” is going viral in 2013.