Um… what language am I speaking?… you might ask. I have recently learned that Dermanyssus Gallinae is a red poultry mite, and Tetranychus Urticae is a red spider mite. The difference means everything to my chickens. So, which one is in my coop? I have been on the lookout for red mites, ever since I thought I spotted one this weekend cleaning out the coop, and for the past couple of days, when I’ve moved the straw away from the wood in the nesting box, I’ve seen a couple of these same bugs scurrying to the corners. Naturally, given what I’ve read about red mites and their terrible effects on chickens, I’ve been freaking out and trying to research what to do. Everything was closed yesterday for Memorial Day, so the only remedy I had on hand was to spread vaseline on the hens’ legs. I’m not sure they were wild about this process. But I held them tightly in my lap and slathered them with the vaseline, and they sure look pretty and glossy now, if nothing else. Then, today, I visited our local Urban Farm Store, and asked what they would recommend to fight red mites. After explaining the situation, the clerk thinks that I’m only dealing with spider mites, which are harmless to chickens… not so much to his eggplants, which he’s dealing with right now. But I picked up some diatomaceous earth, just in case. He said sprinkling this around the coop would probably ward off other bugs as well, including the ants. So far, the hens haven’t shown any signs of the mites bothering them: no bites, missing feathers, loss in egg production, hesitancy to go into their coop at night. So, hopefully he is right. For the life of me, I can’t tell the difference in these mites from these Wikipedia pictures… perhaps because just looking at them makes me cringe away and start itching all over!
Today, when I took off the tarp to clean our chicken coop, I discovered a line of ants traveling up the sides of it to the roof, where they seemed to be nesting under the eaves. At least I think that’s what they were doing. They were carrying and swarming around what looked to be ant larvae. I don’t have a very good picture of that, since I was so grossed out that I quickly wiped them off before I thought about taking a picture first.
These little ants drive us crazy, invading our house every Spring and Autumn, so my immediate reaction was to get rid of them, assuming they might drive the hens crazy as well. But maybe not, since as soon as I removed the straw, Gloria jumped up and started gobbling them up. Perhaps they make a nice midnight snack? But I wasn’t sure what letting them nest there would lead to (bites? other bugs?) so I took drastic measures, and decided to pressure wash the coop… every nook and crack. Luckily, it was a sunny day, the first in a while, so the sun could help us dry it out. Jonah was excited to help:
In between hosing it down, as it started to dry off, I also saw what looked like a red mite crawling around… and that I KNOW we can’t allow:
There was only the one, so I hope there weren’t more hiding, or if so, that our pressure washing got rid of them. We did it as thoroughly as possible, and wiped everything down with vinegar water. The chickens were VERY curious about this process, and wanted to be involved… whenever the hose was turned off of course.
Gloria seemed quite concerned about the new orientations of her nesting box, and flew to the top whenever I tipped it over.
She also seemed impatient for me to finish, as she had yet to lay her egg today, so I hurried to get the coop put back together, and put it back in it’s usual spot.
My husband suggested that we might want to move it, and when I went out to check on it after Gloria had laid her egg, I saw the ants starting to crawl back up, so I quickly agreed. Probably time to move it to it’s Summer location across the lawn anyway, where it will be in the shade in the afternoons. I wanted to leave the tarp off, to further discourage the ants from a dry nesting place, but I had to put it back on once it had dried out, since this is our weather forecast for the next week:
Ah sigh… back to our usual Spring weather.
But after moving the coop, the hens really enjoyed the feast of ants that must have been living under their winter location. That’s one way to get rid of unwanted house guests. Eat them!
… or I should say “Original Pixie”, since she is a blondie like Claire Garland’s original pattern, for my tow-headed niece. I was more than a little obsessed with the hair for this doll. I started with the same Drops Lima that I used on Mae’s Pixie, but in beige. However, I didn’t order enough, and I decided that I wanted to try a different yarn, something softer, but still with alpaca content. So I bought a different, alpaca/bamboo yarn at my local yarn store. It was much thinner, which I thought might be nice as well, to make the head less heavy, but it ended up looking too lacy. I tried doubling it, which worked pretty well, but then I realized I would have to buy more… yet again. I finally found this gorgeous yarn, Cascade Eco Highland Duo (70% Undyed Baby Alpaca / 30% Undyed Merino Wool) which is very soft and has a beautiful variegated undyed color to it. It’s also single-ply, which I’ve never worked with before, so that was a fun experience. I’m IN LOVE with it. It’s so incredibly soft, I just want to bury my face in it whenever I’m working with Pixie.
I also had fun creating some of Claire Garland’s other Pixie clothes from her Bumper Pixie Wardrobe Package. The tank dress with the embroidered hearts was my absolute favorite. And it was super easy to make, so I would recommend it for any newbie knitter who wants to try making Pixie. With this Pixie’s lighter skin and hair color, and her bright turquoise eyes, she really needed a different color palette than Mae’s Pixie. So I used lot’s of pinks, greys, & blues that seemed to suit her well.
I can’t wait to give her to my niece next month!!! She seemed pretty interested in Mae’s doll at her birthday party, so I think she’ll like it. Mae’s friend Erica, on the right, is also getting a Pixie made for her by her Mom:
For now, she’s having fun hanging out with her Pixie cousin:
Mae is having fun playing with both dolls:
Jonah would prefer that this picture doesn’t get widespread exposure among his peers… note sure why… boys shouldn’t get guff for playing with dolls too, methinks! 😉
In all of the excitement of Mae’s birthday, I realized that I had forgotten to mention the birthday (or should I say hatching day?) of my hens on May 9th. Just over a year ago, they were hatched at my kids’ school as a science project, and on probably the biggest whim of our lives, we brought them home for Mae’s birthday 2 days later.
They were the best, most fun, educational, exciting and life-changing birthday present she had ever been given, and the last year has been a really amazing adventure for all of our family as we’ve raised them, enjoyed them, and learned from them.
Many of my readers may not have had the chance to go back to the beginning of my blog to follow our adventures from the start, so I wanted to present the opportunity: if you are interested, if you have nothing better to do this weekend (Hah!), if you are new to chicken keeping or considering embarking on this adventure yourself (perhaps you can learn something from our experiences), or if you just want to watch a lot of cute videos of baby chicks (I was a bit video-happy back then), this is where our story began, and you can click the “next” buttons at the top of the page to read the posts chronologically:
Happy Birthday Cleo & Gloria!!! You have enriched our lives with your presence, and our meals with your incredibly rich and delicious free-range eggs, and we are so very glad you came into this world and into our home!
Anyone interested in knitting Pixie? Claire Garland’s pattern is 25% off this week on Etsy (only $4.20)! I’ve been helping my friend start knitting her, and she’s been surprised at how easy it is. I’ve just finished my second doll for my niece, and will be posting about her as soon as I finish some of her gorgeous clothes!
Last evening I went to collect Gloria’s egg from the “nesting shelf” and found that it had been cracked again. So I decided to block off the shelf completely. If they are going to fight over a nesting place anyway, it should be in their coop; the eggs are much safer there.
This morning, I let them out and went for my usual walk, hoping to find Cleo nesting in the coop when I returned. Instead I came home to this:
She had flown to the top shelf! I figured it would be too high up there, and not roomy enough to lay, but she didn’t care. She wasn’t comfy enough to nest though, so I brought her down, and filled in the shelf more. Apparently not well enough, because a few minutes later I heard a crash. She had knocked some things off the shelf, and was up there again, even though there was only a tiny space now. So I brought her down once again, and completely filled the space with heavy buckets. I then scattered some food in front of their coop and waited for a few minutes watching them. Eventually, she went upstairs in the coop. I assumed she went up to nest, and went inside to take a shower. I was about to step into the shower when I heard Gloria squawking loudly. Not too unusual while Cleo is laying, but then Cleo started squawking back, which she never does while she’s laying. When I got out of the shower, I saw them both pecking in the yard again, and went out to the coop to check for an egg. There was none. After a bit, she went up again, but came down after a few more minutes… still no egg. Maybe she thought she was going to miss out on something; that Gloria would be nesting on the shelf in her absence. Then, right before I left for work, I saw her trying to fly up on the shelf again. The whole family watched out the window this time, somewhat amused at her attempts to balance up there on the edge of a box, flapping her wings. Eventually she had to give up and fly back down.
I REALLY hope that’s the end of it, and that I find 2 eggs safely in their coop tonight. Otherwise, I may have to take drastic measures and lock them in their coop tomorrow. I know this is all my fault for letting them nest on the shelf yesterday, and I take full blame for my part in this drama, but I just want things to go back to normal!