Category Archives: Ducks and Geese

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.

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Daily Drama 76 – Snow at the Not-So-Funny Farm

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Daily Drama 76 – Snow at the Not-So-Funny Farm

Snow is beautiful, isn’t it? It was so fun to look out the front door and see bountiful snow: fluffy clean snow, looking like Crisco. It’s so quiet. I forgot about that part. You see, Seattle doesn’t get much snow. Not enough to justify snow plows or snow tires, so everybody takes the day off to enjoy the magnificence of it.

This was my front steps.

I got out my snow ruler: nine inches! (23cm) And started to watch the weather forecasts like a fiend. More snow? Freezing temperatures, too? Uh oh. I started to bring in the hummingbird feeders after dusk. Get up at dawn, throw on my flimsy robe, hang them back up, hummers buzzing at the empty hanger, as if to remind me where the feeder belongs.

My official snow ruler

The back yard wild mallards landed in the Crisco snow, rapidly sinking in up to their necks, trudging back up to the surface, flying back up to the roof. Over and over. So funny! I could be mean and toss their ration of cracked corn into the deep snow, but that would be wasteful.

View from the living room. You have to imagine the thunk! thunk! of the ducks landing on the roof.

They quickly learned that the wild bird buffet was being served on the deck, right outside the kitchen door, in dishes. They had the area trampled flat in no time. There are at least forty-two of them, after all. The original pair have been here daily for a dozen years, rain or shine.

Yes, in fact some of them do knock on the door.

Dobby would have been sequestered in the kitchen for two weeks by now. There’s still about six inches of snow on the ground. The bare patches are thawing and we’re supposed to have more rain before the temperatures drop again in a couple days and they start bragging about more snow. The Prince would have been perfectly miserable, cabin fever in spades. This is one of the many reasons why I am not considering getting another capybara. Our mild marine climate is no longer to be trusted.

The Graveyard at Stacy’s Funny Farm

The graveyard‘s colors are muted, and the sun can’t illuminate the gems hanging from the arbor. The snow is so pretty, even the Dove dome is a masterpiece. That snowball in the foreground is a “Dogloo” turned igloo. The pigeon loft is behind it, and this morning I decided to take the eggs away from Phoenix and Cor-ten. Birth control is so easy for birds, imagine if we could lay an egg and simply walk away from it! Today there was a tiny fuzzy face looking out at me. I was too late. So they have a baby and I guess congratulations are in order.

The dove cage has never looked prettier.

When the snow first falls, the cats test it. Curiosity satisfied, Kitty Hawk rejoins his smarter half in the barn. The hens are smart enough to hunker down in the barn until it goes away. The ducks and geese have fancy feet and don’t mind the cold.

Goose and cat. Kitty Hawk is some kind of fool.

Well, they don’t mind it too much. Norman isn’t looking particularly happy here. It complicates his job as flock manager.

Gentle Norman. He didn’t sign up for this.

Even when there is snow, the ducks and geese prefer to sleep under the stars. In the morning, I can see where each one slept by the thawed  dirt ovals they create with their downy blankets. They pull their feet up inside the feathers, tuck in their bills, and they’re good for the night. In the photo below, you can see two ducks sleeping on the ground, and to the left, two thawed ovals where their friends slept the night before.

Tony and Vinny, snoozing midday. They are in the middle of the photo.

In the photo below, you can see the aviary netting is starting to sag under the weight of the snow. Look at the top rail of the fence, straight and true. The roof netting should be uniformly higher than that top rail, but you can see a droop near the center of the photo.

Observing the aviary from the kitchen deck after the first onslaught of snow

From inside the aviary it looked like this. I tried to smack at the snow from below, to get it to drop off the netting, but it was so light and fluffy it wouldn’t fall through the big holes of the 2″ chicken wire. Seattle snow usually falls straight through to the ground. Only deep dry snow falling quickly onto the thin frozen wires will cause significant accumulation. Even so, our usual quick return to 40 degree weather melts it away.

Crisco everywhere: above, below, even on the vertical wire fence

We had deep fry dry snow, frozen temperatures, and frigid nights. Most of the hens sleep in the barn on heated pads. Adelita still prefers her roost, next to where Conchita and Jello used to sleep. The geese and ducks still preferred the frozen ground to the cozy barn.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we got a couple more inches of snow. The net is relaxing under the weight of it. The duck pond is frozen. Beyond the fence, wild mallards gather the troops, ready to beg for cracked corn as I pass by for inspection.

Beyond the pond and fence, wild mallards accumulate with the snow.

The heat lamps come out and the Muscovy ducks come in. They are a South American breed and not as hardy as my other domestics. Their feet and caruncle can get frostbite and they love the heat lamps. The shavings in the barn don’t seem to freeze as long as they are dry, but like a fool, I provide drinking water in the barn during freezing weather and the ducks take care of the “dry” problem. It’s still nicer than the pile-up of snow outside.

新年快樂

The perennial Chinese New Year’s decorations are suddenly timely. Last night the barn lights didn’t come on at dusk. D’oh! They are on a timer and we had a six hour power outage. They have probably been cycling on in the middle of the night for the past week.

Her drinking water never froze.

About a week before the storm, I brought this little dove into the barn. She wasn’t flying up to the perches, and so I fixed her up with a cage that has a perch on the ground. Usually a week or so of R&R perks them up, but I’m also glad she wasn’t in the big dome during the storm. She’s cooing to her buddies in the dome so they all know she’s okay.

After all the snow, everyone was excited to finally see rain. It is Seattle, after all. It rained all night. In the morning, I was surprised to see robins gaily hopping in and out of the aviary. They are too big to get through the aviary netting, so that meant they had found a hole. It turned out to be a hole the size of a Mack truck. Several of them, in fact.

Coffee Bean and Grover learned to share this heated carrier.

Meanwhile, everyone became used to moving into the barn every night. When I gave the signal, Norman would march everyone in. When the netting collapsed, I realized the cats would be able to walk right out, so I locked them into the smaller portion of the barn during the day. Norman’s non-flighted flock would be okay waddling around in the wrecked aviary during the day while we worked on repairs.

Not only did the aviary netting seams rip open, each of the support posts poked a hole. The important central support was a tree that had died and was now rotten enough to splinter into several spongy logs. The central support cables tightly gripped the one remaining sound portion of the tree which was now dangling a few inches above the ground. We removed the other supports so that the netting would be easy to reach and repair.

It’s an eye test: can you see the pink flagging?

I built my first aviary in 1984 out of recycled fishing nets. Holes would rot out of it, unpredictably. The second one, in 1988, was smaller and I used Toprite aviary netting. Squirrels chewed it where it attached to the fence. I used sturdier Toprite for my third aviary, in 1991. It was an effective net, but the small holes clogged with snow quickly, necessitating hourly snow removal during the storms. A fallen fir tree once took the entire net out, ripping it to shreds. This 2001 aviary “roof” has a chew-proof stiff wire mesh edge with a 2″ chicken wire infill. For eighteen years, the snow has fallen through the netting, except where it is covered with twigs and autumn leaves. A yearly cleaning was all it took. Until Snowpocalypse.

No aviary repair kit is complete without a thousand zip ties.

I have a bartender on staff, and his job description is a moving target. I flagged all the holes with bright pink survey flagging. Where I could reach, we worked together to zip tie the holes. Then he went out the next day, like John Henry, and zipped the rest of those suckers right up. They didn’t have a chance.

Eye Test #2: Can you see the zip ties?

We put the supports back up, and Bob’s your uncle! Everything’s back to normal, and Norman can take a break. Sure, there’s still six inches of dirty ice encrusted compact snow on the ground, but I’m fairly certain it will go away. Someday.

Then I walked out to look at the still pretty clean snow in the front yard, and discovered that the core of my multi-trunked Flame Amur Maple had shattered. All of the branches have splayed out and collapsed to the ground as if a malevolent giant stomped on it. Oy vey, how is The Bartender going to fix that?

Daily Drama 69 – April Goes Wild

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Daily Drama 69 – April Goes Wild

Even without Dobby and the rescues, it would be wild and crazy here, especially in April. The songbirds are singing, the hummingbirds have migrated from the feeders to the flowers blooming in the yard, and I listen for peeps that might mean an imperiled duckling.

There are at least a couple hundred geese in this flock. They are probably Snow Geese on their way up to Mount Vernon.

Distant honking caused me to look up at the kitchen skylight in time to see a flock of geese flying back north. I have seen a few “V’s” fly by, but this is an entire flock.

Click on the photo if you can’t see the three deer. Our World Famous Mailboxes are stage left, out of frame.

Half an hour later, my neighbor knocked on the door. (WOW! I have forgotten what 9 months pregnant looks like!) She saw three deer walk out of my yard, and knowing how wild it can be here, wanted to make certain they weren’t escapees of mine! (Note to self: invite her over, let her boys feed the guinea pigs, give her a tour and a dozen eggs.) The deer were down at the end of the street, and I’m sure we have all seen better deer photos than this, but after 18 years here, I am stunned at the idea of deer wandering through. Over the fences. Eating Dobby’s grass and maybe even his bamboo!

Not the boot print, silly! The deer hoof print. This is on a narrow Dobby-trail in the front yard.

Sure enough, deer hoof prints all over the yard. There are other prints, too, out at the street by the garbage cans. Who was this?

Guess now, and I’ll let you know who I think stood around here in the mud.

We have coyotes, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, songbirds, hawks, owls, herons, and six kinds of woodpeckers. And ducks. Mallards are common, but I have had a Wood Duck drop by in the winter. A Bald Eagle swooped through here a month ago. No Mountain Beavers yet, but I keep hoping. I think it’s too flat and wet here.

There were two aqua eggs in the nest when I checked. The duck nest is the brown swirl of junk, lower middle of photo.

This is a mallard nest by my front door. I watched her drop from the sky and scuttle into this nest. It looks the same whether or not she is in it, her camouflage is so perfect. She abandoned this nest, leaving two pretty blue eggs. She’s been hanging in my back yard for maybe 12 years now, before Dobby came. She’s brought her brood into the house, taking the front-door to kitchen route that Dobby craves when he begs by that door. Everyone knows that route exists, like the Northwest Passage, but only Mrs. Mallard has had the privilege of using it. No wonder Dobby is jealous!

Proud Mrs. Mallard with six ducklings

This year, I can see her next door with her precious brood. You can count six in this photo. There used to be seven, and I chased “seven” back to her more than once when I found the little explorer in my creek. Alas, nature does not reward the babes who stray. No ducklings survived here last year, and neighbors later told me that Bald Eagles got them all. The angst can destroy you. Take a deep breath and do what you can, let the rest go. Yesterday she had only two ducklings. I’m afraid to look today.

Mr. Mallard is never far away.

I put out cracked corn: proper poultry food gets sour and moldy the moment it touches ground. Wild bird seed attracts “undesirables” and it is available in my back yard for “Ducks In The Know.” The food I put out is mostly for the momma ducks, anyway. The babies just mess around. They ate their proper baby duck food already. It’s called “duckweed.”

Western Redback Salamander (Plethodon vehiculum)? Can anyone confirm this?

I suppose they eat other stuff, too. Connor was here today and carefully moved some wood in the front yard. Sure enough, there was a salamander under it. In this neighborhood, life lurks in out-of-the-way corners, and you might as well anticipate it. Inches away, the Creature From the Black Lagoon watches us.

Pacific Mudback Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris pacifica)

Dobby has a mucky wallow in the front yard. Sometimes it’s a little pond, sometimes it’s a mud hole. It depends upon the groundwater, which, in turn, depends upon the rainfall. It suddenly dried up today. He was so disappointed!

“Come here!”

Instead of rolling in the mud, he traipsed through it and then led me back to the Duckling Viewing Area. He used to sit back there and gaze at the pond, but he has been too busy to do that lately.

Really?

Well, how about that! Mr. Opossum is at the Duckling Viewing Area. Harumph! Move along, dude! He skedaddled to the Opossum Highway on top of the fence, and headed toward the back yard. Terrific. All my hens and ducks are out, but Norman the Goose will watch out for them. I know this guy, anyway, and all he ever catches is eggs, empty cat food cans, and occasionally he massacres a discarded corn cob overnight.

Route 66 at Stacy’s Funny Farm

Dobby and I checked on the ducks and still saw six ducklings. This momma Mallard now has two drakes watching over her and her brood. Whatever it takes, I don’t judge.

To tell you the truth, Mr. Opossum is too slow to catch a duckling. (Note woodpecker holes on the tree trunk.)

Mr. Opossum wasn’t easily deterred, and I saw him in the back yard a while later. He’s perched on Opossum Highway, but outside the aviary. There’s a bushy evergreen growing through the fence and it creates a nice little observation platform. I wonder how often he perches there, watching my flock. He’s going to be sad when he discovers a nasty wad of chickenwire jammed in there.

Those were my footprints out by the street.

Dobby is back inside the aviary, sitting in another lovely mudhole. So perfect.

Jaunty stripes courtesy of Fergus the Fig Tree

Next, Dobby went into the hot tub to get clean, with a fan club cheering him on. It’s also slightly possible that they were waiting for him to get out so they could get in.

Shamrock, Cubicle, Emilio, and Carmen Miranda

If you don’t get all the way in, and don’t scrub or use soap, bath results can vary.

Nice job, Dobalob.

Oh well, I guess he wasn’t through testing all of the Funny Farm mud holes. This one offers tender new raspberry sprouts. When he eats them, I don’t get raspberries later in the summer. That’s why I carefully fenced them off.

Nice fencing, Farm Manager.

Wait! What about the hot tub? Don’t you want to go back in before you go into the kitchen? Please don’t shake! Dobby? At least it’s only mud this time. That’s how bad he is: I’m relieved that he’s only covered in mud. If you have to ask what’s worse, then you haven’t read his book! You can also follow him on his secret Facebook profile.

There’s a capybara underneath the patina.

 

Daily Drama 68 – Duck Herding 101

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Daily Drama 68 – Duck Herding 101

I took a little trip to Canada in February to witness my son’s marriage. The big news is this fabulous Guinea Pig coffee cup that his bride bought me!

Right handed view: little piggy swimming inside

Left-handed view: reminds me of furry Stevie Ray (RIP)

We also went to Costco (they have poutine at the snack bar!) where I saw this nice Mason Bee house. My store has them, too, so I got one when I returned from Toronto.

Mason Bee house (accidental photobomb of Dobby)

Mason bees have been using the frames on this window screen. They lay their eggs in there, daubing with mud between, and then they seal it up. when the bees emerge, they come screaming out straight at my shoulder if I’m sitting on the chair right there. It’s annoying for both of us.

Their entry/exit hole is that teeny gray rectangle under where it says $500 on the sign.

They also have a couple mudded-up areas on the siding, above the door and windows. They are all under a wide overhang on the East side of the house.

Mason Bee activity over the front door

Mason Bee activity over the window

Do you think the bees will use the new house? I have it mounted deep under the wide overhang, high on the East side of the house, within walking distance of local shops and schools. I’ll let you know.

“Can you please help me with this jacket?

Meanwhile, we were talking about ducks, right? The afternoon Garden Party is when all the poultry explode from the aviary to eat snacks with Dobby and destroy the back yard. They usually return to roost, but I often have to herd them in to the aviary at dusk. I do a head count to make certain nobody gets locked out. It’s harder than it sounds, and I am always surprised to discover a duck pacing outside the aviary as I lock up. The last time it happened, it was a suspicious drake, notably without his lady friend. A third sweep of the garden revealed Bev, one of my two Muscovy hens, snug on Princess’s tiny nest in Dobby’s pen. One more hiding place to check on this season.

“Have you seen my jacket anywhere?”

We have the opposite problem, too. About a million local mallards now know about the afternoon garden party, and it isn’t uncommon to see thirty of them on the roof, waiting for the Happy Hour snacks to be put out. Lately, to discourage them, I have varied the snack time, or offered nothing at all. Not to be deterred, they all parade into the aviary to help themselves to the layer pellets in the barn. Setting out the Happy Hour treats inside the aviary backfires for the same reason. The herding happens later, and I call this game Brown Duck at Dusk. My own flock is in the aviary/barn, and I could close the gate and call it a day, except for the mallards who can’t find their way back out. They panic when they see me, hitting the top wire, crashing into the fence, pacing at the gate itself, but not at the gate opening. This is a skilled herding: keeping their attention, quelling the panic, easing them toward the gate, using “eye” and body language like a Border Collie. Dobby likes to help, and because they are wary of him, I can use his presence to drive them to the gate. Unless he is sitting at the gate. Oh, Dobby!

Tony, Vinny, & Sal, moving on out

Currently, there is a third herding. Twice a day for fourteen days, eye drops for Sal. Tony, Vinny, & Sal are a tight sub-flock who came in to sanctuary together about five years ago. The aviary is big, but it is set up with a barn and a bully pen that I use to sequester the flock for various reasons. The trick is to herd as few animals as possible (but including Sal) into a “corner” so I can nab him. Again with the Border Collie skills, I move them gradually into the barn or bully pen, without spooking anybody. The herd thins until I have Tony, Vinny and Sal separated out. Moving Sal (who looks remarkably like Vinny) onto the bench (Get out of here, Kitty Hawk!) I can finally administer one eye drop to his left eye. I’m halfway through the treatment, fourteen more round-ups to go.

Get down from there, Conchita!

This is why I try not to move quickly or make the flock scatter. There’s always a smart-aleck who jumps up, down, or performs a risky evasion technique. I wasn’t a witness to Conchita’s Folly (when she broke her leg) but now that she’s healed and rejoined the flock, I have noticed she is always flying up to a high point. Let’s not repeat the broken leg, okay?

“Can you heat this up? Maybe float some lemons in here?”

Dobby’s limping is worse during cold weather. The calcification that occurred during the healing of his fractured vertebra pinches a nerve, causing a sciatica-like pain. I know it well, and he walks like me. He can still hop up to his pool, though it is too cold to swim. He prefers a hot tub this time of year.

Dobby and Samantha

Dobby and Princess

Dobby is eating my bamboo hedge, one bucketful at a time. He also has an Instant Pasture in the back yard. After eight winters of lousy winter front yard grazing, it finally occurred to me that he might “graze” on scattered hay. Sure enough, strewn-about rain-soaked hay has been a big hit. With a bit of luck, some of the seeds will sprout in spring.

Fat Bonnie begs in her day pen

Phoenix bathes in his water dish

 

 

Gentrification of the kitchen continues unabated. Fat Bonnie, who moved into the kitchen four years ago, has finally overcome her terror of wide open spaces. Every night, after Dobby went out to bed in his night pen, The Bartender cleaned his area, and we spent the next hour cajoling the rabbit into running around the corner to play in the area he set up for her.

Phoenix chases Fat Bonnie around the box. She’ll sneak up on him later and chase him back.

Enter Phoenix the pigeon. Now that we wheel his cage in there, too, Fat Bonnie races around to claim the ground plane before he gets out. She lets us pet her, she begs for treats, she hauls out verboten birdseed, rips wallpaper off the wall, exactly like a regular pet rabbit. So, we traded Good Bonnie for Bad Bonnie, but she seems a lot happier.

Fat Bonnie: the new relaxed model

Daily Drama 66 – The Chicken in the Bathtub

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Daily Drama 66 – The Chicken in the Bathtub

Little Free Library Charter 38388

The good news is that the wasps have vacated the Little Free Library! I had a big warning sign up and thought no one had come near it for a few weeks. When I took down the BEWARE OF WASPS sign, I noticed that someone had stuffed my library full of great books! As you can see, it is much larger than most Little Free Libraries, and the donator failed to organize them properly: non-fiction on the lower shelf, Children’s books middle shelf right, hardback fiction at the top. By the time I had them all sorted out, I realized there are at least 50% more books in there than what I seeded it with! It isn’t fancy (It’s a discarded china cupboard I found on the corner with a “free” sign on it.) but it is a success!

So here’s the part about the chicken. Conchita is one of three hens dumped at a local feed store back in 2012. Adelita and Conchita survived whatever took Bonita out, and rule the coop over the four other hens who put up with them. Conchita developed a bad habit of hopping over the 4 foot tall chainlink fence that keeps the bully drakes separated from the little white call duck hussy, Ping, and her dimwitted beau, Boxcar. I found Conchita whimpering at the base of the fence with a broken leg and now she lives in my bathtub. What a klutz!

Chicken in a cast.

Conchita and I went to the vet where they confirmed my diagnosis, pinned her broken leg, put on a cast, prescribed antibiotics and pain meds, and sent us home. She went straight into the bathtub, leaving me to contemplate the surprise vet bill.

Chicken in a bathtub

A week later we returned for an x-ray to evaluate her progress. Her leg was healing up dandy, she had finished her course of antibiotics, and only needed pain meds once a day. She was lonely for her friends, and I knew she would eat more heartily with the flock around her, so I took her out to the infirmary in the aviary. We were still having nice summer weather and there is a heated pad out there so it would be an easy transition from indoors. The following vet visit, they removed her cast. Of course, she couldn’t walk yet, but she was much more comfortable. And she was within conversational distance of her friends.

Chicken in the infirmary

The next vet visit was a surprise. It was another surgery to remove the pin. With a fresh wound where the pin came out, she was prescribed another round of antibiotics and pain meds. In addition, I was given a bottle of antiseptic wash to cleanse the wound. I read the post-surgery instructions while they were settling the bill. Anesthesia, lethargy, vomiting, loss of appetite, blah blah blah. Medications 1, 2, and 3 blah blah blah, clean wound daily for 10 days.  At the very bottom of the page-> Other Special Instructions: Recheck in one week   Keep Conchita inside to keep wound clean

INSIDE! Really? I was crushed. She had been so unhappy indoors. The Bartender is a good sport, but this is our master bathroom. Okay then. When I considered the daily cleansing, the twice a day meds, how well she was healing . . . it wasn’t a good idea to chuck her back outdoors, even though she would miss her flock while she was back in the bathtub.

Conchita knows it’s med time: that’s as far away from me as she can get.

A bit more serious about her indoor accommodations, I hauled out a stack of old cage blankets so I could freshen up her pen at a moment’s notice. I had noticed that she liked to sleep on her picked-over corn cobs, so I moved in a couple of sausage-shaped toys for pseudo ground perches. Set her up with a Ring For Service bell. Made the all-day trek to IKEA and bought her an abacus (which she loves) and a baby bug mobile (which she ignores). The rest of the crew made out like bandits: Dobby got new rugs to sully and a toy box to knock around. Fat Bonnie the rabbit got stacking cups to knock over and a basket of plushie vegetables to toss. The Guinea pigs got new floor blankets and a plushie pig to abuse. Even the rats got new sleeping bags.

Conchita began to stand on one leg, using the broken one as a crutch for balance. Ever the optimist, she learned to whimper every time we approached the bathtub: “Let me out of here! Please? Anyone?” The twice daily med routine was a groaner for both of us. The cleansing was a quick efficient affair once I cleared a path to the lost laundry tub in the far corner of the cluttered workshop better known as The Dungeon.

Another vet visit, another surprise: out of the wound they pulled an exceptionally clean and solid plug of pus the size of a checker. Then they stapled her, closing the pin hole for good. Whew! All finished! But wait, another round of antibiotics and pain meds. And of course, there would be one more vet visit to remove the shiny new metal staples.

She was very proud of herself for getting up there, but she was happy to get helped down in the morning.

She really started walking around after that visit. Climbing the short flight of stairs to the master bedroom, we began to see a Conchita head pop up as she greeted us. “I gotta get outta here! Please?” I decided to put up a little fence around the tub. It wouldn’t keep her in if she got active, but I hoped it would discourage any escape plans. The very next night at bedtime, we discovered her up on this perch! What do you think? Tall enough fence? Maybe not.

“Dang, that’s a tall fence!”

Poor Conchita, the next day I switched out her little fence for this big ex-pen. She hasn’t been up on the perch since. To tell you the truth, I absolutely cringe at the thought of her jumping up and down from anywhere. She did hop up there today when I cleaned her blankets, but she always waits for me to lift her back down. Even that night when she slept up there she didn’t get down until I lifted her gently down in the morning.

Chicken peek-a-boo

So this is what we see every time we climb the stars to the bedroom. “Please! I’m begging you, let me outta here!” She has a vet appointment tomorrow afternoon (those staples), and even though they might say it’s okay to put her back outside, I’m not sure I’m ready to do it. We’re going to miss having her inside. It’s kind of fun having a chicken in the bathtub.

Stevie Ray, still handsome

Little old Stevie Ray will be my next challenge. He used to be big and fat, but in April, the vet discovered an abdominal mass, undoubtedly the cause of his weight loss. At his age, surgery isn’t an option. She said he probably had another three months, and we discussed what that would mean for his buddy, Squirrel.

Stevie Ray still tussles with Squirrel for his salad.

At seven years old, Stevie Ray can look a bit rough, but he cleans up nicely after a warm bath, shampoo, and blow dry. It has been five months now since he saw the vet, and he even gained a little weight over the summer. Now, he’s starting to have some old-age problems, and he’s losing weight again, but his appetite is great and he doesn’t seem to be uncomfortable.

Cookie and Brutus have finally learned to share.

Brutus and the Cookie Monster are young girls that came my way shortly after Stevie Ray’s depressing diagnosis. They graciously donated the ex-pen you see here to the chicken. In return, they have Conchita’s lower grid fence. They managed to escape the ex-pen once, so I’m anxiously awaiting their escape from the short, lightweight fence. If they work together, I’m sure they could shove it around. Maybe they’ll push it near enough that blue Thomas the Tank Engine step (with the IKEA pig on it) so that they can make a flying leap escape. I’ll let you know.

Spitfire is so subtle.

Meanwhile, I have this great new blog helper. Spitfire the budgie is very inspirational if you like mirrors, paper clips, pieces of string, and seeds all over your keyboard. Oops! She just flew across the room. That’s how I know I’m at the end of a blog! Bye!