Threats To The Backyard Flock, Part Three


This is the third and final part of my series about the different threats to our backyard flock. In the two previous posts I talked about predators and listed some illnesses. In this final edition I conclude with more issues that can afflict the flock.

Egg Binding

Egg binding is another common problem that can affect hens. Symptoms may include loss of appetite, disinterest in drinking, decreased activity, shaky wings, walking like a penguin, abdominal straining, uncharacteristic sitting, passing wet droppings or none at all, droopy, depressed, or pale comb and wattles, and presence of an egg in the oviduct upon an examination.

Being egg-bound simply means a hen has an egg stuck inside of her that she cannot pass or is having difficulty laying. There are different reasons this happens: Lack of calcium, which is what puts the shell on the egg and helps the hen’s muscles contract and push the egg out; obesity- a chicken that is obese can have a difficult time laying an egg, because her muscles are weaker and can’t contract as strongly as they should; infection- sometimes a chicken will have an infection in their reproductive tract. They may have no symptoms at all, but it can still cause all kinds of issues including muscle weakness; malformed eggs- eggs that are very big or misshaped can be problematic for the hen as well; stress- stressors such as a new coop or flock can cause problems for a hen; premature laying- sometimes a hen that starts laying eggs too soon might get egg-bound because they are too young.

Anatomy of a Chicken Courtesy of Paul Smith

Treating an Egg-Bound Hen

How do you treat an egg-bound hen? First, you have to make certain there’s an egg by inserting a gloved finger (coated w/Vaseline) into the suspected hen’s vent to a depth of 2 inches; if you can’t find an egg, there isn’t one, however if there is one, then fill a tub with warm water, and add 1/2 cup of Epsom salt to every 1/2 gallon of water, immersing the hen gently into the water till her abdomen and vent area are soaking. You must be careful, because you don’t want the egg to break; that would be another issue entirely. Keep the hen in the tub for 20 minutes at least before removing her and drying her off.

Keep her separated from the other birds to hopefully encourage laying the egg; you can also lubricate her vent with Vaseline to help the egg slip out. If after her first bath she hasn’t laid the egg in a couple of hours, repeat the bath. If still no success after 3 or 4 baths, you might need to contact your veterinarian. If you can feel the egg, you might be able to remove it in pieces, although it’s not generally recommended, because it can lead to injury and infection.

You can try to prevent egg binding by managing your flock’s diet, giving them the appropriate feed. A chicken feed with 16% protein should contain all that your flock needs, including calcium, however oyster shell should also be available. Controlling worms is another prevention method as is making sure you have enough nesting boxes. Try to reduce stress by eliminating or minimizing changes in coops or flock mates. You can decrease premature laying caused by added lights to the chicken coop by monitoring light exposure until pullets reach maturity around 20 weeks. There isn’t a whole lot to be done about large and misshapen eggs. Sometimes it’s just a one-time thing, though if it becomes habitual that the hen routinely lays large eggs, she needs to be monitored for vent prolapse, which will need to be treated quickly.

Sketch of a Chicken Mite Courtesy of Paul Smith
Sketch of a Chicken Mite

Mites, Lice, Worms, and Other Pests and How to Treat For Them

Mites, lice, ticks, and other worms not specifically mentioned are also bothersome to chickens although not necessarily deadly, and the treatments and preventions are different. Mites and lice can be treated and prevented pretty much the same way, although ticks need a different method. Our birds have had mites, and the natural method is diatomaceous earth, which is supposed to be a cure-all for everything for poultry, but we haven’t had great success with it. I think the first time our chickens were free of mites was when we applied Ivermectin last Spring. It is recommended to treat the birds topically for lice and mites, but for ticks the recommendation is to treat their coop and surrounding area. We have bees so it’s often difficult to find products that actually work that are also safe for the bees.


Either Ivermectin applied topically or Wormout gel added to their water are the best options if there is an infestation; after that start a monthly preventative of 1 TBSP ACV per 1 gallon of water daily for 1 week with garlic sprinkled in their food.

Risks of Extreme Temperatures

Extreme temperatures are something else that can hurt or kill members of our backyard flock, and this is, of course, dependent upon where you live and the breeds of chickens you have. I live in Oklahoma and on occasion we’ve experienced triple digit summers, but at the same time, this is the coldest Winter we’ve had in a long time since I’ve lived here (2010). I actually can’t remember how many times it’s snowed now this season, but at the time that I’m writing this post, it’s 16 degrees outside. Chickens that do well in summers that are hot don’t do so great where it gets cold. Their ventilation system is in their wattles and combs, so the larger the combs and wattles are, it’s great in the summer months, however it’s to their detriment if the conditions are brutally cold in the winter months.

Cold Rooster in Watercolor Courtesy of Paul Smith

We have different breeds in our flock, have always had different breeds, so we have some with large wattles and combs, and we have some with very small wattles and combs, which means we have to be diligent all year round to make sure everyone is doing OK in regards to the weather. Since we’ve moved here we’ve added more trees for shade in the summer months for the birds to keep cool beneath. I added a kiddie pool once, however they wouldn’t go near it. Last year I tried getting a misting system, but Lowe’s and Home Depot didn’t have what I needed, and I’m not sure if that’s because of Covid19 problems or not.

Many people want to add heaters to their coops in winter to protect their flock, although this isn’t a good idea. Your birds can’t acclimatize to the cold if their coop is heated and then go outside in the cold; it can actually make them sick or kill them. Having a heat source in the coop is also a fire risk. We’ve known of a few people whose chicken coops burned down this way.

Heat Exhaustion: Symptoms and How to Prevent it

The risks of extreme temperatures are heat exhaustion and death for the summer months and frostbite and death in the winter months; these are the worst possible things that can happen. Signs of heat stress in chickens to look out for are panting, increased water intake, lethargy and weakness, reduced egg production, reduced feed intake, diarrhea, and outstretched wings and legs. To prevent heat stress make sure there is plenty of fresh, clean water daily, a lot of shade, ventilation in the coop, and frozen treats. In the summer I regularly freeze bananas, and on particularly hot days I make my birds ‘ice cream’ by mixing the frozen bananas, that I slice, into plain Greek yogurt with frozen blueberries. They absolutely love it. Chickens who suffer from cold stress will appear cold with ruffled feathers, huddled, and not moving around a lot.

Drawing of a Rooster with Frostbite Courtesy of Paul Smith


Depending on the conditions and the bird it can lead to frostbite. Birds with large combs and wattles are at more risk of getting frostbite, and it can range from mild to severe. Indications of frostbite are blackening edges of comb and/or wattles, reddening of toes, blackened areas of claws, swelling of comb, wattles, and/or toes. Preventing frostbite is the best option by winterizing the coop with insulation and keeping the bedding dry and keeping proper ventilation. It’s important to examine your birds for evidence of frostbite if it’s been particularly cold. Casanova, our first rooster, got frostbite in late 2017. He usually was very good at staying in the coop in inclement weather; he tried to persuade his flock to do so as well, although they didn’t respect him that much, and so they went outside in the snow anyway. Well, the first couple of days he remained inside like a smart roo, however the third day he left; I suppose he was lonely. When we went to lock them up, we saw that he was lethargic so we brought him to the garage and gave him water and put food in front of him, yet he wouldn’t eat. It wasn’t until the next day that we noticed he had frostbite on his leg. Unfortunately by the time we did anything it was too late, and infection is what most likely did him in.

I mention this because it’s been very cold, and we have two roosters now. Megatron is very suited to this weather, whereas Baby Nay isn’t as much. They don’t have a very good relationship, father and son. Baby Nay gets into trouble with his dad all the time, and he gets kicked out of the coop; when our below freezing weather started last week he was kicked out and was seen lying down in the snow. I was at work, but Paul rescued him, and put him in chicken jail for his safety after examining him for frostbite. And because of Megatron’s behavior, I didn’t let the birds out the following day. I fed them and watered them but left them inside. They have all been sequestered in the coop and run for a week or more now. Normally they don’t like that, however they have all been huddling together, including the ducks, because they need the body heat. We’ve regularly added extra straw to the bedding for insulation as well, and each time Paul has gone outside to feed and water them, he checks them over for frostbite.

How to Treat Frostbite

To treat frostbite, the bird needs to be brought inside, and if the feet are affected, the feet should be placed in warm, not hot, water for about 20-25 minutes, slowly, to bring the tissue back up to temperature. Do NOT apply direct heat, and only soak the bird’s feet in warm water if you’re not going to immediately put it back outside, as this will only cause further damage. Don’t rub on the affected areas and don’t remove any tissue, however keep the area clean with chlorhexadine 2% solution spray 2-3 times a day until healed. Give the bird water and electrolytes with water. Monitor for signs of infection: oozing, redness, swelling, etc. If you live somewhere with access to a poultry vet, call them, because this would require immediate attention depending on the location and size of frostbite, but they would be able to call in prescriptions and give you more guidance.

Causes of Chicken Stress

The illnesses and diseases I’ve gone over so far have been ones that we’ve witnessed personally, thought our birds had, or are common, though this list is certainly not exhaustive. Now I’m going to go over one final issue that can and probably will afflict your flock (if you have one). There’s no medicine to treat this problem or vaccine to prevent it from happening, though it can disrupt the lives of your birds just as easily as any body ravaging illness can.

Stressed out Chicken Courtesy of Paul Smith

Adding Too Many Birds at Once

In a previous post I mentioned how in 2017 our flock was experiencing a lot of changes all at once: 5 adolescent chickens plus 4 adult chickens added to the flock, and a rooster who crowed all night long for several weeks–it was a lot for the flock to take on all at once, and it started presenting in their egg laying, meaning they stopped laying eggs for a time, because they were stressed out.

Abuse or Mishandling

Another time that they stopped laying eggs was January 2019: It was just after their molt, (so they weren’t laying eggs already) and I noticed that the chickens stopped treating me like I was their god; I’m the one who gives them all good things in life and they usually flock to me, but they were actually afraid of me, and it made me very suspicious. Even my rooster was afraid of me. I soon found out that my youngest (she’s now 10) and her friends had been chasing the birds, and 2 of her friends threw some of them in the air, thus the odd behavior. This wasn’t an isolated incident. They had been chasing my birds for some time, and gradually the flock stopped coming out to meet me for treats, which was a big clue something was wrong. They were stressed, so they didn’t lay eggs for 6 or more months extra and didn’t trust me for almost a year!

Disease, parasites, malnutrition, predators, overcrowded conditions, abusive roosters or too many roosters, handling the chickens or being rough with them, especially when they’re molting, lack of clean water, poor ventilation in the coop, and extreme temperatures–any of these situations can stress the girls out and cause their egg production to drop, but some of these things can even cause disease.

The brown eggs are Maran eggs.

Too Many or Unruly Roosters

Two and a half years ago my daughters brought home 4 Cuckoo Maran chicks. I wanted that breed for a couple of reasons: I heard that they laid well in the winter months, and their eggs are a rich chocolate brown, which I thought would complement the blues of my Ameraucanas. One of those chicks developed into a rooster, and he had quite the urges, but Megatron is definitely not like his predecessor; he does not like to share. At all. He would chase Springer off his girls a hundred times a day. Eventually Springer was looking ragged; his tail feathers were not coming in like they should. This went on for weeks, months, what started to feel like forever. Why didn’t Megatron just finish Springer off? Clearly he was wearing both of them out, not to mention the girls.

Four Cuckoo Marans; Springer is the lighter one.

Springer’s behavior started to get worse with the hens, more violent, I suppose because he was desperate. No one wanted to be around him, not one of the hens. Everyone avoided him like the plague. One time he tried getting Soundwave, Megatron’s other hatchery-mate, as she was sneaking back under the fence, and he trapped her there-she was pinned under the fence until one of us went out to rescue her from her attacker.

Springer was then labeled a violent sex offender, and he had to go. He was starting to cause unnecessary stress to the flock, and though Megatron had drawn blood on him, he was unable to put him down, so we needed to do this humanely and quickly before any of the hens were killed or injured.

After Springer was gone there was complete peace in the backyard; it was like the whole flock could breathe a sigh of relief. If Megatron could speak words other than crow, he would’ve thanked us.

The causes of stress to a bird are not that different than stress to a person, although the effects can be divergent. Whenever you notice atypical behavior in your birds, it’s time to start doing some research, and although the literature might recommend culling the flock, it’s not always right or efficacious to put them down, because it can just be something as simple as fixing another issue with a different bird, newcomers, the coop situation, their diet, or children at home who’ve been bothering the flock.

Do you have any stories of chickens getting ill or suffering from something that looked like one of the illnesses I listed in this three part post, and yet it turned out to be something completely different? What about stress? Have you ever noticed your flock stressed before? I would love to hear your stories and your solutions.

Threats To The Backyard Flock, Part Two


This is a continuation of the post I started last week on the different threats your backyard flock might face. Now let’s talk about chicken illnesses, of which there are plenty, but again thankfully few that our birds actually experienced.


It was around a couple of years ago that our Black Sex-Link hen named Hardcase died suddenly, out of the blue, so naturally that had us concerned. My husband did a semi-exam on her, but he’s not a vet, so there wasn’t an autopsy, and we couldn’t say for certain her cause of death. She did, however have bumps in her mouth, which was strange, but previously we never noticed any odd behavior from her — it was so abrupt, so we started examining the rest of our flock and discovered some white spots on the combs of a few of our birds. We separated the 3 hens from the rest of the flock, not knowing at the time what the issue was, as we began investigating any and all sources.

Maybe a day or two later the separated hens started developing sores around their beaks, and in time we realized the hens with the white spots on their combs had fowl pox (chicken pox for chickens, as I call it; it is not contagious to humans). Fowl pox is usually transmitted by biting mosquitoes or new birds who are carriers of the disease. There are also 2 forms of this disease: Wet pox and dry pox. Wet pox is more deadly than dry pox, because wet pox causes throat and respiratory spots that may develop into large growths, which may make it difficult to eat, drink, and breathe. Initially we were advised to euthanize our flock; that’s the preferred method most people take with birds, because there aren’t a whole lot of poultry vets out there, and illnesses spread so quickly; and if you look at the literature out there, everything says they’ll die, but we were very adamant against doing that.

Sketch of Chicken with Fowl Pox Courtesy of Hannah Smith

These chickens are not our source of food or income; they’re our pets. We’ve named each one, and they all have a story, so we couldn’t just slaughter them. We kept the three hens separated for the requisite time period, prayed for the flock, and in the meanwhile I ordered a vaccine for my remaining birds. Once a bird has fowl pox, if they live, immunity is supposedly life-long. It’s a slow-spreading disease, which is the main reason why I ordered a vaccine; I didn’t want to wait and see what happened to the rest of my birds. I know now that Hardcase must’ve had the wet pox and the other three had the dry pox, and thankfully none of the other birds contracted the illness, because quarantine is a long time away from the flock. I’m happy to report that all 3 hens recovered.


Another disease is coccidiosis, which is a parasitic illness caused by coccidian protozoa, primarily affecting birds when they are younger, which is generally why medicated feed is offered, at least here in Oklahoma. Adult chickens can also get coccidiosis, although they are more resistant due to earlier exposure to infection according to Merck Manual. Signs of infection are decreased growth rate, severe diarrhea, death, and if adults, decreased egg production.

I already mentioned medicated feed for chicks, but if you have an adult bird with coccidiosis, there’s Amprolium (the same treatment in medicated chick starter), which blocks the parasite’s ability to uptake and multiply. Keep brooders and coops clean and dry, make sure waterers are clean, don’t overcrowd the coop, and don’t throw feed and treats on the ground. If you have waterfowl with chickens, make sure the coop is clean and dry and change the water often.

Jango, the hen I thought had gapeworm.


Gapeworm is another issue the birds might come into contact with. When we only had our flock for a couple of years, one of the hens my mother-in-law gave me stretched her neck and coughed from time to time; it had me concerned that she might have gapeworm, however in the end she in fact did not. (Affected chickens stretch their necks out, with their beaks open, gasping for air.) If she ended up having gapeworm, we would have had to order a de-wormer like Ivermectin, although one way to prevent gapeworm is to keep the environment clean and dust-free, tilling the soil in the run at the end of the growing season, which is supposed to reduce residual infection, and to keep up with the worming schedule.

Chickens will stretch their necks out to adjust their crops; I’ve seen my birds adjust theirs after they’ve been eating a lot of food, especially any leftovers I bring out to them, because they eat like the food is running out, and so stuff themselves.


There are mixed reviews for natural de-wormers out there. I’ve used apple cider vinegar and garlic since having chickens, however this past Spring our birds all got the yucky anyway (not gapeworm), and we had to administer Ivermectin after I ordered Wormout gel from Australia-it was going to take several weeks to arrive, and I was impatient to treat my birds. With Ivermectin you just apply the treatment topically, while Wormout gel is added to their water. (I didn’t dose my chickens with the other when it arrived.)

I have read many reviews and spoken to fellow chicken owners who have tried the natural methods as well. Birds, just like any other animal, just like you and me, will still get ill no matter our best laid plans, and sometimes we have to take the stronger stuff. I haven’t administered any more “strong stuff”, because I haven’t seen any indication that I need to. I continue to put ACV in their water once a month; (1 TBSP per 1 gallon each day for 1 week X once a month and sprinkle some garlic in their feed that same week.

Mixed Backyard Flock at Backdoor of House
Our boss hen Fives, the Silver-Laced Wyandotte, close to the front.

Our old boss hen, Fives, had a respiratory illness once, (she was coughing but didn’t have any other symptoms beyond that) and we have no idea what it was, however we separated her from the rest of the flock and once again called my daughter’s father-in-law for an antibiotic. I’m not sure it actually did anything, but eventually she was her old self again as she issued orders and yelled at her subordinates. As always it is recommended to quarantine ill birds from the rest of your flock and to keep the environment clean and dust-free, which can be difficult since these birds love taking dust baths. If you purchase new birds, remember to keep them separate as well for a couple of weeks, to determine if they are healthy or not, before mixing them with the flock.


Avian flu, or more commonly bird flu, is one that is often heard of at least yearly, and when Fives had her mysterious illness we were concerned she might have had it, however no other chicken got sick, she didn’t present with any other symptoms other than coughing, and she recovered. Symptoms include a general decrease in roaming and activity, cyanosis or blueness in the head area, reduction in their appetite, wet eyes, excessive flock huddling and ruffled feathers, fluid in the comb and wattles, decrease in egg production, coughing, legs bleeding underneath the skin, and sudden death. Again the only symptom Fives had was coughing.

You might not completely prevent your birds from getting bird flu, however there are things you can do to protect them: Don’t encourage wild birds from stopping by your yard by feeding them and keep your feeders and waterers clean. Bird flu, just like other bird illnesses, can spread by wild birds. Clean out the coop on a regular basis, pick up feed spillages to avoid attracting wild birds, and have dedicated clothing and footwear you use when handling your birds; make sure not to wear this when anywhere else but around your own birds, especially when around other chickens, because bird flu can live on clothes that have been contaminated by an unhealthy flock for up to two months. Also don’t borrow or use equipment from other people who own chickens, and clean your own equipment with which you used to transport your birds or clean out their coops. And monitor your flock’s behavior, appearance, and appetite.

Avian flu is highly contagious and deadly to birds and humans, although there are vaccines for humans, and failing that, if bird flu is still contracted, antivirals can be administered within 2 days. The only recommendations there are for birds who catch this disease are euthanizing the whole flock, appropriate disposal of the carcasses, and sanitizing the coop.

Sketch of Chickens with Marek's Disease Courtesy of Hannah Smith
This is a sketch of Marek’s Disease.


Another illness in birds is Marek’s disease. Symptoms of this are paralysis of legs, wings, and neck, loss of weight, grey iris or irregular pupil, and vision impairment. It is one of the most common illnesses in small flocks and not treatable once the clinical signs have started, however it is preventable.

Marek’s is caused by a chicken herpes virus, but it won’t make people sick, and once an animal becomes infected, it will remain infected, however not all animals will become sick if infected. Birds become infected by inhaling virus-laden dander, and while the virus is easily killed in it’s pure form, the virus itself can live for years in the dander, meaning that once the disease enters a coop, it can live for a very long time, years, even if birds are all gone. The only way to prevent this disease is to vaccinate day-old chicks before they’re exposed to the virus. Unfortunately not all hatcheries will vaccinate their chicks; the vaccine itself is tricky and has to be used within very specified conditions for it to be effective.

Our trio of Black Ameraucana’s. Shockwave is the one closest to the front.


Vitamin deficiency is something to note here, because it can mimic Marek’s disease. A couple of years ago we think Megatron injured one of his hatchery-mates when he decided he wanted some ‘lovin’; he’s not very coordinated when it comes to mating, and he injured his hatchery-mate (Shockwave), we noticed as she stopped using one of her wings. Eventually she stopped competing for food, I think because she was afraid of getting hurt further by the other birds, so she’d hang back until there was less competition. At the time we didn’t realize what was going on. We knew she was hurt, and we surmised it was due to Megs, but we didn’t realize she was waiting on food, because she was always there when food was being dished out, however over the course of a couple of weeks she started to get weaker, until she was no longer walking.

Sketch of Hen with Vitamin Deficiency Courtesy of Hannah Smith
This is a sketch of our hen Shockwave with vitamin deficiency, but I’ve seen many more photos of birds that look a lot worse.

We thought it was Marek’s due to the paralysis; Hannah was convinced, but I’d remind her that Shockwave was injured originally, so it didn’t make sense. Something was missing, and so I continued researching the matter until I came across vitamin deficiencies that mimic Marek’s. I went to the store and purchased Poly-Vi-Sol infant liquid multivitamin and immediately started administering it to Shockwave. Unfortunately it was too little too late; she died the following day. I felt horrible, because I thought I knew what was going on in my flock and yet here was a bird who died, and I felt it was completely preventable. My point in sharing this story with you is that Newcastles Disease and Marek’s Disease mimic vitmain deficiency in the presentation of paralysis, so it’s vitally important to look at all of the signs. If we had acted sooner we could have saved our hen.


Newcastle Disease is another respiratory illness which causes breathing problems, discharge from nares (nostrils on a chicken), eyes will look murky, egg laying will begin to wane, and wings can become paralyzed as well as birds’ necks becoming twisted.

Sketch of Chickens with Newcastle Disease Courtesy of Hannah Smith

This disease is carried by wild birds, and just like bird flu, it can remain on your clothing and be passed to your flock. Although most older birds will recover, younger birds are at an increased risked from dying from it. Even though there are vaccines available to prevent this disease, there is no treatment for it except antibiotics for secondary infections and supplements. Also like bird flu, Newcastle disease can be spread to people, though it isn’t deadly, producing either no symptoms at all, mild flu-like symptoms, or conjunctivitis or pink eye.

All of the sketches in the post courtesy of Hannah Smith.

Threats To The Backyard Flock, Part One


In this post I’m going to go over some things that are a danger to your backyard flock. Some, like predators and diseases, are obvious, but others, like stress, aren’t as noticeable, or we don’t always link stress as the cause of the problem.


First, we’ll start with the majors: Predators. If you live in the country, you’re likely to run into a lot of them, or rather, they’re more likely to run into you and your flock, ducks, or rabbits, whatever you have in your pasture or backyard. We have all three.

Sketch of Fox Courtesy of Paul Smith

I’ve seen a fox in our neighborhood once, however none have ever gotten our chickens thankfully, though I know they can be a menace; in East Texas where my mother-in-law lives on her 40 acres, foxes have routinely taken her chickens to feed their little ones.

Skunks, opossums, raccoons, and coyotes are also a threat, but once again we have been very blessed to live in the neighborhood we live in, which is in the country on only one acre in a neighborhood of 1 to 5 acre lots. We have a neighbor who lives a minute or two away (by car) on 5 acres, and they’ve had coyotes. I recall one time a raccoon came to our neighbor’s house next to us in the 6 years we’ve lived here, and he let us know about it, although it never even came into our yard.

tan and black dogs
Photo by Helena Lopes on

There are also dogs, which is probably the biggest threat to our flock, because living where we do, dogs are basically allowed to run free; we even know who owns the dogs that run free, and one or two of them even look like they’re starving, but there’s no animal control where we live, and it’s really sad.

One of our friend’s and good neighbor’s dog attacked and killed one of our roosters (by digging under our fence where the broilers liked to relax) when we were first starting out, and he felt so bad about it that he replaced the bird with another rooster. We have had other dogs get in our backyard; there’s a couple of black labs that know how to lift the latch on our gate and they gave our birds a fright a few years ago, however the birds jumped the fence before anything else happened. We now put a lock on the gate.

Girls holding Chicken Snake

Snakes are another predator, although they are more of a threat to eggs and chicks than adult chickens. In May 2017 we had a 4-ft long chicken snake in our yard, but when I noticed, from our picture window in our family room, our bunny jumping up in the distance, like she was either getting stung by bees or getting bitten by a snake, I didn’t know for sure what was going on, so my daughter Hannah went outside to check the situation out.

In the meantime all of the chickens were heading in the same direction, strangely concentrated on one thing, so I soon followed my daughter. That’s when we knew it was a snake. At the time we still didn’t know what kind of snake it was. Hannah had it pinned to the ground, my husband was at work, and we were just concerned that there was a snake in the yard. Another neighbor came over and took care of the problem for us, and it was then that we calmed down and were able to ascertain that it was a chicken snake. Oddly I think the chickens would have gotten rid of it; I think that’s exactly what they were doing, driving it away.

September 2019 one of our most favorite and least likely hens went broody, and the two eggs successfully hatched. The chicks were only a couple of days old, so Davis wasn’t leaving or prepared to leave the coop yet, although the next morning when I went to let the birds out I saw Davis in the run. This was the first time we actually had a broody hen successfully hatch chicks; I was aware that the mother wouldn’t leave with her chicks for some time, but again this was new, so I wasn’t really sure what was going on.

Pinning the snake down.

My husband was outside as well taking care of the bunny and he asked me if I saw both chicks; I thought I had, but he didn’t, so he looked in the coop and saw a snake, which had gotten one of the new chicks. That’s why Davis and the other chick were out in the run. It was a chicken snake, smaller than the first one that got in our yard, and we reasoned that it was able to slip in between the run door and frame-the space was just big enough. Our neighbor closest to the coop used to have a barn cat that was pretty good at keeping critters like that away, though Bobby passed away early 2019. Since that incident we installed more hardware cloth on the door so when it’s closed there’s no longer any space for snakes to sneak in.

Hawk in Tree
A hawk on a tree limb of my birds’ favorite tree.

The following section contains imagery of graphic animal injury.

The other biggest predator threat that our birds face is from the air: Hawks. When we had our first real flock of chickens we had an Ameraucana we called Cody; she liked to forage by herself. This was back when Paul was building the big coop. Well, one day we went running errands, and when we got back Cody was gone. There weren’t any dog tracks-it had rained the day before, so the ground was still muddy. We looked everywhere, looking for tracks. Nothing. We think she got taken by a hawk, but we can never be entirely sure.

April 20, 2018 Hannah went outside to collect eggs around midday. Oddly all of the chickens were in the run, so she suspected something was wrong, especially when she saw all of the feathers in the yard. She went to the other side, the coop side, and looked inside and spotted Rex, Cody’s sister and tried to pick her up, and that’s when she realized what happened, without knowing the exact details.

Chicken Injured by Hawk
Rex’s injury from the hawk attack.

Rex had been attacked, most of her tail feathers had been pulled out, and she only had a flap of skin left on her backside. We were left trying to figure out who or what the predator was. Was it a dog? The gates were all closed, and we didn’t think it could be a small dog squeezing through the fence. A cat, possibly, but we couldn’t imagine it. We thought about a hawk, but hawks don’t let go of their prey, so we easily dismissed that.

We put Rex in a cage with water and food, put some medicine on her wound and then talked to my father-in-law who recommended we get an antibiotic. My oldest daughter’s father-in-law is also a veterinarian and he’s local, so we called him, and the next day we picked up some antibiotics for our bird. The next 10 days Rex ended up hating us for her treatment, however she was on the mend with the shot in her rear.

It wasn’t until a couple of days later when we learned the truth of what happened to our bird. Our neighbor across the street was just getting off of work when he saw the hawk dive to attack and pick up one of our hens, but then it unbelievably dropped Rex and flew away. That’s why our bird is still alive today. That and the antibiotics. Consequently she has a reputation and an attitude now. She’s the bird who lived.

This is a close-up of hardware cloth with a rooster in the backgroud.


So how do you protect your flock from predators? The first and foremost recommendation is to lock your birds up at night once it’s dark. They all have an instinct to go in the coop, at least ours do, so they let themselves in at night. Some, the ones on the lowest end of the totem pole, are the last to go to bed, but as soon as it’s dark, I go out to shut the run door. I bring a flashlight with me to make sure everyone’s in the coop as I do a head count, double checking that the doors are secure before leaving. The second most important suggestion is to make sure you have a predator-proof chicken coop and run, since most predators go out at night when the flock goes in. My husband put hardware cloth or wire mesh on the run, which is more sturdy and smaller in diameter than chicken wire. I wouldn’t recommend putting in any windows unless they’re made out of the hardware cloth as well. I’ve heard of too many stories of raccoons getting into the hen house through windows.


Invest in a guard dog for the flock-that’s just what my in-laws did. They were tired of the yearly assaults by foxes so they bought a Great Pyrenees mix. Lights and noises are also supposed to be deterrents, and because of the latter, guinea hens might make good alarms to predators due to the odd sounds they make.

It is illegal in the United States to kill hawks or owls, even if they kill or attack our source of food or income. Raptors are protected, so we have to discourage them from coming to our yards. Roosters don’t always fight predators; a lot of people mistakenly think they do. Casanova fought us over who was going to be the head roo, while Megatron fights actual roosters, to put them in their place (kinda like Casanova, only he was slightly confused), but the rooster is supposed to warn of danger; that’s the main way he protects the flock. There isn’t any way he can take on a dog, skunk, raccoon, or hawk; it would be futile unless the predator was smaller than him. Since Rex got attacked by the hawk, any time our flock hears bird sounds they run for the coop; they either can’t differentiate between a crow, a Mississippi kite, and a hawk, so they take cover just in case, or they decide to take cover, because they’d rather be safe than sorry.

Over the years though, we have discovered that the crows and Mississippi kites have nests in the trees surrounding our property, and sometimes when a hawk has flown over screeching, a family of crows or kites will escort the raptor away to keep their own nests and young safe; we’ve witnessed it, although the hawks soon learn and adapt, and stop screeching in order to go undetected. The crows and kites can keep the raptors away, but we can’t depend upon them.


The summer months are safer for our birds, because they’re warmer (or hotter, depending upon where you live), so they seek out shade. When we first moved into our house there were only two trees big enough in our backyard where the birds could sit and keep relatively cool. I soon learned they were far safer from predators under those trees in the summer than out walking around in the winter or autumn in full sunlight where they were exposed. In the Spring of 2016 we planted three fruit trees, and every year since we’ve planted more, either fruit or ornamental.

We used to have dogs until Moses’ (our Shetland Sheep dog’s) demise last year, and I truly believe his presence helped discourage aerial attacks; I also believe that if the birds tolerate the dog, and the dog warms to the flock and doesn’t hurt them, then utilize dogs for the benefit of everyone. They are possibly the most beneficial resource we have to dissuade predators from our property; we have only to train them properly.

Some Strange and Some Cute Cat Behavior

Cats have very interesting behaviors, however sometimes it may seem that all they do is sleep. That isn’t necessarily true though, and if we watch, we can see all the ways in which they communicate.


A couple months ago I started paying attention to our older cat Meow Meow, when she would go outside and then return inside, how she would rub her face on the door frame. After a while I started thinking she probably has scent glands, especially after a few weeks ago when Cake, our second cat, tried doing the exact same thing, and Meow Meow gave Cake the nastiest look, like ‘How dare you?’ Cake wisely did not leave any scent marks on the door.

The cats staring at each other.


I verified this information and discovered that cats actually have about 5 scent glands around their faces alone which release pheromones. When watching nature shows we only hear about the other, less pleasant ones, but more often than not, it’s the ones around the face that they use to mark with, that or their claws/paws.

What Meow Meow was doing, and now Cake has since been allowed to do, was mark their territory. Doing so not only lets other cats in the neighborhood know that our house belongs to Cake and Meow Meow, but it also calms our cats and reassures Cake and Meow that our house is indeed their home too.

Russian Blue Cat


Cats will also rub on people to communicate their needs or wants. Sometimes they might be communicating a desire to be fed or to go outside. My cats will rub on my legs, meow at me, sometimes there will be a lot of verbal communication going on, and then they will watch me to see if I will follow where they lead, to show me exactly what they want. Sometimes they will show me their food bowls, indicating they do not want the healthy food; they prefer the full fat, full flavor food, all day long. And other times they want to go outside. I recall when Cake realized I could speak ‘cat’. Meow Meow came and got me, meowed at me for a really long time, then took me to the front door, so I let her out. Cake was just astonished; she thought I was stupid and up until that time had been treating me as such.

Cats can also rub against your face or head bump you, which is equivalent to a hug. Meow Meow has always rubbed her face against us, typically our hands, however Cake had been someone else’s pet before coming to live with us, and they found her in the dumpster, so she was reluctant to show those traits of trust. She seemed like she was always on the alert in the first few months.

Tortoiseshell cat

It might have been a couple of months ago that Cake started relaxing enough with me, that she marked me with one of the scent glands on her neck, and I wondered if she considered me her tribe, territory, comforting, or a bit of all three. It wasn’t long after when she warmed up to Hannah, my 18 year old. When Cake joined our family she was friendly initially, but not like Meow Meow, because she wouldn’t just let us pet her. She was kinda jumpy; she clearly didn’t have confidence in us.

Cats can display trust to people and others by eating with their backs to you (or other cats). If they feel threatened, they face what they may consider their fear. Meow Meow has never faced me when she’s slept on my bed or eaten her food, at least to my memory. Cake used to, but now she is quite comfortable chowing down on her food in my presence. I don’t know that I would go so far as to say the cats trust each other yet, however they don’t fear each other. I’ve mentioned before that they can co-habit the same room, but they have been known to share the same piece of furniture with their backs to each other, indicating that they don’t feel threatened. That isn’t the norm however. They have a Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde relationship with each other, both of them do. They treat each other one way in the house and a completely opposite way when they go outside. They can be at complete odds when they’re inside, but as soon as they go outside, they can be best buds, so we have hope for them yet.

Tortoiseshell cat and Nebulong cat on couch
It’s kind of difficult to see Meow Meow, but she’s on top of the faux fur blanket left hand side; she can blend in with her surroundings.


Something else cats undertake, although not necessarily throughout their lives, is snurgling, aka kneading or kneading biscuits. It is often referred to as ‘kneading biscuits,’ because cats stand up, and from what I’ve witnessed, use their front paws to rhythmically push their paws in and out on blankets or any soft object, much like they’re kneading dough. Some cats might use all four paws, making noise while kneading and even salivate. They could even snurgle their owner.

Cake is the first cat we’ve observed this behavior in that wasn’t a kitten. What is snurgling or kneading, one might ask. Well, I described the actions, now I will give possible reasons for the act. Many believe it is an intuitive and automatic trait carried on from when they were kittens. When a kitten snurgles or kneads its mother’s teats, the kitten is stimulating the milk supply. Clearly the kitten associated goodness with that of eating and that of its mother, so when an adult cat kneads a person or a blanket, it feels content. If you have a cat that kneads biscuits on you and the action hurts, first of all, it’s a sign of affection, however it also means that it’s time to trim those claw.

Tortoiseshell cat in basket

Another idea of kneading is that the adult cat has inherited its wild ancestor’s mannerisms. Undomesticated cats paw at piles of leaves and grass in an effort to create dens for their young and themselves. By pawing the ground they are inspecting for predators. I have personally seen Cake use her paws/claws to move a blanket around in order to make it more comfortable. I’m not entirely sold on the idea that she was checking for danger, just because it appeared that she was trying to get cozy and promptly laid down and started to snooze.

I have read that another reason cats can knead is when they go into heat, however I don’t believe that one since both our cats are spayed. Whatever the reason, they look adorable when they do it.

We’ve now had Cake with us for 6 months, give or take a month. She plays with Hannah, she head bumps me frequently, rubs against me, and more than tolerates me when I pick her up, which she couldn’t at all before. Meow Meow doesn’t like being picked up either, though I think it’s for different reasons other than trust issues. Meow Meow has weight problems, and she might feel the pull of gravity on her body and therefore fear that she might come crashing down.

Overweight Tortoiseshell Cat in Massage Chair


Another interesting thing cats do is chittering. We first discovered this with Meow Meow, watching her as she watched little swallows out the picture window. We assumed she was casting spells on the little birds she couldn’t get. Cake has this same habit. Who knows exactly what they are doing, but evidently it is a common quirk. Our cats don’t make this chittering noise at our chickens or ducks, only at the little birds. It is thought that perhaps cats are frustrated that they cannot hunt, so they’re voicing their complaint.

Cats make a variety of noises, much like chickens do. It’s quite interesting to realize they have a repertoire of language at their disposal, and yet I wonder what does it all mean? I have written about the male cat who comes calling on my cats before. Cake wants nothing more to do with him, though Meow Meow is not so sure. She flirts with danger. When she sees him out the window she hisses and growls and sometimes she even moans. What can that be about? Some might argue she’s yowling at him, trying to force him to go away, but I’m not so sure. That could be a possible reason, she is spayed after all. She is very territorial too, so I guess it’s possible.

Cats are nocturnal creatures. After having Meow Meow for a few years I learned the hard way to start feeding her at night. She started meowing, incessantly I might add, in the middle of the night for food or out of boredom, I’m not really sure. I’m less inclined to think Meow Meow was bored than Cake; after all Meow is the one who sleeps the day away. It wasn’t long before Cake was waking us up at 1 am with ‘Meow. Meow. Meow. Meow. Meow. Meow.’ And so on and so forth. She was bored, but unfortunately at the time she and Meow Meow didn’t really get along. They still don’t ‘get along,’ but they can at least tolerate each other now.

I hope you enjoyed this post! Please feel free to leave a comment or ask a question. I don’t claim to know all the answers, but I promise to do my best to find one.

Chicken Soup With Acini Di Pepe


This chicken soup recipe was passed down through the generations on my mother’s side, beginning back when, I’m told, her ancestors lived in Sicily till they emigrated to New York, eventually making their way south and west to Arizona.

My mother learned this recipe from her mom, probably started making it by the time she was a pre-teen, and then she handed it down to me. It’s one of my kids’ favorite things to eat when they go to her house, even if it has stewed tomatoes in it. Even though it can be considered an old recipe, it’s quite simple to make, and I’ve even made some tweaks of my own.

Ingredients for a Family of Four:

  • 2 chicken breast halves
  • 1 Tbsp Better Than Bouillon Roasted Chicken Base
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 small diced red onion
  • 2 diced celery, leaves removed
  • 1 diced carrot or 10 oz package of mixed vegetables
  • 1/4-1/2 cup fresh or canned whole tomato, diced or pulsed in food processor
  • 1 Tbsp dry parsley
  • 1/2 cup Acini di Pepe (Da Vinci is the brand I use)


  • Cook chicken with 1 Tbsp Better Than Bouillon chicken base in 2 1/2 quarts of water over medium high heat. When it starts to boil, lower to a simmer, and put a lid on the pot.
  • When the chicken is cooked, check if it has enough salt, and add salt to taste if needed.
  • Remove chicken and shred once it’s cooked through.
  • Add pepper, onion, celery, tomatoes, and carrots or mixed vegetables to pot, and simmer for 9 minutes.
  • Add parsley and increase heat to medium high, to get water boiling.
  • Add Acini di Pepe last, when everything is cooked, and cook for 8-9 minutes more in boiling water.
  • Add shredded chicken back to pot and heat through.
  • Serve immediately.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and if you make this soup, please let me know what you think! Also feel free to change it as you like!

Our Dogs


My first best friend was my dog Suzy growing up. She was a poodle, and I still remember the day when we picked her up. We went to a breeder because my mom wanted a champagne poodle. When I was little my parents were all about getting pedigree dogs.

animal dog pet cute
Photo by Huy Phan on

I don’t quite know what it was about her or what she found in me that she liked, but she and I became friends. She was protective of me, and when I left home, she remained faithful to me, watching for my return.

Our dog Kirby, after getting shaved for the hot summer weather.

I already mentioned in a previous post how when Paul and I married he had an 8 year old Sheltie named Kirby. Previously I was a single mother with a 5 year old daughter, so not long after marrying we found a female tri-color Sheltie for my daughter Rebekah, because she wanted a dog of her own.

Unfortunately that didn’t quite work out the way we intended, because you see, Roxy became my dog. Rebekah was about 6 years old when we got Roxy, and even though she had all this love to dote on this dog, Roxy was quite skittish. She was the runt of the litter, the very last puppy to be taken, but I promise you, she was probably the best dog of the litter. Kids being kids, they don’t understand inherently how to interact with animals on the animals’ basis, what the animal wants or needs. Our youngest is struggling with this right now.

My dog Roxy.

Kirby taught Roxy how to be a dog, how to go potty, etc; he was really like an older brother to a younger sibling, showing her the ropes, so training her was super easy. They both were extremely obedient, but whereas Kirby was getting older, not quite old, but definitely middle-age, Roxy was very energetic and agile. She could do tricks that I never saw Kirby do. When I’d come home from work she’d run and jump into my arms; she wasn’t a small dog, more like a medium sized dog. She’d jump on top of the car, not the hood, but the roof, in her excitement! I wish I had videos of all the crazy things she did, but this was back in 2002, and it was sporadic.

They both liked to eat, mostly whatever was in front of them. Paul was really bad about giving Kirby snacks, including snacks that are now well known to cause dogs problems. He would give his dog Oreos when we first married, claiming he didn’t know they were bad for dogs. Now they don’t really have that much chocolate in them, they’re supposedly Vegan, but their sugar content isn’t good, so one lone Oreo isn’t necessarily bad, but the amount he gave to his dog over the course of just our marriage could be bad, not including all of the other snacks he fed Kirby.

There were times Paul would make himself a sandwich, walk away, and when he came back to eat his sandwich, all that would be left were two slices of bread. What happened? Roxy came in the kitchen and while the sandwich was on the counter, she jumped up and stole the innards of said sandwich, leaving the bread untouched.

Roxy watching out her doggie window in our first home.

Some might say that was just since Hannah, our second child and around 2-3 years old at the time, was stealing the dog food. Sounds gross, right? I agree. I’d make food, but Hannah would rather eat dog food. My in-laws told me the dog food wouldn’t hurt her. You should have seen the dogs faces while she ate their food. They were completely scandalized.

In 2005 Kirby got sick, stomach wise and all over the place. I immediately took him to the vet, and they were going to run tests. Hours later, when I heard from them, I was told that Kirby died on the table, but from the blood work they were able to do, he had liver issues. After discussing it with my in-laws the only thing we could come up with was Kirby’s diet; like I said, he ate a lot of things he shouldn’t have eaten: Pork, grapes, etc, however, having said that, he still lived to be 12 years old; a Shetland Sheepdog’s life expectancy is 12-13 years.

The really sad thing was one week later when I went to work, I felt like I should lock Roxy up in my bedroom, but I didn’t; it wasn’t an overwhelming thought, it was just a brief idea to put her in a back room and close the door in case a repairman came by (because we had a leak in our washer), and then it flitted past.

I went on my lunch break, saw I had a message, and after listening to it (I needed to call this company, repairman did go by my house), I called the company, and jokingly said, “Are you going to tell me my dog is dead?” I promise I was joking, but it was something about how the past few weeks were going; I was feeling quite morbid. “I’m sorry,” the lady on the other end said. She proceeded to tell me how when the repairman entered my house, Roxy ran out the door, so the repairman ran after her, but since we lived near a major street, she got hit by a car. “Why did he run after her?” I asked. “Of course she was going to run away!” I was horrified. Roxy was my favorite animal up to that point, and I wasn’t prepared for both she and Kirby to be gone.

Moses with my oldest, youngest (at the time), and me. He was 4 yrs old.

It took some time for me to get over their deaths, but only a couple months later we went out and bought another Sheltie, and this time we called him Moses. He became Rebekah’s dog; she was 10 years old at the time. I don’t think I was ready to have another dog, then or even now. I’m not sure why exactly, whether it’s because I didn’t get to enjoy all the years I felt like we should have had or if it’s something else.

Moses was the only dog or pet we’ve had since the end of 2005 until 2015 when we moved into our house with an acre where we could spread out. When he was less than a couple months old he had an accident where he had a big fall from my husband’s truck, but he seemed OK; it wasn’t until we moved to Arizona in 2009 that symptoms of epilepsy started showing, only as tics in his head at the time.

After we had been living in Oklahoma for a year or two, it was then that the tics increased, and Moses actually had a full blown Grand Mal Seizure. I think he had at least one, maybe two more smaller seizures before we talked to my father-in-law about this.

My father-in-law is a veterinarian, and he recommended decreasing his food intake, suggesting that Moses was overweight. Now I know that I said all of our pets, excluding Meow Meow, were in good shape, but clearly this was after implementing my father-in-law’s advice.

Rather than only feeding Moses twice a day, like we were used to doing, we opted for feeding him a little bit less food three times a day, and we took him for more walks. In time he became more trim and he ended up not having any more seizures, however it didn’t get rid of the tics that he continued to have.

Since Rebekah got married (in 2014), we moved into our house (in 2015), and acquiring a lot more animals, not to mention work schedules changing more than 3 times between the 3 working adults in the house, and some animals just getting older, they just don’t get quite the same attention as they used to. I think when the animals are younger and more demanding, they command a certain amount of attention, but as they age, they sleep more, sadly slipping more into the background like Moses ended up doing. Meow is currently in that stage.

Now I don’t want you to think we totally abandoned or neglected Moses or are neglecting Meow Meow; after Rebekah married and got her own place with her husband, MoMo became my husband’s dog. He was a fireman, so he worked 24 on 24 off, and on his days off, he looked after his dog, not that we ignored him, because we didn’t; we just didn’t engage him like Paul did. We were busy either doing school work, work-work, or other things, and as I noted, he started sleeping a lot more unless it was time to go outside or eat.

Meow is at that age/stage in her life where she sleeps most of her day away, sometimes out of sight, although we do look for her and try to engage her, but then again, she is a cat. Since getting another cat I have noticed that she is more playful and active, not as active as Cake, but more than she has been in at least a year.

Marley, the service dog, who lived with us for ~ 8 months last year (2019).

In early Spring 2019 we took in a service dog, from a neighbor who’s brother had her to help him with his Parkinson’s, and she was very overweight. They got her from someone else, a long line of people who use these service animals. Our neighbor with Parkinson’s died, and his brother, who is friends with my husband, didn’t know what to do with the service dog; he said he was going to take her to the pound. I’m not sure if he was just distraught about the death of his brother or what, but Paul, my husband, didn’t want to see this animal put down, so we opened our home to Marley.

Because she’s a service animal, she eventually started looking out for our last Sheltie Moses. He was 14 years old, twice her age, and that might have been one of the best years he had, because he had a companion, and not just a human companion.

She lived with us for around 8 months, and in that time we put her on a diet, and slowly but surely she began to drop that extra weight. We also tried to find a home for her, because she started picking up bad habits, like digging holes under the fence. I wondered if she was bored, because she wasn’t doing what she was trained to do, look after someone. She also didn’t like being outside a good part of the day whereas with her previous owner she stayed indoors with him; we had to keep Moses outside unless the weather didn’t permit it, because he was getting incontinent, and so she joined him, because he really liked her company.

Marley in our backyard.

It was when my husband went out of town that I started looking for a home for her in earnest. I knew the neighbor we got her from mentioned Marley was a service animal, so I asked where they got her; after all, she should go back to the company they got her from. Service animals are hard to get, because it takes years and a lot of money to train them. Unfortunately they didn’t remember where they got her.

I took some pictures of her and talked to another neighbor of mine. His daughter works at an animal rescue, and when he found out Marley was a service animal, he was positive we wouldn’t have an issue finding a home for her.

I didn’t hear from his daughter for a couple of days, and when I did get a message from her, it was to say that they had to weed through all the calls; they had an enormous amount of requests for Marley, (from war vets to disabled individuals) so they were trying to pick the right fit, but first they wanted to meet Marley to test her and see what kind of training she actually had. Apparently the animal rescue has someone there who is knowledgeable in that area of expertise, and my neighbor’s daughter came to pick Marley up that evening.

The following day I received a call letting me know they found a home for Marley; she passed the tests with flying colors. Not long after I received a picture of Marley with her new owner; she went to help a little girl with epilepsy. I know she’s happy, because she’s taking care of someone even though she started doing that, in a way, with our dog Moses.

The beginning of last year (2020) Moses started to go downhill; he stopped eating and going to the bathroom, and he had some tumors on his body. There were times when we weren’t sure if he was dead or not, he would sleep so deeply. After weeks of heartache, my husband took MoMo to the vet to put him down, and that was one of the most difficult decisions he ever made, always second guessing himself.

We have not gotten another dog as of yet.



I love animals, I’m going to just put that out there. We’ve had dogs, now chickens, ducks, cats, and a rabbit, but I think my favorite animals are the ones that are like me, on the independent side. I suppose that’s why the chickens, cats, and I all get along so well.

For most of my marriage Paul and I only had dogs, and for the most part, only one at a time, however that changed 6 years ago when we moved into our house and a few weeks later inherited some chickens. Not long after we were in love with poultry, and then a neighbor gave us a rabbit. Four and half years later his mother offered us a rescue cat, a tortoiseshell they called Perker. The first time she offered her to us we politely declined, although the following year both of our youngest girls (now 18 and 10) spent a week with their mamaw and begged us for ‘Perker’; we couldn’t say no.

This is Meow Meow from a couple of years ago, when she wasn’t as large as she is now.

They brought the cat home, and she stayed in our detached garage for a few months. Her back story was that she used to have a family, but when a tornado struck East Texas, she was soon without a home, and when no one claimed her, she stayed at the vet’s office my father-in-law worked at for some time before he eventually brought her home to their house.

She’s fixed, and it’s evident by her pouch that she’s had a litter of kittens, but where they are now is anyone’s guess. When my daughters would visit East Texas, ‘Perker’ would do everything in her power to get close to them.

Like most cats, she slept a lot, but every time we visited the garage, she would spare a minute or two for us, however she always purred loudest when we paid attention to her. Soon we brought her inside, just to see how she’d do with our dog.

She doesn’t like dogs, so whenever she’d see our Sheltie, she’d start a fight with him, but other than that, she loved being in the house, and it wasn’t long before she started living in the house with us, and my husband even changed her name to Meow Meow Kitty Kitty, although for a time he thought maybe she infected him with a mind controlling parasite. No, really it’s true.

Cats can be infected with ‘mind controlling’ parasites that cause toxoplasmosis, which increases risk-taking behavior. My husband did not have the parasite; he got tested, and he was fine.

In time our Sheltie had to move out to the garage, because he was growing incontinent due to age, and Meow Meow became queen of her domain, literally letting herself go; she only weighed 8 lbs when we got her, but now she’s tipping the scale at close to 12 lbs!

Meow Meow a month ago.

About three months ago my 18 year old’s best friend dropped off one of her cats with us. Originally I wasn’t exactly excited about this; I’ve had cats before, and their temperaments can be difficult. Meow Meow gets urinary tract infections when she’s stressed, which causes her to urinate in areas other than her litter box for some reason, so naturally I was concerned Meow Meow wouldn’t be too happy about this new addition.

We’ve had this Nebelung or Long-haired Russian Blue a few months, but it took me some time to warm up to her too; I didn’t want her replacing Meow Meow, or for there to be issues with both cats living together. We slowly introduced them, over a period of a few weeks by swapping their food bowls (so they could get each others scents) and showed them each other through a window, however Meow Meow showed no interest until she actually saw Cake in her (Meow Meow’s) house. Then she didn’t want her around at all.

Cake, sitting in our Orange tree.

We bought cat pheromone diffusers, a couple of different kinds, but I’m not entirely sure if they worked, because we haven’t been using them the past several weeks, and the cats are still acting the same way toward each other.

Meow Meow is around 6 years old, and she’s quite reserved, whereas Cake is a little over a year old and full of energy, which she tries out on Meow on many occasions. Depending on their moods, they either engage in this or they give each other a wide berth, though I wouldn’t necessarily call it play as of yet. I don’t think Meow Meow is familiar with the term. She might think Cake is just annoying her, but I’m happy to report that there have been no UTIs (with the resultant cat urine where it should not be) and the hissing, growling, and such is at a minimum.

Cake taking the measure of our bunny.

At times Meow Meow will chase Cake out of her (Meow’s) room, which is my bedroom, but most of the time they can co-habit the same area and are content to just stare at each other. They even share each other’s food bowls which makes dieting Meow Meow impossible, because I never know exactly how much she eats. I’m sure there are wonderful suggestions out there, however Meow Meow spends 23 hours a day sleeping, and when she eats, it’s literally a couple of bites of food spread out over that hour, which is spread out over that 23 hour sleeping period, meaning she won’t sleep all 23 hours at once; she will get up for a bite to eat and go back to sleep. In the meantime Cake eats most of the food out of both food bowls, that are in different rooms at opposite sides of the house; that doesn’t deter her.

We used to joke when we first saw Cake eat, which resembles a dog eating, all at once, not pausing once for a breath, that when she saw Meow Meow she had a goal to look just like her, because her size is intimidating. Cake weighs an appropriate 8 lbs, like Meow Meow did when we were first given her, but with the way Cake eats, it won’t be surprising if she does catch up to Meow Meow. I don’t seriously think she will, because she is very active. We were even told recently that this behavior is not new; she was eating everyone else’s food at her old home too.

I know Meow Meow’s weight is concerning, but none of our pets have had weight issues before. Prior to meeting my husband (2001) I had two other cats at different times, and they never had eating disorders; they were slim even if they displayed typical cat behavior, ie sleeping all day. One developed a urinary issue, but we found out that was a common problem, and he ended up having to be put on special cat food.


When Paul and I married he had a sable and white Sheltie named Kirby who was around 8 years old, and less than a year into our marriage we purchased a female tri-color Sheltie we called Roxy. They were both great dogs who loved to eat just about anything, however both dogs were physically fit and loved going on walks.


Last year we took in a Labrador Retriever service dog, named Marley, for most of the year. She came to us extremely overweight, because her owners prior to us, and before even those owners, didn’t measure out how much to feed her; they just dumped food into her bowl. She had a barrel shaped stomach, and being a service animal she didn’t regularly get much exercise.

We started cutting down her food, and of course she didn’t like that; she was also used to getting treats whenever she liked. Those were also off limits, and in the time we had her she slimmed down to an appropriate and healthy weight.

So we’ve successfully helped animals lose weight, and none of our other animals have turned out to be obese, but no matter what we do with Meow Meow, like decreasing her food, (we’ve been told not to totally cut her food off, because she could die), and getting toy feeders, which makes the animal work for their food, she still doesn’t lose weight. She only gets bigger.

I’ve wondered if it’s her thyroid, however the only symptom she really seems to exhibit of hypothyroidism is lethargy and weight gain, and in Meow Meow, it’s totally normal. She doesn’t drink very much water, and she’s so lazy she hardly uses the bathroom. I write this as if she’s a person like you and me.

Cake eats and drinks a lot. A lot more than Meow Meow does, however she actually uses the bathroom on a regular basis. Continually. And I honestly think that is what Meow Meow’s issue is; that she doesn’t get rid of the waste as much as she should. Now this is supposedly normal, but Cake is still ~ 8 pounds and eats considerably more food than Meow and also has a lot more energy, whereas Meow Meow sleeps all day long, eats a tiny bit of food, maybe drinks a sip or two of water, and only uses the bathroom twice a day, if even that. I don’t know, maybe it’s me, but I don’t think that’s healthy, though how do you make a cat do anything?

Meow Meow

Pierogis: New Year’s Day Traditional Food

Pierogis are filled dumplings, and they’re mostly associated with the cooking of Central and Eastern European Nations, but they go by different names in those other nations. In Poland they are referred to as pierogis, but in Russia they are known by vareniki.


In this recipe the pierogis are filled with cabbage, but more commonly they are filled with potatoes, and I’ve already shared that they can be stuffed with fruit for a dessert option. In other nations, they fill theirs with meats. I imagine the choices can be endless, but these are the traditional selections.

Every New Year’s Day I grew up having pierogis and gwumpkies or golumpkies at my grandparents (maternal) house until we moved away from Arizona when I was entering the 3rd grade. Pierogis are one of my favorite foods, probably because there’s a mixture of dough and butter.

Ingredients for Filling:

  • Cabbage
  • 1 Small Onion
  • 3 Tbsp Butter
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste

Ingredients for Dough:

  • 2 1/2 Cups Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 Cup Cold Water

Instructions for Fillings:

  • Chop onion and shred cabbage.
  • Cook onion and cabbage in 3 tbsp of butter in frying pan on medium-low heat; season to taste w/ salt and pepper.
  • Simmer until tender.

Instructions for Dough and Putting it all Together:

  • Sift flour and salt together, and then add egg, and work ingredients into a dough, gradually adding 1/2 cup cold water.
  • Knead dough on floured surface until firm and smooth.
  • Roll into ball and let it set for 10 minutes beneath a warm inverted bowl.
  • Take 1/3 dough at a time, roll thin, and then with a biscuit cutter, cut dough into circles.
  • Place a spoonful of filling in center of circle, fold in half and press edges together and crimp to ensure seal.
  • Drop pierogis into boiling, salted water and cook for 10 minutes.
  • After pierogis are filled and cook, pour melted butter over them.

These are my all-time favorite pierogis, however I have also had them with fruit filling as a dessert, and they were unexpectedly wonderful. As I’ve mentioned before, I have some Sicilian in me on my mother’s side, because her mom was Sicilian, but I’m also Polish, which comes from my mom’s dad.

When we lived in Arizona, meals at my maternal grandparents house were always a treat, because not only did they have quite a spread, but it was very ethnic; Italian on one side and Polish on the other side.

Gwumpkies or golumpkies, aka Polish stuffed cabbage rolls, was another Polish dish my grandpa would make for New Year’s day. This also features cabbage, however rather than stuffing the cabbage, it is meat and rice that is stuffed into cooked cabbage leaves.

This is not a recipe that I have ever cooked personally, though my mom still faithfully prepares a lot of the recipes that were passed down to her.

What are your favorite holiday recipes? Is there some favorite dish that was handed down in your family, or is there something that you make every year that gets requested? Please feel free to share, because I love trying new recipes!

I hope everyone has a blessed New Year’s day and a safe, healthy, and prosperous 2021!


This recipe is one that’s been handed down to me from my mom, which was handed down to her from her own mom, then grandmother back generations, originating in Sicily. They resemble biscotti in a lot of ways, only they are Sicilian cookies. When looking up papatelli, I saw pictures of them that looked like biscotti, however none looked quite like the ones passed down in our family. I hope you enjoy.



  • 3 Cups Flour
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Cocoa
  • 3 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Cloves
  • 1 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Orange Rind and juice
  • 1 Cup of Raisins
  • 12 oz of Sliced Almonds; (Recipe originally called for 1 lb but we add a little bit less)
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil; (I use Grapeseed Oil)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Milk for Moistening; (just a splash to moisten the dough)
The remaining dough after rolling up half into the shape of a sausage.


  • Preheat over to 375 degrees.
  • Measure and mix all dry ingredients, except raisins and nuts.
  • In separate bowl, beat eggs, vanilla, orange juice, and vegetable oil. Gradually add dry mix into wet mix, mixing on low to medium speed. Add splash of milk as needed. Last, add nuts and raisins, and continue to mix by hand, adding more flour to your hands if needed to keep dough together.
  • On floured surface, split dough into 2 and roll out like sausages, 1 inch wide and slice diagonally, ~ 1-1.5 inches long.
  • Place 1/2 inch apart on baking sheets.
  • Bake for 15 mins.
  • Cool, then enjoy!
What the dough ends up looking like.

Now everyone in my extended family makes these cookies with a white glaze for extra sweetness, however we don’t. My daughters and I love these cookies just as they are out of the oven, once they’ve cooled. The blend of spices, chocolate, nuts, and raisins make these cookies the perfect snack; also deceptively easy to forget how many calories you’re ingesting. We can easily eat several of these before a meal, after a meal, or in place of a meal, but I wouldn’t recommend it. ; )

What are your Christmas traditions? Do you have a favorite cookie recipe that you make in your own family?

Working With Resin, My Favorite Medium, And Acrylic

Today’s post is about making ornaments while utilizing either resin with pigments and/or acrylic paint, which is my all-time favorite medium to work with, as I’ll explain why later, or Floetrol with acrylic paint.


A Brief History

Two years ago this past August my middle daughter introduced me to Acrylic Pours, an abstract painting technique which uses Floetrol (a liquid latex paint additive) or any pouring medium and acrylic paint, first by showing me videos, which sparked my interest and then we tried our hand at it.

Acrylic Pour
One of my first Acrylic Pours.

I was not impressed by my first abstract art that I made, using this medium, but I’m not sure what I was expecting. I continued working with the Acrylic Pours, and although I liked the colors, and it got easier, they still didn’t look anything like what I witnessed on the videos, and that’s when I learned more about ‘cells.’ Of course I saw them in videos and tried to recreate them with alcohol but only succeeded in very tiny ones until I did more research; it was then that I started using silicone in my pours, and that is what makes the cells in Acrylic Pours, because water and oil do not mix.

I have found that the brand of acrylic paint and amount of silicone in said paint will affect the amount and size of cells. I have also learned that the more cells there are the more the painting will shift and move, so what you see in the beginning of the pour is not necessarily how it will end up. I have had some that looked amazing when I started, only to be disappointed when they were dry.

There are other mediums that can be used in place of Floetrol; one of them is Liquitex Pouring Medium. I have used this a number of times and prefer it on canvas, because it already has a gloss to it, although working on wood, Floetrol flows better, but regardless whether working with Floetrol or Liquitex, either will have to be treated with a finish to prevent discoloration and protect the work from UV rays.

In time we acquired quite an array of paint, and every time we worked in the garage/art studio on an Acrylic Pour, Paul (husband) would walk in and see the paint run-off and exclaim, “That sure is a lot of paint you’re using!” He didn’t ever seem to understand how it worked. It didn’t matter how much paint we measured out, and it won’t matter; it’s flowing, especially if you use silicone. It will continue to flow, thus the run-off.

The paints I prefer (that I also use) are Master’s Touch, Liquitex Basics, and DecoArt. I also use glitter with my pours if I go with a metallic sheen. I usually purchase my canvases from Hobby Lobby, because I can’t find a better deal where I live. They usually have five 8X10 canvases for less than $10, but currently they’re on sale for $4.50. If I want to make a smaller canvas like a 6X6 or smaller, I have to order from Amazon, because then they have the better deal. Local places don’t always carry what I need or what I’m looking for.

After several months of working with acrylic, Floetrol (or Liquitex), and silicone on canvas and wood substrates, one day we eventually got brave and moved on to resin, which is decidedly more expensive than Floetrol and Liquitex, yet I find there’s more control when using it.

My daughter Hannah received some resin for her birthday so she let me use some. I first used it on a 4X4 wood substrate with mica pigments, but they can also be used with alcohol ink or acrylic paint. I was pleased with the turn-out, because there was no run-off like there is with Acrylic Pours, so I purchased more resin and more pigments, but you can even use discarded eye shadow as pigment if you so choose.

Resin Art with Pigments on Wood
One of the first resin pieces I made on wood.

I like geodes and pieces that resemble geodes, so I purchased some silicone molds from Etsy and silicone forms, pigments, and glitter from while getting my resin on Amazon, and for a time I was content to only make geode coasters. If we had rejects or just enough resin for one mold, my husband would hang it up in our back window, which fills with sunlight most of the day. It looks beautiful with the art pieces catching rays of light and reflecting them everywhere.

Resin Geode Pours in Window
Our Picture Window Looking Out Our Backyard.

This year I ordered a few silicone ornament molds from Etsy while also purchasing clear plastic ball ornaments from Hobby Lobby. With the first couple of silicone ornaments I made I didn’t have enough resin to work with, but I already had my paint and mica added like I did. (I’m used to working with plenty of resin.) I didn’t think the ornaments would turn out good, however I was pleasantly surprised.

With my first ball ornaments I used resin, pigments, and pigment paste, going with a dirty pour, and they also worked out very well, but today I decided to use Floetrol, using the same method. At the very end I ran out of paint, so I scooped up the run-off and used that to cover the ornaments, and then I sprinkled them with glitter.

If you’ve never tried this kind of art and are interested, you probably have some basic ingredients at home, but if not, here is a list of supplies you can readily get (For Acrylic Pours):

  • Acrylic Paint of your choice, but the cheaper you go, the less likely it is that you’ll enjoy the results. Here’s a list of my Go-to brands, but there are certainly a lot out there: Master’s Touch, FolkArt, DecoArt, and Liquitex
  • Glitter, the finer the glitter, the better
  • Pouring Medium: Liquitex Pouring Medium, Floetrol, PVA Glue like Elmer’s Glue All, DecoArt Pouring Medium
  • Popsicle Sticks
  • Paper Cups or something to mix the paint in that you won’t care about ruining or possibly discarding
  • 12 inch long Rectangular Dry Foam Floral Holder
  • Clear Plastic Ball Ornaments
  • Parchment or Wax Paper
  • Non-latex Gloves

When you have your supplies, pick out your paint colors. It’s a trial and error process, but hopefully I’ll save you some time. Don’t pick all of the same or similar colors, however do pick a white paint and another light color to offset the darker colors you will have and vice versa; it will make your ornaments pop more.

We’ll start with the Dirty Pour method, because its easier.

  • Place parchment or wax paper down on a flat, level table you will be working on; next, place your foam floral holder on the parchment or wax paper. The paper will make for easier clean-up.
  • Wear gloves, especially when you begin the actual pour, because it gets sticky and messy.
  • You need 1 paper cup per paint color plus an extra cup for all of them to go into eventually. After picking my paints, I add the appropriate glitter to the paints, if I have matching glitter and paint. ( I really like glitter.)
  • Next, add your Pouring Medium. Since I’ve been working with Floetrol on this particular project, I will give instructions for that; you want your paint to flow but you don’t want it to be runny. Usually a good ratio is one to one, but I’ve found that Master’s Touch is more of a medium to thick acrylic paint, so it tends to need more Floetrol, but I don’t want to add too much, because it can distort the color, so a lot of the time I’ll add a little bit of water, and I mean a little bit at a time, just to get the consistency right. Eventually I’ll get something to help me make videos so you guys can see what I’m talking about.
  • Once you’ve mixed your Floetrol with your acrylic paints and glitter, it’s time to add each to the extra cup–the Dirty Pour.
  • I start with white, but you are welcome to start with whatever color your heart fancies, but a good rule of thumb is to alternate your dark and light colors, again for added pop. You drip or pour a small amount into the empty cup with your first color, followed by your second, opposite color, and so on, in whatever order you choose. I usually have all of my colors lined out, and I do zig zags or messy circles when I’m pouring into the cup of paint. When it’s nearly full or I’m running out of the source of paint, then I’m ready to pour.
  • Place 3 Popsicle sticks, evenly spaced, in the foam floral holder before placing the clear plastic ball ornaments, one on each stick.
  • Take your now full cup of different layers of paint and pour onto your ornaments; sometimes you’ll have to spin the ornaments to get them completely covered.
  • When you’re finished, your ornaments might not be as glittery or as flashy as you want, and after making sure that the paint is not running too much, it might be safe to add glitter. I do.

Now we’ll go over Clean Pours, which use more product.

  • You do the first two things listed in the above, however instead of pouring the paints in the extra cup, you pour them directly onto the ornament (that’s on the Popsicle stick in the foam floral holder), which is why you will end up using a lot more paint. I personally have not used this method on ornaments, but I have on canvas.
  • You continue alternating paint until the ornament is covered.

Now we’ll go over Resin Ornaments

  • Resin Kit: Again there are many choices to choose from, but I usually purchase mine from Amazon or directly from the manufacturer, and it’s a one to one formula, however there are different ratios out there depending on the brand, so read your instructions. I’m very interested in getting an epoxy resin which is heat resistant; JUST4YOUONLINEUK sells some, and I’ve purchased their pigments, pigment pastes, and silicone forms; they’re one of my favorite online retailers I purchase from, although they’re overseas, so it takes a little longer than 2 day shipping to get to me.
  • Pigments: These are mica either from eye shadow, like I mentioned, or specifically for resin art. I use Pearl Ex mica pigments, JUSTFORYOUONLINEUK pigments, Black Diamond, and Eye Candy.
  • Pigment Paste or Acrylic paint: I haven’t really found anything like JUSTFORYOUONLINEUK’s pigment pastes, which are similar to acrylic paint, however I’m not really sure exactly what they are, because I can’t find a precise description other than what they do, but they are highly concentrated with deep, rich colors, and alone they can create cells and lacing.
  • Alcohol Inks: Jacquard Pinata is one that I use, but once again there are more brands out there including Tim Holtz Adirondack Alcohol Ink and Copic Inks.
  • Acrylic Inks: The ones I have are Golden High Flow Acrylic Inks, but I’ve also used Liquitex Acrylic Inks, though like other things arts-y, there are more choices. Most of the time I’ve learned to go with reviews or recomendations, because in the past when I’ve gone the cheap route, (I like a good deal), and our art supplies are in our garage/art studio, that at first was neither insulated nor had heat/AC in the appropriate seasons, those cheaper paints didn’t hold up as well as the more expensive ones, so now I don’t waste my time or money on the others; besides my art comes out so much nicer for it.
  • Glitter
  • Silicone Ornaments Molds
  • Torch
  • Clear Plastic Ball Ornaments
  • Paper Cups
  • Popsicle Sticks
  • Silicone Mixing Cups, but if you’re in a bind, red Solo cups or similar will work, but they produce a lot more waste
  • 12 inch long Dry Foam Floral Holder

The resin kit will come with a bottle of resin and a bottle of hardener, and after reading your instructions on the ratio to use, determine how much you need. I used 300 ML or about 10 1/2 ounces total resin for 3 silicone mold ornaments (of which 2 were overfilled) and 3 plastic ball ornaments. Here are your remaining instructions:

  • Add your paint, pigments, pigment pastes, and glitters to their individual paper cups; with resin, a little goes a long way.
  • After pouring the resin and hardener in the same container, stir, but not vigorously or you will produce bubbles; you want slow, methodical stirring for about 2-3 minutes. Your Popsicle stick should move easily through the mixture when it’s ready.
  • Pour about 1 1/2 – 2 cm of resin in each cup; if you have extra resin, just put it aside, you may find you’ll need it.
  • Gently stir each cup of resin and paint, pigment, pigment paste, and/or glitter until well mixed.
  • When using the silicone molds I just use the clean pour method, and I make the same suggestion as with Acrylic Pours, alternate light with dark colors for the best effect.
  • When you’re satisfied with the amount of resin in your molds, use the torch on the resin, being careful not to light the mold or anything else on fire. The torch is to get rid of annoying bubbles in the resin.
  • Now if you have remaining resin in your cups and want to, you can do either a clean pour or dirty pour on your clear plastic ball ornaments the same way you do with acrylic paint and pouring mediums.

There are several differences between Acrylic Pours and Resin Art. The ones that stand out to me are, first, the time issue: When working with acrylic paint and the pouring medium of your choice, you have more time in which to work; time is essentially on your side, so Acrylic Pours are a good choice for beginners. In fact it’s where a lot of artists started before going onto resin art.

Secondly, the price can be considerably different depending on your pouring medium. For example, if you use Floetrol for Acrylic Pours, a 128 fluid oz bottle at Lowe’s is only $14.67, excluding tax. That’s a big difference compared to a 1 gallon kit of resin from Amazon around $63, which is not the most expensive brand or kind; that’s just resin, not epoxy. Epoxy resin can go upwards of $289 on Amazon for a 3 gallon kit.

Another difference is waste. None of these items are washable. When we first began Acrylic Pours we used disposable aluminum pans, placed 4 solo cups in them (with our canvases on the cups), and then poured our art onto the canvases. Over time those pans would get distorted and would need to be discarded, because the canvases wouldn’t be level, and thus the paint wouldn’t stay put. It’s meant to flow, but not completely off the canvas.

Eventually we purchased huge plastic containers that our canvases could fit into so we could eliminate waste. We continue to use paper cups and Popsicle sticks, because they are biodegradable, and I purchased some silicone mixing cups to reduce our plastic waste.

I no longer do Acrylic Pours like I once did, because the time limit works for me with resin; which means it isn’t going to have all day to keep flowing, moving, and changing. Even if the resin is slightly more money than Floetrol, I don’t have to use as much paint, and I have more options; I can use alcohol inks, pigments, pigment pastes, etc. And I don’t have the waste of product that I have with the Acrylic Pours.

Smallest Christmas Tree
The ornaments my daughters and I made.

Feel free to check out my other art on Instagram at chickengirl891976. I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know if you enjoy art and if you tried these ornaments! I’d love to hear from you!