TV time for chickens

I used to have nine chickens, including a rooster, and two pet turkeys when I lived in the county, but I live in the city now and just have two chickens. 

They are not only indoor/outdoor house pets, but I used them in education events, schools and nursing homes. They are both rescues from a friend who lost his 47 acres to foreclosure in Georgia. Little Sumo-san is a white Silkie (ADORABLE!) and Cuckoo is a Silkie/Serama/Cochin cross.  Seramas are the smallest chicken that there is. They are very popular in their native Malaysia as apartment pets. I brought my two girls upstairs for some TV time two nights ago. Their personalities are so different, little Sumo-san preferring to sit and sing and purr in one spot on a little bed, and Cuckoo just TRUCKING around exploring EVERYTHING. She had to get into some boxes that are still left from unpacking, thought about getting on the kitchen counter, stood on a stack of books, got in the bathtub.  She just had a ball, and I kept them up past their bedtime just because she was having so much fun. If you have chickens, go give them some treats.  – Dorene –

TARA Training and Behavior, Teaching Animals with Respect and Affection

Paramedics go extra mile for border collie

I have a nearly 14-year-old working border collie, who is just not yet at all showing her age (thank heavens). She is a Canada goose management dog, and works on private and public sites to remove the geese which are considered pests on the properties that they share with humans, which are their housing and humans have encroached on their nesting grounds. Two days ago Quill, my border collie, and I worked all our goose sites, drove way up north on business (we currently reside in the city, in Tower Grove East), then went way south down Kingshighway for me to deposit a check at the nearest Regions Bank that I use. Afterwards, I decided that I was thirsty, and dropped in on a nearby QuikTrip for a soda. I was standing in line to pay for it, and the next thing that I knew, I was lying on the floor looking up at two policemen, who were very concerned that I was unconscious on the floor.

A happy tail to warm your heart if not your fingers

Hello, 4o South News-ers! Dorene here, hope this tale will give you some warm fuzzies on this brutally cold day! I belong to a chat list for people who own and raise rare Heritage turkeys. These are birds that exist in very small numbers which are all that remain of the Pilgrim’s birds. It is, naturally, a rather small list, but we are a very close knit group and I have been on it for three years now and have forged many strong friendships with many of the members.

Backyard chickens: how to help them when it’s snowy

It’s hard enough to be a pampered pet pooch in rain gear and snow footies, or a house cat who disdainfully shakes its paws in horror and blames you on the snow filled yard, but try to be a barn yard fowl. Most chickens (mine seem to be the exception, as spoiled house pets) get their coop door open and are let loose into the wild and woolie world.  Some days that includes a whole new world of SNOW. When you look at those little dinosaur-looking-scaly legs, it is enough to make you feel cold, no matter what you are wearing. But these little guys are low to the ground and despite their downy undercoats, have long and unprotected naked legs and a lot of their body temperature flows through these appendages. Chickens (and waterfowl, ducks, geese and swans) appreciate a nice, bedded down area of straw that is dry and thick enough to insulate the animals from the ground chill.

Group learns chicken processing in city backyard

This past Saturday, a blessedly beautiful and shirt-sleeved, warm, unusual February day, I had an equally unusual meeting in my new back yard. I am one of 4 co-organizers of our local St. Louis Back Yard Chicken Meetup List, recently listed as the 7th largest in the nation, apparently partially attributed to my oft blabs – I mean, blogs – on us. 

Guy Niere and I are right now the most active of the co-organizers, John and Linda Bergh taking a bit of much deserved back seat time for present, but still we are an integral team and I enjoy working with each and every one of them, and also enjoy the members of our very active backyard chicken group. Somehow, somewhere along the line, I got it in my head to organize a meetup to deal with the (to many, and to me, “ugly”) topic of processing birds.  My remaining two chickens are beloved indoor/outdoor house pets, they visit schools and nursing homes etc as education and touch animals, and were in full and oblivious presence to our processing seminar, one (the Silkie) resolutely sunbathing under everyone’s feet and the other (the Silkie/Serama/Cochin cross, both are rescues from GA) running around trying to be as involved in the event as possible – other than being the processed bird! We had a crowd of a little under twenty people show up to learn how to process a chicken.  Guy brought two already butchered Penedesenca roosters and in his usual, highly educated way, taught everybody the anatomy and details of processing for the dinner meal.

Learn how to butcher, dress out a chicken on Saturday

I have lived and traveled all over the world, and also spent several years in vet school.  As part of my travels and part of my studies, I was involved in witnessing often gruesome animal slaughter practices and also in finding some pretty strange stuff on my plate. 

The result was three separate times of four years each of becoming vegetarian, and one stint of being a vegan for four and a half years. Alas, my morals always waned and I invariably returned to eating meat each time.  So recently I made an intellectual concession: if I was going to eat meat, I needed to be responsible for learning how and/or participating in it getting on my plate. So off I trotted to my oft mentioned friend Guy to his Penedesenca farm up in Black Jack. Penedesencas are a rare breed of chicken, they have a white earlobe but lay the world’s second darkest brown egg; usually the colour of the earlobe dictates the colour of the egg, hence this is a strange disparity. Penes are a dual purpose breed, raised for their eggs as well as for their meat.

Cold weather concerns for people and pets

It is Sunday, February 1, and I am cuddled up in my new bedroom in my very old and drafty 100+ year old city house, trying to not freeze to death. I am snuggled under my quilts with my laptop, my warm Border Collie, a parrot and an under-the-weather house chicken in a basket near me, all of us loving the low light and the glow of my candles, which seem to be imaginatively lighting the room with spare heat. NPR is on in the background, and as I was working on my computer and listening to the radio, I heard a local cut in advising people to check in on any elderly and shut in friends and relatives and to make sure that neighbours were all safe from the cold. Additionally, they advised that all the homeless shelters have been opened today to help with the onslaught of the frigidly cold weather and homeless humans who are out exposed to the elements. To broaden the area of enlightened concern, please also think of animals outside, vulnerable to the cold temps.

Thoughts on Roosters Crowing

Back yard chicken keeping is sweeping the nation, and Brentwood/Maplewood allow up to six chickens per household. Usually, however, roosters are banned, largely due to their crowing. A dear turkey-keeping friend of mine in South Africa sent me a very interesting article yesterday about rooster crowing, debunking the myth that roosters crow only at day break.  In fact, as any of you who have kept or live near roosters, they crow all day long.  They crow in the middle of the night if they are disturbed by head lights from cars or street lights, and in the case of my miniature pet house rooster, if I would turn on a light in the dark. They also crow at cars as they assume the noise of the engine is a verbal challenge to their authority.  Crowing occurs during food presentation, and is also dictated by rank; the dominant rooster crows first followed in line by those in order of who falls below him. During the day, however, a Japanese study found that roosters crow as a sign of territoriality, the crowing of other roosters, and defense and bravado.  An interesting study was conducted showing that, when roosters were kept under controlled lighting situations where the arrival of dawn was manipulated in the lab, the roosters were not fooled.  They crowed at the appropriate time of day break, no matter what the “fake” time of day was.  The study determined that roosters have an internal circadian rhythm which governs their sense of the arrival of daybreak.

Pet parrots: lifetime commitment, attention needed

This is Coconut, a Lesser Sulphur Crested Cockatoo. She was a rescue bird of mine when I ran the local parrot rescue group. She is a typical example of the plight of many pet parrots. 

Many can out live us and people do not realize the lifetime commitment when they purchase these animals. Parrots scream, bite and can be very destructive, and many people find that they rapidly loose the charm of an impulse buy and relinquish them by the hundreds here in the St. Louis area. For those dedicated souls of us who ride out the difficulties of living with a bird whose intelligence – emotional and intellectual – is equivalent to a two to three year old child, there are many important things to consider.

January is National Train Your Dog Month

For those who got Christmas puppies, it can not be a more aptly named month, as the potty training efforts get hampered by the outdoor cold and those little needle-sharp teeth get old.  With the larger and older puppies, suddenly the jumping up is not so cute anymore. Victoria Stilwell ( is a very successful and popular British trainer whose positive training methods are featured on her Animal Planet show: It’s Me or the Dog. Victoria and I both share the same philosophy of positive training, and do not use methods based on force, fear, pain or punishment.  Beware those trainers that do. So pick up those treats and go out and train your dog! Older dogs can always use some brushing up on manners, and training can be a very rewarding, relationship-building game to continue to bond your relationship with your dog.  Happy Teaching!

On feline house soiling (your cat pees where it shouldn’t)

Feline house soiling comprises 70 percent of my feline case load. Before I see a cat who is not using the litter box, it is imperative that it go to the veterinarian for a  complete physical exam. 

Most vets are up to date, but it is imperative that the vet do a urinalysis that is not only diagnosed on the chemical dip stick, but also have the sediment spun down in the centrifuge and read under the microscope. It is only there that the presence of urine crystals and bacteria can be found. Once the issue of physical illness is ruled out and addressed, then behavioural issues need to be a concern. There are three issues to rule in or rule out:  inter-social cat interactions, physical stimuli, and litter box aversion.

Odd case that stumped animal behavior consultant Dorene Olson

One of the most interesting things about working with pets in homes and wildlife in the field is that every day is a different day. I frequently have to humbly scratch my head and say:  “gee, I dunno, I’ve never run into that before …” I saw a six-month-old Golden Doodle for idiopathic aggression a few years ago.  I sat with him for over two hours and watched while he savaged a hall way wall and took a nap to awaken suddenly savaging his own front legs. It was the only time that I told a client that this was out of my league and sent them to the vet school at Missouri University, in Coumbia. It turns out the dog was missing his entire pre-frontal cortex.

Dorene Olson: animal behavior consultant and trainer

My name is Dorene Olson, and I am a local animal behavior consultant and animal trainer.  I am a friend of Doug Miner; we met each other through a local chicken group that we both belong to. 

I am a chicken keeper and backyard agriculture enthusiast and am eager to connect with others through Doug’s wonderful blogs. In my daily work I see many different and interesting cases that I look forward to sharing with you. One of my recent behavior cases was an African Crested Porcupine, who lives with a miniature house pig, and I spent New Year’s Eve with my Canada goose management working Border Collie, Quill, at a friend’s house who just has adopted two house rabbits who hopped all around the house. If you don’t know the House Rabbit Society, we have a local chapter of this national organization.  It is well worth looking into Even if you don’t want to foster or adopt, there are many other ways of donating to rescue, and get to know a rescue bunny!