Daily Drama 80 – Meet the Sheep

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Daily Drama 80 – Meet the Sheep

No pet could ever replace Dobby, and his impact upon my life is immeasurable. Still, looking out at my front yard this past year has been heartbreaking. I couldn’t even step out there for the first six months after his passing. Now his pasture is so overgrown I can’t walk across it. Everyone has been hoping I would get another capybara, but the snow last winter was so deep and persistent, poor tropical Dobby would have spent a month cooped up in my kitchen. It’s time for a change of critters.

Loaded into the car and ready to go! These sheep are small!

The Bartender and I drove to Walla Walla Washington to pick up our Shetland sheep. The boys were born in April, so they aren’t quite full grown and fit nicely in this extra-large dog crate, the biggest one that fit into the back of my Subaru Forester. They came from a small farm where they were already spoiled, friendly little guys, but it is only practical to keep a couple of rams. They were happy to see Charlie and Hamish (hay-mish) coming to live where they will get lots of attention.

Charlie takes his half of the crate in the middle.

I have a lot to learn about sheep, so feel free to correct me and I’ll edit this post. Shetland sheep are heritage sheep and, as The Bartender put it, “not ruined yet.” They are small, the rams getting to about 120# (55kg), so about the same size as Dobby. Tiny Shetland sheep are not worth raising to eat and so are primarily raised for their wool. That’s why they are popular with knitters and weavers. They shed their wool so you can pick it off which is called “rooing.” Most sheep have been bred to be sheared, leaving them dependent upon humans. Check out this hilarious sheep named Shrek.

Hamish (left) and Charlie (right)

They come from the Shetland Islands, adrift out there between Scotland and Norway. Seattle winters will not be a problem, as our climate is so similar. They are more like donkeys than horses, in that they can survive on low quality forage. Let’s hope that they like bamboo! (It has taken over the front yard since Dobby left us.) Now, check out those little horns. As they mature, the horns should curl right around, giving them that classic ram look, like the truck logo. For now, those horns can get caught in anything they can stick their head into. Hamish demonstrated that the first day by getting his head stuck in the back of a chair, then dragging it across the deck. The chair has been removed and so have the tomato cages. Sheesh.

The chute between the back of the car and the back yard, their new home.

It was a five hour drive but the boys were champs. Charlie ate orchard grass the entire time, while Hamish hunkered down, not quite as cavalier as his buddy, but stoic. Dobby was a tame wild animal, but these guys are not quite (yet) tame domestic animals. They don’t know us or trust us, so we knew we had one chance to get them safely from the car to the back yard. If they got into the street, we were doomed. We used cattle fencing to form a chute, opened both gates to the yard (I am double-gated for security) and opened up their crate. And they refused to come out of the car.

The Bartender rattles a sack of grain, as if we would give them that whole bag to eat.

What would I do without The Bartender? He reached in, grabbed Charlie the way we saw the farmer do it, and set him down. (Today, four days later, he confessed that Charlie had nipped him on the shoulder, and he was glad he had a heavy shirt on.) This is why you get two sheep: Hamish immediately hopped out after him. They headed straight down the chute as if it had suction. They stopped for a quick snack at the big green fern you can see mid-photo. A bit of a nudge and they continued on, around the graveyard, past the apple tree and all the way to the aviary!

Nope, sorry boys, you’re not going in there. Not today, anyway.

When they realized they had reached the end of the road, they turned around and started eating grass. They yanked the leaves off the low hanging branches of the apple tree, causing a cascade of apples onto the ground. They checked out the deck with its intriguing feed bowls. Oh, wait, those are my flower pots! And generally poked their noses into anything and everything, including the dish of cracked corn the ducks didn’t eat.

Charlie and Hamish check out the grass and my lovely raspberry plants.

I was especially pleased that they readily went in to investigate Dobby’s old pen, recently renovated to accommodate ruminants. They went in and out half a dozen times that first afternoon. It was already late afternoon, and new residents at the Funny Farm usually have all day to get accustomed to their new home before nightfall. Their obvious approval was a big relief for me.

The night pen met their expectations.

Because they won’t need a heater, I moved the bed away from the electrical outlet, which left more space near the gate. Dobby’s old bed gives them a raised platform off the cold ground in the winter. I put up a plywood privacy screen/windbreak, and broke open a bale of straw for bedding. I cleaned up a couple of hay feeders, two sheep, you know? They go back and forth between them, jockeying for position at the same rack. Of course.

They do everything together. I have only seen them apart a couple of times.

In this damp climate, hay gets moldy fast, so I store it in the bins you can see lined up along the wall. Alfalfa is damp and goes bad especially fast, so I need to figure out another option for that. In that chute photo, you can just make out the first gate at the top of the stairs by the fern. Because of the fiberglass roof, that bicycle storage area heats up nicely in any kind of weather. I’ll find a way to store it in there. Selling Dobby’s old swimming pool would open up the perfect amount of space. Anyone need a slightly used capybara swimming pool?

They love hanging out in the shade of the apple tree.

Meanwhile, Charlie and Hamish are back under the apple tree, chewing cud. Charlie is very dark brown, nearly black and should stay black. Hamish has gray cheeks and his fleece will probably fade to that color. Amazingly, I have a spinning wheel that belonged to my sister. (Who wouldn’t want a spinning wheel taking up a corner of their living room?) The Bartender and I will be going to the fair this year to talk to the sheep barn folks and hopefully get a two-bit carding and spinning lesson.

Charlie and Hamish finish off the Violas in the pot on the deck.

Most all of my equipment is suitable for sheep, so I don’t have to buy much. I decided to look into a shepherd’s crook, though, to complete my Bo-Peep look. After a fair amount of research, I discovered that Martha Stewart, of all people, has sheep and is fairly knowledgeable about them. Who knew? At first I was annoyed that she had beat me to “sheep” but then I realized that if Martha Stewart can do it, surely I can do it, too. I bet she’s never had a capybara in her kitchen. So there.

The Bartender called it: he’ll have to re-install the plexiglas door protector.

The Bartender asked whether he needed to re-install the plexiglas over the lower part of the kitchen door. Nah, I said, they’re just looking in. Four days later I hear nibbling at the door. As Briana quipped, “Double-Dobby!” In the photo above, the chairs had been removed. They had not yet uprooted the pineapple plant on the bottom shelf. I found it on the deck three times before I moved it up. I’m a slow learner.

Charlie and Hamish

From the very first night, at the end of the day they have moseyed to their night pen and settled down. All I have to do is close the gate. It has been less than a week, and it seems too easy. I plan to train them to a halter, and get onto a scale. I’ll get them used to visitors and figure out what treats they like. For now, I am making sure they know their names, as in “Not for Charlie!” and “Not for Hamish!”

P.S. The Bartender and I returned tonight from a sudden trip to the vet. Hamish had, ahem, “Manhood Issues.” He should be fine, but it was scary. On the other hand, now we know where the back entrance to the vet clinic is, and we have met their new vet! And I get to give Hamish his next round of antibiotics (via injection) on Sunday! Oh frabjous day!

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Daily Drama 79 Sweet Kitty Hawk

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Daily Drama 79 Sweet Kitty Hawk

Kitty Hawk isn’t sweet at all. He bites and scratches me because I am never fast enough with the food. In fact, he bit the veterinarian and then the vet tech.

North Seattle Veterinary Clinic

Kitty Hawk pretends to be an innocent kitty cat.

Kitty Hawk is a barn kitty, a former feral tomcat who tested positive for FIV after he ended up at the pound. (He broke into a house, beat up the resident cat and ate his food.) He lives outdoors in my aviary where he is second-in-command to my serious rat catcher, Grover, another FIV+ former feral tomcat.

He still has plenty of energy and follows me everywhere, stopping to take a swing at the hen’s tail feathers if they don’t hop out of his way.

Diabetes is the reason why Kitty Hawk has gotten so skinny, even though he is eating twice as much food. Last week’s blood test told us the bad news and today he had his first insulin shot. Twice a day, evenly spaced, means that I get to traipse out there in the dark to give him his evening injection. It’s going to be inconvenient, expensive, and painful. For me, not the cat. He doesn’t seem to care. He likes his new food, and so does Grover.

The guinea pig room

Let’s talk about something more fun: guinea pigs! It’s great when kids grow up and leave home, because then you get an entire bedroom for your guinea pigs.

Brutus lives in this end of the cage, but where is she?

Squirrel lived alone for several years after his buddy, Stevie Ray, died. He was within sniffing and squealing distance from the others but he wanted a live-in buddy. Cookie Monster loves Squirrel, but Brutus is aptly named and will not tolerate Squirrel. So, Cookie Monster had dates with Squirrel but always went home for the night.

This is the middle apartment. Squirrel is hiding in the log cabin but you can see Cookie Monster’s white nose peeking out of a pigloo.

Daniel was supposed to be a dude buddy for Squirrel, but turned out to be Danielle. She was in a separate cage while I worked to introduce them, but like Brutus, she is very opinionated. Squirrel is a mellow guy and Danny is a speed demon, always rearranging her furniture so she can run circles around it.

Danielle is in her pigloo. Note the fence extension at the right, by the timber hideaway. You can’t be too careful with this maniac.

Brutus tolerates Cookie, but Squirrel adores her. I decided to make some changes. My large L-shaped cage has plenty of room for four, but I had to get clever in order to divide it into three spaces that each meet the minimum space requirements. I did the unthinkable: I put diagonal dividers in.

Here’s Brutus! The diagonal dividers make some odd corner spaces, and now this is Brutus’s favorite place. So I throw some hay in there and she munches away, watching her neighbors.

Squirrel and Cookie Monster have the middle apartment, and Brutus and Danielle each have end units. Brutus and Cookie Monster can still visit through the divider, and Danielle can continue to get acquainted with Squirrel and Cookie Monster. And Squirrel doesn’t have to live alone anymore.

Danielle has quiet moments, too. She is getting some dark pigmentation at her nostrils, like fancy nose make-up.

They still get floor time, of course, and we switch out the piggies to keep things interesting.

This day they had a box maze and wheatgrass treats.

The Funny Farm is getting ready for some new additions, but I’m not ready to spill those beans yet. Instead, here are some short news items.

The doves are pretending to be lovebirds. Every once in a while, I discover an egg in the nest.

The handicapped doves (one can’t fly, the other can’t walk) are, in fact, mother and daughter. Recently I added a soft little nest for The Pirate, the not-walker. Her mom, Snow White, joins her in the nest, and they snuggle on and off during the day. I had no idea that would happen, but it has totally changed the way they interact, and it’s wonderful to see them grooming each other and chatting.

Frieda lays tan eggs. Adelita lays chocolate brown eggs, and Angel lays pale aqua eggs.

The six vintage hens that live in the aviary lay about a dozen eggs a week this time of year. They range from about six to ten years old. We had a raccoon in the yard yesterday afternoon, while everyone was out for their daily Garden Party. I ran out when I heard the ruckus, but the geese and ducks had already high-tailed it back to the aviary so I only had a couple straggling hens to march back in. It was a scraggly nasty looking raccoon, not a big healthy one like I am used to seeing around here. Garden Parties have been cancelled for a while.

Sneaky Pete (AKA Norman) nibbles the edges of a head of romaine lettuce.

Here’s silly Norman, stealing some lettuce. I take out a head of romaine every morning, and distribute it fairly among the geese, ducks and hens. I drop it into the sink until I am ready to fight my way through the spider webs to toss it around. As I throw it into little piles, Norman follows me and takes a little bite out of every leaf. What a guy.

The Bartender raised up the bench to paint it, making the job easier on his back.

The Bartender has been busy painting the Little Free Library. He also painted the old bench from the back yard to match.

Chock full of books!

It’s probably the biggest Little Free Library I’ve ever seen. I put a bunch of books out there at the beginning, but more books show up all the time! There are so many new ones I have been sneaking a few for myself! It’s fun to see people walk up to take a look, and I have even seen people drive up and park!

It looks great, doesn’t it?

Stay tuned. My next blog will be full of surprises!

Daily Drama 78 – The Princess in the Bathtub

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Daily Drama 78 – The Princess in the Bathtub

When I was house hunting and saw the giant Jacuzzi bathtub here, my first thought was “I can have turtles!” In fact, the tub is so big that filling it empties the water heater and the water temperature drops two or three degrees every minute the jets are on. No heater. So the kids had half a dozen friends in there a few times that first summer, but you know the rest.

Not a turtle

Princess flakes out in the bathtub.

My Mille Fleur banty hen has been living there since last October. While I was out of town, The Bartender found her hunkered down in the aviary, looking forlorn. The vet diagnosed her with a heart murmur and prescribed two medications. The heart medicine was originally prescribed for twice a day. We have since increased it to three times daily because she slept all day on twice a day. On three times a day she is walking around and even goes outdoors for a bit in the afternoon. The other medication is for her congestion (and pitiful wheezing), twice a day.

Princess makes a mess. Or two.

I used to pen her near my computer, but she creates quite a minefield.

Princess Blur came in as a young hen named Fleur almost three years ago. Her sister had passed and she was despondent in an annoyingly vocal demonstration of grief. She came here so she would have a flock and maybe not be so sad. It turns out she is just a crazy loud hen with many vocalizations I have yet to catch on video. She’s smart and sassy and has never considered laying an egg. It was about a year ago that she became ill and now she lives indoors and I thought you might be interested in what it’s like to have a hen indoors. Besides messy.

The living room pen

She spends most of her day penned in the living room.

I had surgery a while ago and that means I am in and out of the bathroom at odd hours. When she first moved indoors, Princess used to roost nicely on a dowel I placed across the top of the bathtub. Since my surgery, she has migrated to the edge of the bathtub where she can see The Bartender reading in his chair. She stays there during the night, like a prissy little vulture, waiting for an invalid to scuttle in there to be startled by her unexpected looming presence. Fool that I am, and so as not to disturb the sleeping mini-buzzard, I quietly greet her as I enter, prompting her to stretch, stand and prance along the edge until I escape. One night, half asleep in the bedroom, I heard the tiny thud that meant she had jumped down to the floor. The Bartender found her in the morning, at the doorway threshold, not quite beyond the tile floor, but cautiously short of the bedroom carpet.

Sam and the Princess

This is how you hold a miniature hen.

The early-rising Bartender gives her the morning meds. It’s easy: simply hold the tiny meds out to her on the palm of your hand and she’ll peck them off, one at a time, and Bob’s Your Uncle. Unless she isn’t in the mood and turns her head away. Or she rapidly picks one and sends the other flying (Which one did she take? What am I looking for?) or sometimes she aims between the pills and sends both flying. You have to find them because you don’t want her to find them later, eat them, and overdose.

How tiny are these pills? The 3x a day med is a tiny pale yellow tablet, about 5mm or maybe 1/4″, but then split into quarters. It looks a lot like a small fragment of cracked corn, just like the ones that litter her bathtub floor. The other one is a chewable med, for small dogs. It’s a crumbly chubby oblong chew that tends to shatter when I split it into eighths. The fragment is pale brown like a tiny angular piece of chicken poop. I’m grateful that the pharmacy can now obtain this smaller tablet: it was hellish to split the big ones into sixteenths. Anyway, the eighths are tiny and blend into the debris littering the fleece lining her bathtub floor.

Pill or poop?

Where is that darned pill?

Princess used to be so lethargic that I didn’t feel bad about letting her nap in the bathtub all morning. Once I changed her to 3x day from 2x day, she started standing around, expectantly catching my eye, singing her crazy hen songs all day. Then my post-surgery routine landed me in the living room most of the day, so now Princess has a day pen out there. She’s closer to my motley indoor kitchen flock, she can see the bird feeders outside the window, and she can chortle, squawk, and whirr at us as we walk through “her” living room, scattering feathers.

I made her a Mickey Mouse chicken diaper from a pattern I found online. She’s too little for the fancy ones I can order from them. (I should probably try pigeon diapers, instead.) Well, she hated the diaper, and when she discovered the purple plastic elephant button fasteners, she had that diaper off faster than you can say Jack Robinson. Back to the drawing board. Or back to the ex-pen.

Princess Pedestal

The weather is nice, the deck is repaired, and Princess gets to go outdoors.

For her afternoon pill, I have to lean over, folding my wretched hips and stretching to offer her the tiny yellow fragment. Then she dances and squeals, deciding whether or not to take it. My back starts to ache, my hips protest, and still she contemplates this life changing decision. I wander away to feed the cats and let the outdoor flock out for their afternoon garden party. When I return, she snatches up the pill and lets me carry her to the yard.

Garden Party Time

Princess disappears in the long grass under the apple tree. (Free rotten deck railing available. You haul.)

I don’t know why I bother. She ignores the other hens unless they peck at her, and the ducks and geese don’t exist. The squirrels are annoying and the small wild birds steal “her” food. She has her very own dustbath, though, and there are lots of bugs this summer. By 7pm, with more than two hours of daylight left, Princess is begging to come indoors. I plunk her into the bathtub, she hops up to the roost, and sashays to the side of the tub where she can spy on me as I negotiate the stairs. She’s waiting for her midnight meds.

Hot stuff

Princess basks in the sun.

She stands and greets me every time I enter the bathroom, pass the door, or talk to The Bartender within earshot. Finally, I split her final meds and sit on the edge of the tub with her. Once more, she gobbles both meds, or maybe she sulks and then gobbles, or maybe she blitzes both and sends them flying. I can hear one hit the wall. The other seems to disappear or maybe she launched it into orbit because I never heard it hit the ground. Incredibly, I have almost always found the little rascals, and she does take it when I do. But now it’s time to brush my teeth.

Get off the sink!

The bathtub is to the left, and she likes to roost on the edge these days. Unless she jumps up to the forbidden sink.

Princess Fruitcake has decided that tooth brushing is loads of fun. I once had a budgie who would fly down the hall, make an abrupt turn, and land on my elbow while I was brushing. Pesky even learned to make the sh-sh-sh sound and bob up and down. It was very distracting, but cute. Having a chicken jump onto your elbow or shoulder while you are brushing is not. So, even though she is the center of the universe all day long, while I am brushing my teeth, I turn my back and aggressively ignore her. She prances and coos plaintively. Tonight she fell off the edge of the tub and inexplicably became tangled in my pants leg. I deposited her into the tub where she dramatically dropped onto her side and looked at me with indignation. I reached down and reset her into a more appropriate upright position and she proceeded to strut and cackle as I walked out the door.

Princess Blur

Three years ago, and she hasn’t aged at all.

She was on the edge of the bathtub when I peeked in at bedtime. It would be a good night to sleep through with no nocturnal pit stops. I let The Bartender deal with her in the morning. I was outdoors at the time, but he tells me she was crowing like a rooster. For Pete’s sake, is that why she hasn’t laid any eggs?

 

Hip Hip, Hooray?

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Hip Hip, Hooray?

I don’t like to read about other people’s medical issues, so I decided not to write about mine unless it was funny. There’s nothing funny about hip replacement surgery, though, and the next person who pipes up with “Well, I heard it was easier than a knee replacement!” is going to be sorry.

My son, Sam, came to stay for a month, and was put in charge of the indoor animals: the guinea pigs, a couple cage birds, the Dojo and some guppies. Of course, The Bartender got stuck with the geese, ducks, hens, pigeons, doves, rain and muck. He also got the Chicken in the Bathtub, and her thrice daily meds. Everybody has more respect for Guinea Pig Cage Cleaning Night now.

The Bartender prunes the grapevines while I point, shout, and enjoy the sweet scent of the apple blossoms.

Pre-surgery instructions meant no pain meds, no alcohol, and I wasn’t allowed to do anything that could result in an infection, such as pruning my roses. The Bartender pruned while I verbally described the branch and node to be cut. Without alcohol. A month later we would prune the grapes, with me standing on solid ground 15′ away, shouting instructions. I still can’t venture out to see what he did, but I do miss puttering around the garden. Being stuck indoors for 6 weeks, I now know that I am no candidate for an assisted living apartment. I will die in this house, surrounded by this landscaped oasis, and an assortment of poultry or worse.

At the hospital.

Nineteen icky staples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You don’t want to hear about the blood thinners, the appliances, the nightmares, or any details of the surgery. But there have been some funny moments. Trying to help with dinner preparation one night, I fell asleep while chopping mushrooms. Not cool when you are on blood thinners. So I was banned from knives until I was off the rat poison. All the cooking was up to the men, and that included the Guinea Pig snacks, a mountain of chopped vegetables each night. Sam baked up a storm so there were always fresh cinnamon rolls and scones with the tea he brought me. My daughter Becky spent a weekend cooking up exotic eggplant dishes that provided a week of lunches.

Seriously?

Sleep deprivation is the name of the game, and I am allowed to “sleep” only on one side. Somehow I manage to toss and turn all night in that singular position and I think that’s why my hair is broken. I look like Rod Stewart until I brush it out into a Phyllis Diller each morning. I’m afraid I am going to have to chop it all off, something I haven’t done since the 70’s. I looked like Little Orphan Annie until it grew out. I have been growing it out ever since. Asking for thoughts and prayers.

Lovely lilacs

It hasn’t been all bad. The lilacs and rhodies bloomed, indoors and out. After the blood thinners ended, I could finally spend cocktail hour out on the deck with Princess and Fat Bonnie. The birds are singing, the bees are buzzing, and the grass is growing. Take a last look at that raunchy deck. It’s currently under renovation so that I don’t accidentally step through a hole.

And so The Bartender is currently my Chauffeur, because I can’t drive, even while I can’t drink. We go out for Physical Therapy and blood draws (to verify to what extent the Coumadin is killing me). We even went to the dentist yesterday. Excuse me, not my dentist, my periodontist. That was a shock. My charming dentist, who once closed his office and brought everyone over to meet Dobby, would not have called that a “deep cleaning.” He would have called it a major excavation, and had I known, I would have waited another week, but it is done now, and we can start counting the weeks until Step Two, which will be discounted a cool $2k by my insurance because I subjected myself to Step One. (Let’s all push for universal health care, but don’t stop hollering until we get dental care, too, okay?)

https://www.gofundme.com/gidget-the-capybara039s-dental-surgery-fund

Gidget the Capybara

And, speaking of dental work, I started a Go Fund Me for a capybara friend of mine. Little Gidget had to have her incisors removed, at a shocking cost to her owner. Capybaras are amazing animals, and Gidget is adapting nicely to grazing without her incisors. The health issues these guys can develop are unending, and veterinarians are so hard to find. The ROUS Foundation is doing what we can, but it’s hard to keep up!

In other news, a baby squirrel has prematurely left his nest. Archie (just a coincidence) is about 3/4 size, and fits neatly inside the squirrel proof cages on my bird feeders. I generally don’t see babies until they are nearly full grown. You can’t even tell they are babies until you watch them drunkenly negotiate the fence-tops, and there’s not much hurtling from treetop to treetop. Because I can only see wildlife from the windows, I have been rigging up feeders outside the bigger windows. The hummingbirds love their new swings!

Did you lose a parakeet?

Big Boy and his dirty little feet.

I also picked up a new stray, this time a parakeet from a park about 3 miles west of here. He was perched on a railroad pedestrian overpass. I’d love to find his owner, but he’s welcome to stay here, dirty feet and all. His feet look like someone took footprints in an attempt to ID him. For now, I am calling him Big Boy, in honor of the recently restored Union Pacific steam engine.

I am finally selling Dobby’s swimming pool. It has been in storage long enough. Check it out here, and tell all your friends!

Daily Drama 77 – Get Out!

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Daily Drama 77 – Get Out!

Yes, in fact Princess Blur is still living in my bathroom. She gets two different heart meds, three times a day, so it’s nice to have her conveniently located. At night we can hear the wheezing that is a symptom of her heart murmur. She hops up to her roost with ease, but has never in five months hopped out of the bathtub. The loose feathers redistribute when she flaps and I noticed recently that The Bartender has moved his toothbrush into another bathroom. She is well into her slumber when I go in to brush my teeth in the dark. I don’t want to disturb herby flipping on the lights.

Princess Blur evaluates the clean blanket prior to strategizing its fall from grace.

When I first brought her in, I toyed with the idea of making some chicken diapers, but I wasn’t that optimistic about her diagnosis. She hangs out with me as I work at my desk, but I am getting tired of washing unspeakably soiled fleece blankets. I guess diapers are my next project.

The latest hurdle was beak trimming. When you spend your days on fleece blankets instead of dirt, your beak will grow long and interfere with your bite so that it’s hard to take your meds. Trimming her beak was even less fun than it sounds, so the goal is not to ever have to do that again. Online, I learned that the common solution was to give her a brick. The Princess was almost as insulted by that brick as she was for the beak trimming itself! I took a walk around the house looking for a suitable brick substitute. If you have seen my house, it will come as no surprise to you that the perfect object was sitting on the same shelf where I put it in 2008 after I bought it in Mexico City. My pig-faced metate makes a perfect seed dish for Princess, and with any luck it will wear down her beak as she digs through for the sunflower seeds.

Samantha, looking perky at the prospect of an afternoon out of the infirmary.

And yes, Samantha, my Little Dead Hen, is still out in the infirmary, getting meds once every five days. An impossible regimen but it’s on my calendar and I usually remember. The lymphoma is ever-so-slowly taking her down, and she is painfully thin. She wants to be out with the flock, but she is so frail she falls over at the slightest breeze. And then can’t get up. In the infirmary, her food and water is efficiently located, she has a heated pad, and she can see and hear everyone, day and night.

She cries for me in the morning when I deliver her breakfast: a little dish of rice, pancakes, or her new favorite: corn muffins. She also gets yogurt, cottage cheese, scrambled or hard boiled egg sprinkled with probiotic powder. Topped off with frozen corn or peas, maybe some fruit. She eats less and less of it, to the delight of my hen Angel, who hops up for first dibs on yesterday’s leftovers. Still, Samantha looks forward to her breakfast every morning, and digs right in.

Samantha and Princess enjoy an afternoon snack together.

Suddenly, our late-season snow melted, the ice thawed, and the sun came out. When the flock invades the back yard for the afternoon Garden Party, Samantha takes over a small corner of Dobby’s old pen. She has a heat lamp, food and water, and nobody can bump into her. When it warms up nicely, I even bring out Princess. They are both lonely but essentially bedridden and they have fun chatting and sitting in their rocking chairs together. We’re still going to have wet and chilly spring weather, and I will have to decide every day whether it is worth the risk to put them out. I will be rearranging the furniture out there so they have access to a larger covered area, and I can add another heat lamp if they use it.

Coffee Bean, Windy, and Angel are shocked to discover that Princess has magically reappeared. They hadn’t seen her for months.

I also have a little dove who commutes. It seems like every winter there is one who has a tough time and ends up on the ground. They came in as an established flock in 2008, so none are younger than eleven years old, and most are much older. Anyway, this little bird went into a heated cage in the barn before the snow, but she still isn’t flying much. Putting her straight back out with the flock was not successful, so I have fixed up a transitional cage out there for her. She first spent days there, returning to the barn at night. When it warmed up, she spent the nights in the outside cage. Finally, I have started letting her out during the day, and the flock is more accepting, though she still can’t fly very high. She’s trying harder now, so even though I am still caging her at night, I think she’ll soon be flying back up to the high perches.

Doves in a cage looking at a dove in a cage.

So now I have two hens going out to the backyard every afternoon, and a dove commuting between her flock and a night cage every day. Who else has cabin fever?

Fat Bonnie is bored.

How about Fat Bonnie? She used to join the Garden Party every afternoon. After she picked up three botfly larvae that had to be $urgically removed, I swore she would never see the outdoors again. That was several years ago, when the rat situation had reached epic proportions. The risk is much smaller now. So out she goes. 

Fat Bonnie, eating again, of course.

The Graveyard used to be her favorite place in the yard, and now it is conveniently fenced. This means that when it is time to take her indoors, I need only chase her around The Graveyard instead of the entire yard and aviary. Lucky me.

At dusk, send your thoughts and prayers to me as I herd the flock back into the aviary (and flush out the freeloading wild mallards), carry Samantha back to the infirmary, return the dove to her night cage, lift old Coffee Bean up to her favorite roost (Didn’t I mention that spoiled hen earlier?), bring Princess indoors, take a breath, and chase Bonnie until she allows me to lift her up and toss transfer her back into the kitchen. Then Princess gets her meds, and I am grateful to have a bartender on staff.


Gratuitous Dobby photo:

Peek-a-boo!

This invasion took place during a Garden Party, long ago. This is the rabbit palace, but they are out in the yard. A couple of hens and a marauding capybara have taken up residence.