The thing with chicken keeping is, there is always another crisis around the corner. Having tackled the broody issue, and finally having an integrated flock, we now have the dreaded red mite. I was out doing my daily sweep of the poop tray, when I saw one of the evil little beasties crawling across the roof. Squishing it with the end of my thumb, I looked more closely. Yep, definitely red mite. Bum.
Red mite are little tiny parasites which feast on the blood of roosting birds. During the day, they hide in any cracks or crevices in the coop, and come out at sundown to munch on the poor sleeping girls. A severe infestation leads to a drop in egg production, ill looking hens, and if untreated, death. Luckily, I always keep a supply of diatom which is a pretty effective beastie killer.
The kids were delighted to help me commit insecticide. They happily squashed the critters with a stone, gleefully disgusted at the splatter, while I scrubbed, swept and disinfected. Mabel became quite distressed, pacing back and forth and peering through the pop hole at the void that used to be the nest box. I kept shooing her out, but she obviously needed to lay, and would not be deterred. So desperate did she become, that she tried a novel way of gaining entry to the nest.
The coop is on slabs against the fence. Between the mesh of the run and the fence, there is a gap of approximately four inches. The hens have never attempted to go down this narrow alley, until today. Mabel had obviously worked out in her tiny chicken brain that this might be another route to her desired destination. Hearing some soft clucking, I turned slowly around to see Mabel beginning to wiggle her way into the gap. Uh oh.
Mabel edged her way along, before the message that the space was too tight finally reached her brain. Deciding at that point that she didn't like it, she tried to turn around. I now had a chicken who's face was squished against the wire mesh, side on, and who's voluminous backside was mashed against the fence. Somehow, her wings were pinned above her. She looked for all the world like a ballerina attempting a pirouette. A severely narked ballerina.
The other girls gathered to watch their illustrious leaders humiliating fall from grace, while the children and I panicked. Every so often, she would have a frenetic attempt at freeing herself, but she seemed firmly wedged. I attempted to move the Convent, but it was far too heavy. In a moment of complete flappery, I phoned the ever tolerant husband at work. While I was on hold, with my back to the stricken bird, she managed to free herself. I found myself on the phone, trying to explain to the baffled husband that there had been a problem, but everything was okay now.
Never a dull moment.