Farewell Conchita, my Golden Girl

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Farewell Conchita, my Golden Girl

Conchita made a hasty departure. When I went out to feed the chickens that morning, she was still roosting. This was not a good sign, as she was the “jumping-est” hen I’ve ever had. She wasn’t the best at landing though, which is how she broke her leg last year. It cost her weight in gold to repair that leg, but here she was, still on her night perch, half way through the morning. I plucked her off the perch and set her on the ground. She collapsed, then struggled to stand up and hobbled off to sit in a mud puddle. I didn’t like the way things were going, so I set her up in the infirmary with food and water. When I checked on her a little later that afternoon, she had shockingly and suddenly passed.

Welcome to the Funny Farm! Adelita, front, Conchita behind, Bianca out of frame.

Conchita, Bianca, and Adelita were dumped hens found loitering outside a local feed store in December of 2015. A friend contacted me and brought them right over. I was delighted to see that they were Welsummers, and young healthy ones at that. I sequestered them in the infirmary while I set up the bully pen for them. Newcomers usually start out in the bully pen where they can get used to the Funny Farm flock without getting picked on.

Conchita checks out the bully pen. See her, in the back, other side of the fence?

I’m not projecting when I say that Dobby loved his hens. I was trying to take photos of them, but he was very excited about his new girls and posed with them behind him. I didn’t let him into the bully pen for fear of scaring the heck out of them their first day here. I liked to give them a day to learn he was benign, a big gentle doofus.

Not a safe roost, girls!

That night they decided to perch on the bully pen fence. Branches had once been piled loosely on top to discourage my Muscovy drake from jumping out and they were still a menacing barrier. The hens on top were very near the overhead wire roof, near enough for a raccoon to reach down or for an owl to crash into them. Plus they were in pole position to jump down on the not-bully-pen side of the fence at dawn.

Three hens in the infirmary, night watchman on duty.

One by one I snatched them off the wood pile and stashed them safely inside the infirmary. Dobby freshly marked the catch nets for me and then supervised the whole affair.

Primo roosting: Jello, Conchita, and Adelita, L-to-R. Conchita is trying to peek back at me, you can barely make out her beak underneath.

Eventually they got to know Dobby, the other hens, the goofy ducks, and settled in. Conchita selected a roosting perch near the middle of the barn, with Adelita next to her. That’s Jello on the right. In the photo above you can also see dear Lula, the handicapped hen, in the infirmary. Little Princess Blur is glowing back there, too. She kept Lula company and I set up a ramp so that she could come and go as she liked. Lula is the only hen Blur ever liked. Maybe her heart broke when Lula died, because after that she roosted alone, until very recently. She avoided all the other hens and spent her days out in the back yard with Dobby. With Conchita gone, teeny tiny Princess roosts next to Adelita, way at the teeny tiny left end of that roost in the photo above.

Musical Chairs, chicken style.

To mix things up, Conchita occasionally roosted on a different perch. That meant everyone had to move with her, and Bianca had to adjust. The Boss Hen does what she likes, even if it causes a ruckus.

My golden hen

She was a prolific layer, and true to her breed laid big chocolate brown eggs. She and Adelita laid more days than not, most of the year. Even at six years old, they were both contributing most of the eggs around here.

Pouffy about hens. Jello, Dobby, Conchita, Adelita, L-to-R.

When Jello died, Conchita became Dobby’s favorite hen. He loved to share birdseed with his hens who were responsible for most of Dobby’s snacktime pouffiness. He liked Conchita because she was naughty, too. Every morning, when I went out with lettuce and a plastic bag of kitchen scraps, as I struggled with the gate and Dobby and all the excitement of a new day, Conchita would leap at that bag of scraps and rip open the bottom, emptying enough out for an appetizer before I could properly distribute it. I still flinch at the gate though it is an orderly and eminently sober greeting these days.

One lucky hen

Then she broke her leg. That’s when she became golden. She had surgery to set and pin the leg.

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After a month in my bathtub, I could recognize her cluck anywhere.

She moved inside to my big Jacuzzi tub, the indoor infirmary. Pain meds, antibiotics, and a cleanup twice a day. It was kinda fun to have her around and I was reluctant to move her back out.

 

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The infirmary, in its intended use.

After the vet check-up when they took off her cast, I reluctantly moved her out to the infirmary so she could visit her flock. She appreciated the fresh air and conversation.

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You’re not fat, Conchita. Don’t worry about it!

She went back to the vet for a second surgery, this time to take out the pin in her leg. Of course, the pain med and antibiotic routine began again.

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She really liked the IKEA abacus.

This time, though, the surgical area around the stitches had to be cleaned and disinfected daily. Back indoors to the bathtub. This time I set her up with some toys. When she started perching up on the toy support at bedtime I knew she was going to be okay. She had broken her leg on August 19, 2017 and six veterinary visits later (including two surgeries), she finally had the stitches removed on October 12, 2017. She owed me some golden eggs.

 

Racing for the Garden Party treats. Conchita is the hen nearest to the camera. Her leg wasn’t quite straight, even after all that surgery.

She lived another year and regained her position as boss hen, gimpy leg and all. She took back her pole position on the night roosts. She laid another hundred eggs, minimum. And she kept jumping.

Conchita’s dust bowl.

When the swimming pool disappeared and the grass started to grow, she kept her favorite dust bath open for business. The eggs kept coming, but recently I noticed that some of the dark chocolate eggs had a subtle indentation in the shell. The eggs were groovy, but not in a good way. I didn’t even know if they were Adelita’s or Conchita’s until I saw my golden hen emerging from a nest with a newly laid, slightly dented egg.

Conchita’s eggs were dented like when you touch a hot chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven.

The day after I buried her, I noticed this egg in the infirmary. She had laid me one last “Thank You!” chocolate-but-not-golden dented egg before she checked out.

Angel’s fabulous blue egg, some dark brown Adelita eggs, tan eggs from Emmy Lou and Frieda, and a couple big old duck eggs underneath them all.

I have taken in three new hens in the past three months. One quickly became the new boss. Emmy Lou is friendly and smart and her takeover was uncontested. The two newer ones are mostly in the bully pen, gradually emerging. Coffee Bean and Angel are wreaking havoc with the roosting and the cackling at dusk is disconcerting. I need to ignore it and let them all work it out, but in fact I’m out there, dinner on the back burner, checking once or twice after they should all be settled for good. Then there is Samantha, who has been here for a year, died last week, but is recovering nicely. Dead as a doornail, I’m not kidding. Sounds like an upcoming daily drama to me.

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Daily Drama 73 – Mystery of the Missing Hen

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Daily Drama 73 – Mystery of the Missing Hen

Dusk is a noisy time in the henhouse. Roosting locations are allocated according to strict rules based upon hierarchy. In spite of that, last minute jostling as the sun sets is accompanied by complaints and disputes. Then there are the spoiled hens, Samantha and Windy, who require the personal touch: I have to lift them up to their respective roosts. Samantha arrived here from a residence where her roost was near to the ground and she can’t quite grasp the concept of “up.” Windy is a heavy breed, and seems to have developed a stiff little waddle rendering her quite incapable of reaching the roost preferred by her sisters. I pick up each hen and plop them up by the others and they generally stay put until morning. Fortunately, they can jump down on their own.

In the aviary I’ve got 9-1/2 hens (little princess is only half-sized and anyway doesn’t consider herself to be poultry), 10 ducks, 2 geese and the 2 cats running around. I don’t do mornings well but I toss food around and check waterers while I make certain nobody looks out of sorts or sulky, and check for holes in the protective wire netting above me. In the afternoon I open the gate for the Garden Party and they stampede for the treat dishes and dust baths. It’s at the end of the day that I perform the “head count” to make sure I didn’t leave someone out when I shut the gate for the night.

That’s Windy, front and center, in better days when I had expert help rounding up the flock at the end of the Garden Party.

Last Saturday night a hen was missing. Windy, where’s Windy? No, not already in the aviary. I went back out the gate, did a sweep of the yard. She’s often the straggler, but not Saturday. The yard is very secure, entirely fenced, some fences are 10′ high because they are above retaining walls. Windy is a heavy breed, a Golden Laced Wyandotte, and anyway, not inclined to jump, let alone fly. I searched the aviary one more time. Sisters Eartha and Frieda were huddled together, as if to illustrate that Windy was missing. I went back out to the yard, looked under every shrub, behind every pot, poked around between fronds, called out The Bartender. We both looked but found no Windy.

In the morning, I fed my flock, minus Windy. I checked the yard again for tell-tale feather explosions or spare parts, but thankfully found nothing resembling pieces of Windy carcass. My volunteer, Dechen, arrived and we went out to the aviary. I told her about the disappeared hen, and in demonstration of how I had looked in every conceivable hiding spot, peered behind a cage into an impossibly tiny gap. Large enough for a dove, but not for a fat hen. And there was a big fat Windy hen silently peering back out at me. We pulled the cage away from the fence and got her out. She was compressed like a four leaf clover in a diary. She bravely hobbled a few steps and teetered over. I picked her back up and checked her over a bit more carefully: I do know what broken chicken legs feel like, thanks to Conchita. Windy had an abraded shin, not even worth messing with, but she was still kind of folded funny. That’s what the infirmary is for, so in she went with food and water and treats. Dechen and I pushed that cage back, jogged it a bit to the side of a post so we could snug it right up to the fence.

Cropped so that you can't see the chickenshit on the top of the cage . . .

The funky cage on the right has been pushed to the side of that fence post so that only spiders can squeeze between it and the fence. Several hens roost atop the cage on the green blanket, and up there is where I had been stashing Windy and Samantha.

Thinking back, I couldn’t recall the last time I had positively seen her. Had she come out to the Garden Party the previous day? Did she come over for her morning treats? The Bartender’s eyes opened wide when I reported finding Windy. He reminded me that on Friday night (FRIDAY! It was now SUNDAY!) the hens had been cackling at bedtime to a ridiculous degree. I had already lifted up Windy and Samantha to bed, but Conchita was hollering from her roost at a volume certain to attract the attention of nearby mothers with small children trying to sleep. I had thrown on mud boots and gone back out there to check, seen nothing (“nothing” as in oblivious to the missing hen . . .) Conchita recruited her sister Adelita into the cacophany and it had taken quite a bit of discussion and admonishment on my part to calm them.

Ground perch solution fail. It’s a beautiful maple branch, but short enough so that both CMU supports sit squarely within the hens’ squatty bedtime positions.

I spent the next couple of days setting up a low roost for Windy and Samantha. They still prefer to hunker on the ground, but as the weather deteriorates, they may decide to hop up 6″ to the fabulous bamboo roost I fashioned for them. Or maybe they’ll continue to squeeze under it to the darker corner.

Potential final ground perch solution. The CMU supports now fall closer together and allow space for Windy (left corner) and Samantha (right corner) to hunker down on the ground. The bamboo roost is long enough to extend the full length, putting the ends tantalizingly close to the hens. You can lead a hen to a perch, but you can’t make her roost on it.

What a fool I am. After 35 years I should have more respect for the opinions of my flock. I was lucky this time because Windy spent only one day in the infirmary. The following day, I took her out, set her down for a moment, turned my back to grab her water bowl, and she sprinted for the common treat bowls. She’s fine. She has totally fluffed out again, pouffy, if you will. And she has forgiven me.

In Memoriam: Dobby Winnick (Part 3) | Capybara Madness

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Melanie understands so well.

Source: In Memoriam: Dobby Winnick (Part 3) « Capybara Madness

In Memoriam: Dobby Winnick (Part 2) | Capybara Madness

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Part Two of Melanie’s memorial posts.

Dobby was such a tease. He knew very well that the point is to put all four feet on the scale!

Click on the link to read her post:

Source: In Memoriam: Dobby Winnick (Part 2) « Capybara Madness

Daily Drama 72 – New Brown Hen and a White One

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Daily Drama 72 – New Brown Hen and a White One

The rescues keep on comin’.

Meet Coffee Bean and Angel

Today I took in a white hen, and (big sigh) another brown one. She’s much darker brown than my reddish Golden Laced Wyandottes. She’s an old gal and no longer laying. The white hen is an Araucana, and the white ones usually lay blue or turquoise eggs. I forgot to ask, but I’ll let you know. We’ll see an occasional egg once she gets settled in. Like most of the hens that come in, they are the “Last of the Mohicans” and have usually seen the rest of their flock decimated by raccoons and dogs, the main suburban predators.

Coffee Bean is a Wyandotte, but she doesn’t look like a golden laced, like my Three Fat Hens. Maybe a silver laced. About 8 to 10 years old and looking good!

Angel has already found the mud, but she’ll clean up nicely once she gets the hang of this place. About 6 years old, like most of my current flock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bedtime was a bit dicey, with a few hens temporarily displaced in order to accommodate the nervous newcomers. They made such a racket I had to leave the dinner table to check on everyone. It was only Conchita cackling, and her roosting spot was totally available. No problem for the boss hen. I moved a few hens around and went back to the table.

But where do WE sleep?

CACKLE! A few minutes later, I was back out there, shuffled a few more hens around, gave them a little pep talk, and all was quiet.

The new girls also came with a nifty chicken coop.

Chicken coop or pigeon loft? It’s inches away from the dove dome, where Phoenix and Cor-ten live now.

Phoenix the pigeon has taken a dislike to one of the doves he lives with now. He attacked her twice and he’s not getting another chance. I think he’s going to love sharing this nice chicken coop with his darling Cor-ten once I fix it up. The trick will be getting them to nest near the door so I can snatch the eggs before they hatch. I adore Phoenix, but two pigeons are enough.

Phoenix takes the afternoon shift on the eggs. He’s a good mate.

In other moves, Fat Bonnie totally owns her new home. It’s good to have her so happy there, but it was a bittersweet move. The tumor in her dewlap turned out to be a benign fatty tumor, so, for once, we dodged a major surgery and more veterinary bills.

No longer fat, Fat Bonnie has reduced from 7.5# to 6#. She’s still spoiled, but not spoiled rotten.

Meanwhile, the geese, ducks, and hens continue to enjoy their afternoon Garden Party.

Beautiful Emmy Lou Harris. She’s not as “brown” as the others, with her gray tail.

They are more wary without their Royal Guard, but Norman keeps an eye on the flock, and they all watch out for each other.

Eartha is usually the first to befriend and accept the new hens. She’s has classic Golden Laced Wyandotte markings.

I have been rescuing chickens since 1984. While taking a walk, my companion’s dog flushed out two Rhode Island Reds, obviously dumped at the University of Washington. I brought them home, housed them temporarily with my ducks, and built them their own pen. Indoors I had a couple gerbils, some finches, a parakeet, a cockatiel, some fish. Ten years later I had my own licensed Game Farm, raised dozens of Wood Ducks to trade with the old geezers I knew. But the old hens and 4H rabbits kept coming. A Peacock landed in the yard and stayed so I found him a hen and if you haven’t kept peafowl, you just haven’t lived!

The Bartender and Dobby, July 2009

All of those years without Dobby and I was perfectly happy. Now that he is gone, I am perfectly miserable. There will never be another Dobby. The capybara experiment came and went, and losing him broke my heart. I need to retire, and the 49 animals I care for now require less than 10% of the time and commitment that one capybara takes. I’ll never forget him, and you will never stop hearing about him, once I get past this sadness. Until then, the Daily Dramas will continue, and I hope things get funny again soon.