The Phone and the Farm Store

My phone is dying. Last Thursday I couldn't get it to dock to my audio docking station, nor would it charge connected to anything. So with my battery slowly draining, I crossed everything off my to-do list for the day and headed off to the phone store.

At the store I explained my problem to the phone store guy and told him I suspected a broken or damaged pin in the docking port and asked him, “Is it repairable or is it time to upgrade to a new phone?”

“Not very likely that any of the pins are broken,” he told me, “Your docking port is probably got some pocket lint, or the pins are just dirty or corroded. Take your phone home and use a toothbrush and some alcohol and try cleaning it up.” (Note this helpful hint for your future use, everybody!)

So I took it home, cleaned it up as he suggested and plugged it into the charger. It made a satisfying “DING!” and started charging immediately. I tried it a few more times & got a ding each time. Yay! Back in business.

Next project: Buying chicken bedding at the local farm store. I loaded Bailey into the shotgun seat of the truck, hopped into the driver’s seat and headed down the road. Once on the way, I plugged my phone into the truck's docking cable so I could listen to some tunes. Nothing happened. The screen remained black. When I pushed the "home" button, nothing happened. And I noticed liquid dribbling out of the bottom of my phone. I surmised that maybe when cleaning the phone I should have sprayed the alcohol onto the toothbrush and not into the docking port. I put the phone down and said a few words that one should not say in front of one’s dog. Fortunately, Bailey is deaf.


Bailey Riding Shotgun

About halfway to the farm store, the phone emitted two dings and “What can I help you with?” along with the wavy lines appeared on the screen. I was in the presence of Siri. Either there was some major cross-connections going on inside the phone due to the alcohol, or Siri had become sentient. Whatever the case, she was very insistent and the phone continued to emit the double dings about every fifteen seconds. I finally started responding with “Shut up, Siri….Shut up, Siri….Shut up, Siri….” To which she finally responded (I swear I am NOT making this up!) “Are you talking to me?” “Yes, Siri,” I replied. “I thought so,” she said. She sounded drunk. Probably due to the alcohol. Then I tried the "home" button again and Siri finally went away. I tucked my mentally unstable phone into my pocket.



At the farm store, I immediately noticed that the pallet in front of the store where the pine shavings are normally kept was empty. The store is never busy on a weekday and when I walked into the store four or five employees were gathered around the checkout desk in the front of the store. Stevie Wonder was blasting from the store’s PA system at high volume. “Party time,” I thought. Everybody turned to look at me. “Do you STILL not have pine shavings in? I asked, “I was here last week and you said they would be in today.” “Sorry,” one of the clerks replied, “The feed truck hasn’t come in yet.” “Well, then I’ll just have to get some straw,” I grumbled. I headed for the back of the store. Stevie Wonder was at top volume in the back of the store as well. It was “Forgivingness’ First Finale” – odd choice for a farm store, I thought. Then I slowly began to realize how odd it was that no matter where I went in the store, the volume of the music was constant. And that’s when I figured out that the music was coming from my pants. I took my phone out of my pocket and hit the"home" button. Nothing happened. Repeat action. Nothing. So I hauled the straw to check out and paid for it while serenading all the gathered staff. “Stevie Wonder,” I told them. “Forgivingness’ First Finale. A great album. You should get it and play it on your PA.” This elicited no response. 

Back in the truck, I listened to the rest of Stevie Wonder and then Sturgill Simpson, The Submarines, Sufjan Stevens, and Susan Tedeschi on the way home. It seemed to be stuck on "S" artists. Bailey heard none of it nor my comments. Fortunately, as I mentioned, she is deaf.

At home, I attacked my phone with canned air and then a blow drier. The music finally stopped. At this point the only thing wrong with phone is that it charges very slowly and won’t dock well – the original problem. It’s time for an upgrade.

Fixing Those Pesky Leaking Chicken Water Founts


In 1931 the Hudson Manufacturing Company of Minneapolis obtained a patent for an improved chicken watering device “adapted to store water and automatically feed it to a drinking pan.”  It consisted of a metal sleeve that “telescoped” over a metal water reservoir and was held in place by a pin on the reservoir locking into a slot on the sleeve.  Water from the reservoir trickled into a “drinking pan” to keep the pan full as the water was consumed by the chickens.  If you have chickens you probably are using, or have used one of these metal double-walled watering founts.  All in all it was a very nifty and ingenious invention. 

But over the years I’ve said some pretty hateful things about these nifty and ingenious devices, and I’ll bet you have too.  Typically, I buy one at my local farm store and it works great for a while, but without fail it reaches a point where it starts to overflow and creates a quagmire of wet and smelly chicken bedding. That’s the point where my tradition has been to conduct a little funeral ceremony by saying a few appropriate words over the defunct fount.  This is followed by the “flinging ceremony”, where I pitch it into the nearest dark corner of the coop.  And then I go out and buy a new one.

I could never figure out why they would always fail, but one day after a few beers and some deep mulling, the answer finally occurred to me.  Before I share my epiphany with you, let me first say a few words about the physics behind how these founts work.  Yeah, I know.  Physics.  But please stay with me.  This won’t be too wonky and I’ll even throw in a magic trick!

So here’s the problem:  These water founts have a reservoir of water over a water trough.  When they don’t work the water just flows and flows and flows out of the hole in the bottom of the reservoir until the water trough overflows and the fount is sitting in the middle of a huge soupy puddle of soggy bedding mixed with chicken poop and general scum from the coop floor.  And then the chickens all excitedly gather around and drink it because filthy water mixed with floor scum is apparently the ambrosial nectar of the gods if you're a chicken.  The question is, why does this only happen when the fount is broken?  Logically, water flows down, so you would think that the water would always flow and flow and flow out until the reservoir was empty.  To explain why the water doesn’t flow and flow and flow, I give you the magic trick.

Get a playing card and a glass whose opening is smaller than the card.  Go to your kitchen sink and run some water into the glass, then put the card over the top of the glass.  Hold the card in place with your hand and flip the glass upside down.  I suggest you do this over the sink in case something goes awry.  Make sure that the glass is completely upside down and the card is parallel to the floor and then remove your hand from the card.   If the water comes pouring out at this point, then something went wrong.  Don’t blame me.  You were doing this over the sink, right?

But if you did everything right, the card stays magically in place and the water magically remains in the glass.  Only it isn’t magic—it’s physics—the same physics at work with the water font.  Here’s the deal: In addition to water, there’s air in the glass/fount.  If water leaves the glass/fount it has to be replaced with something, and if it can’t be, then the air already there has to spread out over a larger volume—thus giving it a lower air pressure than the air outside of the glass/fount.  So as gravity tries to pull the water out, it is balanced by the force of air pressure that keeps the water in.

Now imagine that you drill a tiny hole in the glass.  Suddenly, air has a way to get into the glass, the air pressure inside the glass becomes the same as the air pressure outside the glass, and the only force left acting on the water is gravity.  Then the water comes pouring out of the glass and hopefully you’re still holding the glass over the sink.  This, of course, is why the water fount fails.  Somebody, has drilled tiny holes into your water fount!  Find out who that person is and keep them away from your coop!  There.  Problem solved. 

OK, actually, holes do form over time without the intervention of an evil saboteur with a drill.  They form at the weak points along the seams and ESPECIALLY at the rivet points where the handle is attached at the top.  That's why the manufacturer usually tells you, in very fine print on the label, never to hang the font by the handle or carry it by the handle when it's full of water--you should carry it only by the handle on the inside piece. The handle on the outer sleeve should only be used to pull the outer sleeve off the inside piece.


So fixing the fount is simply a matter of plugging the holes. I went to my friendly local lumber yard and bought a small tube of silicone caulk, and a cheap disposable foam brush. I used a scrub brush and some detergent to clean up all my defective founts, allowed them to dry, and then applied a thin bead of caulk to the side and top seams of the inside of the outer sleeve and then squirted a generous amount of caulk in the top where the handle attaches. Finally, I used the brush to spread the caulk into a thin film.

Using a foam brush to spread caulk down the sleeve seam

Caulked seam

After they dried overnight, I filled the founts with water and they all worked like new.  Using aquarium silicone caulk guarantees that the caulk doesn’t contain mildew inhibitor or other toxic components.  But in fact that’s just an extra bit of caution since outer sleeve that’s getting the caulk has no contact with the water, so there’s really no issue with anything in the caulk leaching into the water. The chickens, by the way, if they had thumbs, would give a “thumbs-up” to this solution!


Aqueon Aquarium Silicone - $14.40 on Amazon

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[This post has been shared on Clever Chicks Blog Hop # 225]

Spa Day in the Coop


Angitou gets ready for a haircut
It has been a busy spring, but a couple of the hens have been in need of some beauty touch-ups, so Kathy and I found some time to set up our chicken spa.  Angitou the golden Polish hen recently completed a spring molt and shed and regrew all of her feathers including the feathers in her beautiful and elaborate crest.  She has a fantastic "hairdo" but unfortunately her crest now completely covers her eyes.  And if we can't see her eyes, that means she can't see much of anything.  Time for a little tonsorial remediation.  Kathy held her in her lap, while I went to work with the scissors.  Angitou was very brave, even when the scary sharp scissors were snipping right around her eyes.  Feathers, like our hair, are dead tissue, so a feathercut is just like a haircut and causes the chicken no pain.  The only thing to avoid is cutting the shaft of the feather too close to the skin, and cutting pinfeathers during a molt.  Pinfeathers are very much living tissue with a blood supply and can bleed a lot if cut.



After we were done and Angitou was back in the coop I decided that my fear of destroying her elegance had prevented me from giving her a proper haircut (um….feathercut) and that I still couldn’t see her eyes!  She’ll need a second session, but we will give her a few day—she’s had enough excitement for a while.

 Buffy the buff Orpington hen was in desperate need of a pedicure, so she was the next customer in our spa.  Once again, Kathy held her while I wielded the sharp instrument—this time a dog nail clipper.  Chickens usually wear down their nails just in the process of walking and scratching, but occasionally hens will grow their nails so long that they start to curl, which can interfere with the way they walk.  Buffy’s long nails are probably a result of a recent bout of broodiness—she wasn’t moving around much when she was sitting on the nest, so the nails just grew.  The tricky part about cutting nails is that if you cut them too short they will bleed, since there’s living tissue, called quick, inside the near end of the nail.  There are some great tutorials available on the internet about cutting chicken toenails, including this one.
Buffy needs a pedi
The final bit of coop news is that Courtney the Silkie hen has ditched her teenage Legbar kids—she’s gone broody and has settled into a nest box 24/7.  The Legbars vacillate between happily spending time out in the run without giving their mom a thought to gathering around Courtney’s nest box all perplexed and peeping.  I’ve also seen one or more of the chicks in the nest box with Courtney trying to cuddle.  She just sits there and ignores them in her broody stupor.  Life can be so cruel!

Today Courtney started broodiness therapy in the broody coop.  I put the broody coop right next to the small coop where the Legbars live and they sometimes gather around and peep forlornly to their mom through the fence.  It is reminiscent of the scene in Dumbo where Dumbo’s mom gets locked in a cage and Dumbo can see her through the bars but can’t be with her.  It is just a little heartbreaking.  It is also timed perfectly with the millions of high school graduations around the country where kids are leaving school, home, and mom and dad to go out into the wide world.  It is a part of life that none of us can avoid—not even Courtney and her Legbar chicks.   

Courtney broods

Broody Rehab


The Birds and the Bees and the Chickens

If you’ve Googled your way to this blog looking for poultry porn, you’ve come to the wrong place.  Sorry to disappoint you, Foghorn, but this is simply an informational and scientific discussion of chicken mating.
If, however, you are offended by the concept of animals having nonchalant sex in public, this may be the wrong place for you, as well.  I grew up on a farm so animals having sex everywhereall the time was simply part of my childhood, for goodness sake!  So it’s hard for me to appreciate why anyone would make a fuss about it.  If you’re going to make a fuss, though, just leave now and remember that this is the warped and twisted blog where they talk about vile animals having disgusting relations.
Emile the Rooster - Normal and Mundane
Still there?  Good.  Here are two pertinent facts before we get to the heart of the discussion:
Fact number one:  Hens do NOT need to have sex in order to lay eggs.  I recently mentioned this to an acquaintance and it blew him away.  It’s like I had ripped away an important truth that he had held his entire life.  Over the next several days he kept bringing it up, “My God!  Hens don’t need a rooster to lay eggs!”  But no.  No they don’t.  As with every other animal, sex is not required for chickens to ovulate.  Of course without a rooster, those eggs are all sterile and will never become baby chicks – but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Fact number two:  Roosters do not have penises.  Now you are blown away, right?  This is so ironic considering the other English word for rooster.  And it’s not like male birds of all species are missing that particular appendage.  Ducks, for instance, have corkscrew-shaped penises that can be nearly ten inches long – nearly half their body length.  If for the sake of scientific knowledge, you would like more fascinating information on duck penises, you can go to Dutch ornithologist Kees Moeliker’s TED talk on homosexual necrophilia in ducks.  Go there now!  But don’t expect anything further on that subject on this blog post, because I promised there would be no poultry porn! 
Whew!  OK, we need to back up a little and approach this subject more rationally, linearly, and calmly.  So let’s imagine an encounter between Englebert, a handsome, virile Appenzeller Spitzhauben rooster, and Felice, a demure and beautiful Faverolles hen – these are not their real names.  As a matter of fact their names are Emile and Arlene.  He’s a bantam rooster and she’s a regular old Barred Rock hen and they live a normal, mundane existence in my coop.  I was just trying to spice it up a little like they do in the movies, but I suppose we need to keep this real.
So Emile saunters up to Arlene and does this cute little courtship dance that I call the “Emile Shuffle.”  Arlene responds by thinking, “Oh no!  Emile wants sex again!” and tries to run away.  But Emile has cleverly planned his choreography so he’s shuffling around Arlene’s backside just as she starts to run.  So he agilely hops on her back and then quickly digs in with his spurs to stay on – the term poultry people use for this is “treading”, and it is a good descriptive term.  He also grabs feathers at the back of her neck with his beak to maintain his balance.  She goes into a position that poultry people call “the squat”, which is also a good descriptive term.  Then they do the deed for a few seconds and then he hops off and struts off while Arlene ruffles her feathers and shakes and then wanders away mumbling about how she’s lost even more neck feathers thanks to Emile and his urges.  And that’s it – no post-encounter pillow talk or lying around in each other’s wings.
“OK,” you ask while averting your eyes, “But how does ‘the deed’ even work?  You just said that roosters don’t have penises.”  “Oh!”  I reply, “You mean the cloacal kiss!”  “Noooo!” you protest, “You said there wouldn’t be any poultry porn!”  But, no.  Really. The rooster rubs his cloacal opening against the hen’s and sperm passes from his cloaca to hers.  Poultry people refer to that process as the cloacal kiss – again, a good descriptive term.  The sperm travel up the hen’s oviduct where they remain viable for at least a week and can fertilize the eggs that pass through – usually about one egg a day. 
Meanwhile, the rooster struts around the chicken run where he can mate over fifty more times in any given day.  And the hen, if she is broody and if she is allowed to keep her eggs, will lay a clutch of eggs, sit on them for twenty-one days, and then they’ll hatch and she’ll have a little peeping family!
If you eat eggs from a flock of hens that live with a rooster, you more than likely are eating fertilized eggs.  How can you tell the difference?  If you look closely at the yolk of an unfertilized egg you can see a small speck on it – that’s the blastoderm.  If you look at a fertilized egg you’ll see a slightly larger speck – that’s the fertilized blastoderm, and that’s the only difference.  There is no likelihood of cracking open and egg and finding a baby chick – chicks don’t form unless the egg is incubated either in a mechanical incubator or under a broody hen, and farmers routinely collect eggs at least daily and usually several times a day.  Eggs kept at room temperature or refrigerator temperature will not develop.  So stop worrying about that!
Is there any way to tell the difference between fertilized and unfertilized eggs without cracking them open?  Once an egg has incubated for a few days, you can candle it.  Candling is simply a process of holding the eggs up to a light.  Fertile, developing eggs will become more opaque.  Can hens tell the difference between fertilized and unfertilized eggs?  Well, my broody hens are more than happy to sit on golf balls.  So I think the answer to that question is a definitive “no”.

And that’s it.  Any questions?  I thought not.