076 Keeping Your Poultry Healthy with Dr. Maurice Pitesky

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Our guest this week is Dr. Maurice Pitesky and our topic is keeping your backyard poultry flock healthy. Dr. Pitesky is an Assistant Specialist in Cooperative Extension for Poultry Health and Food Safety Epidemiology at the University of California Davis where he researches disease surveillance, food safety management, and other topics related to poultry health. He also does education and outreach to backyard and commercial poultry owners. During the podcast he mentions the UC Davis poultry resource website, a backyard poultry census that you can take part in, and the UC Davis pastured poultry farm research project. We also discuss some simple measures you can take to keep your poultry free of disease as well as how to safely cook eggs and meat.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You cansubscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Help UC Davis with the California Backyard Poultry Census

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If you’re a California backyard chicken enthusiast the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and Cooperative Extension has a short survey they’d like you to fill out. The purpose of the survey is to get an estimate of how many backyard flocks are out there and, “bridge the communication gap between poultry experts and backyard poultry enthusiasts.” The survey is confidential and contact info will only be used for educational purposes.

Last year I was the beneficiary of some of that education when I attended a seminar co-hosted by UC Davis Veterinary Medicine. Among other things, I can thank those avian vets for ending my chicken coop mouse problem. So consider filling out the survey. It’s a good deed of citizen science and you’ll get some useful advice in return.

Picture Sundays: Famous Cat Statues

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Hint to public artists–the people want a good cat statue not some plopped down abstract thingy. They’d take a dog statue or some old dude on a horse too, but that would be the subject of another blog post. Today, we celebrate two famous feline statues. Above is a statue of Trim, the first cat to circumnavigate Australia and the subject of a book by the ship’s captain Matthew Finders.

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Next is a statue of Samuel Johnson’s cat Hodge sitting on top of a dictionary and pondering some oyster shells. It’s located just outside Johnson’s house in London and is inscribed, “a very fine cat indeed.”

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UPDATE: Root Simple reader Peter noted a glaring feline statue omission on my part: the statue of Mrs. Chippy (who should have been named Mr. Chippy) that sits atop the grave of Harry McNeish, ship’s carpenter of Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition. McNeish carried a lifelong grudge against Shackleton for having shot Mrs. Chippy along with the expedition’s dogs. Yet another strike, in my opinion, against the Shackleton-as-model-CEO cult that got going just before the 2008 economic meltdown. By way of contrast, please ponder the lengths that the crew of the Karluk went through to save the ship’s cat Nigeraurak during a disastrous 1913 arctic expedition. Read that story here.

Picture Sundays: Kiddo the Airship Cat

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A delightful lecture by Paul Koudounaris on the history of ship cats tipped me off to the story of Kiddo, the airship cat. Kiddo went aboard the ill-fated airship America in an unsuccessful attempt to cross the Atlantic in October 1910. Kiddo did not enjoy the experience, at first, and led to what may have been the first air to ground radio transmission, “Roy, come and get this goddamn cat!”

After a journey of over a thousand miles, inclement weather led to the abandonment of the airship. Kiddo and crew were rescued by a British steamship (Kiddo was found snoozing in the back of the lifeboat).

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The story is proof that the celebrity cat phenomenon pre-dates the interwebs. Kiddo, renamed Trent after the rescue ship, was welcomed back to New York where he spent a period on display in a gilded cage at Gimbel’s department store. Postcards of Trent went all over the world. He spent the rest of his life with the daughter of the airship’s owner.

For more details of the story see Purr n’ Furr Famous Felines.

Cat Scratch Fever: How to Make Your Own Cat Scratching Posts

Why buy cat scratching posts when you can make your own from inexpensive materials? And, since we cat owners can’t have nice things, why not make nice things scratch-able?

With these two notions in mind I set about making a scratching post that I could attach to the side of our Ikea couch. Here’s what you’ll need:

3/8 inch sisal rope
scrap wood (I used a 4×4)
heavy duty stapler and staples

Wrapping the wood is straightforwards, if tedious. I used some clamps to hold the post down to my work bench while I did the wrapping. Put a few staples in the sisal as you begin to wrap it around the wood. Wrap as tightly and closely as you can, putting staples in every few courses as you wind around the wood. Put a few more staples in at the end of the rope. That’s all there is to it.


You could make a base for your scratcher but I was more interested in integrating it into our living space rather than having a free-standing object that takes up a lot of room. Not only was I able to attach it to the couch (a hacked Ikea couch that I wrote about in a previous post) but I also turned the scratcher into a phone stand. This is a refinement of the original “catification” of the couch ends and an example of catification stacking functions.

Just minutes after installation it was already in use:

I’m so satisfied with the results that I’m thinking about creating a integrated cat scratcher/USB charging station/cat perch using a twisty tree branch. I know, that sounds like a bad idea, but as Marshall McLuhan once said, “If you don’t like that idea I’ve got others.”

In fact, I can see a future in which everything is wrapped in sisal. Yet more proof that felines are in charge of much more than the interwebs.