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How a scary moment for my chickens turned into a homemade jar of jam

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Have you ever had to google images of chicken poop? Well, we did. And it is quite a story. Stay with me here…… Raising animals of any kind is a challenging and often times emotional journey. This goes for pets and livestock alike. As an animal owner you take on the responsibility of nurturing for their basic food and water needs, their safety and their health. At Happy Hen Haven we have a routine set of daily processes we follow to insure all of our flock's needs are being met. When one of these processes is interrupted or in question it can be disruptive and often times alarming. With the exception of dangerously cold weather we generally let our flock free range around our plot of land every day. This practice has its benefits, but it also comes with its own set of risks. One of which, for us, involves us living on an extremely busy country highway. A couple years back we lost our favorite family dog Bentley to an accident. We often let our dogs get their exercise running around the back yard. One day he uncharacteristically ran out into the front yard and in the path of an oncoming car. A very sad, sad day. For those of you who live in the country you can attest to some of the challenges you face as opposed to living in a city. To the West of our property we have a prairie and to the North and East we are bordered by wooded areas populated with all sorts of wildlife. And with wildlife comes predators. Foxes, Hawks, Bald Eagles, Raccoons and feral cats just to name a few. Last summer, it wasn't predators or traffic we would be alarmed by. It was something, well, we will just call it unsuspecting. Jacob, our oldest boy came in from outside very, very concerned. He told Heather he had noticed some strange looking chicken droppings all over the back yard and patio. Heather, concerned of course, immediately went outside to check for her self exactly what Jacob was seeing. He was indeed correct, there was dark, dark reddish purple chicken droppings all over the place. As chicken owners you know when you see droppings with any reddish color to them it can be a sign of coccidiosis or other intestinal illnesses and needs to be treated immediately. But this was different, it was more plum or purple in color and had the consistency of cranberry sauce. Thinking the worst Heather started doing her internet research and reaching out to our trusted contacts for health related concerns. This was a situation we had never seen or been faced with. We were scared to say the least. We immediately thought the worst, assuming there was major intensional issues or disease striking our flock. Even after hours of scouring chicken sites, Google searching images of chicken poop (yes images of poop), veterinarian pages and reaching out to trusted contacts we were not coming up with anything similar or remotely related to what we were finding all over our back yard. When a potential health concern is raised with the flock, we often emotionally and logistically start to prepare for the worst. We start making plans to narrow down where the illness is occurring, isolate affected birds and decontaminate their living spaces. It was in the midst of these discussions and planning Jeffry had a bit of an epiphany. While mowing the yard he had seen some little black colored berries laying along the back property line. We had been on this property for 10 years at the time and had never had any plants producing berries, so seeing them stuck out in Jeffry's mind. Upon realizing this we all ran out back to investigate. There was indeed a large mulberry tree producing a large crop of berries. Turns out mulberry trees can take up to 10 years to produce fruit. Armed with our new information we were able to determine by observing the chickens they were indeed eating the mulberries. Thus causing the dark discoloration of their droppings. Crisis averted!!! What seemed like an eminent curse turned out to be quite a blessing. We laid tarps out under the tree for the next week and collected mulberries each morning. The harvested berries made for a great jam and other sweet summer treats for the family and flock alike. We had to be a little greedy though and not let the chickens out of their fenced in area until mid morning or the little buggers would have eaten all the sweet treats. Our hope for our readers with this little blog is to give you a light hearted story and hopefully a god reference point of you ever encounter a similar situation. Thanks for taking the time to read our short stories about life on the hobby farm. Make sure to check out our other blogs and subscribe to our page for updates from The Happy Hen Haven as they are posted.  Peace. The Happy Hen Haven

February 27, 2020


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