Category Archives: Daily Drama

never a dull moment

Daily Drama 70 – Vintage Bird

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Old Jorge is gone. Poor old guy. Have you ever had a pet where every morning he looked back at you, it was a miracle he was still alive? His arthritis was so bad I finally lined the bottom of his cage with a “mattress” so when he fell off his perch he wouldn’t get hurt. I bought him a little bird heater and he spent most of his final days huddled up to it, and I found a little corner platform perch so he didn’t have to worry about falling down. He had his own food and water at the bottom of the cage, and seemed happier to eat down there than up at the regular water and food dish above. At bedtime, he took forever to decide where to sleep: which one of his favorite places would it be? By his heater? Near the doves, at the top of the cage? Early years, he liked his swing. But this past year, I would say goodnight and wait by the light switch for him to decide. He’d slowly clamber up and down ladders and finally settle in, usually up by the doves. I would wait patiently, watching in case he took a tumble, and then I would turn off the light and go to bed myself. Now I just call “goodnight” to the birds, and go to bed. Sadly.

When Jorge was walking well enough to enjoy “floor time.” He never flew around much.

Jorge (pronounced Hor-hay) arrived here in 2006. My petsitter had rescued him around 2002. She heard him shrieking every day which is how she found him, a few doors down, in a cage in the carport, hardly a safe situation. The owner wanted to get rid of him, “How about $50?” Judy couldn’t afford him, and I couldn’t take him in, because at the time I had a cockatiel who was feather picking, and we didn’t think a screamer would be any help to my guy. Judy eventually bought him and cared for him four years. Until she developed ovarian cancer, when she asked me to take her birds. Jorge had never tamed down but we never blamed him for that, and respected his wariness. We suspected he spent time in an unpleasant situation, maybe worse than the carport. My feather-picker had passed and my remaining cockatiel, a rescue named Butterfree, proved to be a worthy companion for Jorge until he, too, passed.

Vincent doesn’t seem overly lonely, with the doves next door. He will surely miss the reciprocal grooming with Jorge.

Jorge was devastated by this loss. He wasn’t friendly to people, but he had bonded to beautiful Butterfree. I decided to look for an old male to become a companion to Jorge, and found Vincent. Vincent was a friendly older bird needing a new situation and he immediately bonded to Jorge. The two old males ate together, explored together, and groomed each other until Jorge passed last week.

Two old birds, out for a stroll.

When Vincent arrived, Jorge had a large cage outfitted with climbing ladders, swings, and toys. I thought they were about the same age, and they might have been, but Jorge seemed to age, while Vincent seems to be the same age he was when he arrived here 12 years ago. That’s not possible of course, but Jorge became a crotchety, stiff old man and fell off a perch one day.

Vincent doesn’t have to fight for “swing time” any more.

The second time he fell off his perch, I realized I was dealing with a much older bird who would need a safer environment. The tall cage was no longer suitable.

That’s a long fall if you lose your grip on a top perch.

By now I had a motley collection of birds: the two cockatiels, Spike the budgie, and two handicapped doves, The Pirate and her mother Snow White. Dobby was starting to eat the pink cloth “cage diapers” I put at the bottom of the cages to catch miscellaneous bird debris: he discovered he could get at the forbidden bird food by tearing open the fabric. The cages are in his area, after all.

I long ago learned that it isn’t the number of animals that creates the work, it is how many cages you have to clean. Note the torn pink “cage diaper” leaking bird debris onto the floor. Yep, Dobby.

My volunteer, Jillian, and I put together two new cages and we transferred everyone over. I divided Jorge and Vincent’s cage into two “flats” and Spike moved downstairs. (That’s where Spitfire lives, now that little Spike has passed.)  I made a fleece covered mattress for the bottom of the cockatiel cage and arranged ladders to accommodate Jorge. The handicapped doves had a new matching cage, also with a mattress. Everyone was surprisingly blasé about their new homes. It helped that the location and neighbors were the same.

The old switcheroo. The new black cage is all “birded up” and ready to move into the location of that white cage.

After years of mis-matched hand-me-down cages, it is nice to have new ones that I can customize. The ladders in the cockatiel cage allowed Jorge to climb to every perch, toy, food and water dish. The new cages are larger and easier to clean. The fleece at the bottom of the cages results in “bird laundry” to add to my rabbit and capybara laundry, but that’s why I have an industrial oversized washer.

The Pirate checks out the new cage. The last time I let them all out together was not a success, but flock dynamics change over time. Maybe it’s time to try again, but the doves can be shockingly aggressive. The budgies are even worse bullies. For the moment, everyone seems happy with separate “out” times.

Here’s a gratuitous photo of Dobby, checking out the new cages the following day. He notices everything. Poor Dobby, with no “cage diapers” to destroy, he soon learned to get directly into the bags of bird food stored below.

“What happened? Too many changes! Where’s my alternative food supply?”

The left cage is customized for the two handicapped doves: One can’t walk, the other can’t fly. If you can’t walk, you can’t perch, so The Pirate has a hammock at the top. She can fly up to it. The ramps are for the walker, Snow White. I lift her up onto a perch every night at bedtime, and in the morning she hops down onto the mattress below. Flying down is a lot easier than flying up.

One advantage to the new cages didn’t become clear until months later: it reinforced the flocking behavior of all the birds. Jorge and Vincent started to roost high on the left side, as near as possible to the two snoozing doves. They ate together, too, and eating my lunch in the kitchen was a signal for them to join me. Birds are funny that way.

Ramps, ladders, and hammocks everywhere.

About a year ago, Jorge began to spend more time on the floor of his cage, so I added a lower food dish (with supplements added) and crock of water.  On signal, when I brought fresh water, he would amble down the nearest ladder and take two sips. “Thank you!” Then came the wall-mounted cage heater and platform. He had been blind in his right eye for about the past six months and he took longer and longer to decide where to sleep. The seasons changed from winter to spring, yet Jorge chose to spend more and more time by his heater. His passing was unexpected, I honestly thought he might live on forever. I will spend the rest of my days wondering how old he really was.

 

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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 67 – Between Disasters

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Daily Drama 67 – Between Disasters

No, I haven’t been slacking off, and I’m not out of material to write about, either. It’s just that I can only find time to write when I’m between disasters, and today qualifies. Right now the only problem is the dead microwave oven. I’m re-discovering the joy of steaming and I will soon perfect re-heating leftovers in the new toaster oven. At $50, it was a bargain compared with replacing the built-in microwave. This is the third microwave I’ve had perish here over seventeen years.

And then there is the IRS audit. We’re all paranoid when it comes to fat envelopes coming from the IRS, aren’t we? Our Tax Compliance Officer reassures me that we are not being audited due to any action, lack of action, or violation. When I submitted our initial application, I used the fabulous new 1023EZ form instead of the old 1023 long form. She said that, unfortunately, there has been “public outcry” regarding the EZ form, and that it isn’t thought to be thorough enough. The IRS is now evaluating a random sample of the organizations who used the EZ form to determine whether the form should be amended. Lucky us. I am honored to have been selected to verify the validity of the EZ form, and hope future users of the abbreviated form will appreciate the week I spent helping them out.

The clogged “so-called drain” is at about the center of this photo, above the bright flare. Typical Pacific NW basement.

Time to get the drainline reamed out again. It’s cheaper to snake out the drain every six months than replace the 50′ of pipe between this basement drain and the outlet by the driveway. There is a discontinuity in the seventy year old sectional concrete pipe, caused by groundwater rearranging the substrate and allowing the sections to relocate. Underneath the basement floor and driveway. Don’t worry, everything stored down there is waterproof or up on little planks. It’s important stuff: all my spare cages, equipment, and supplies. The water has to rise another three inches to begin flooding the downstairs, but don’t worry, everything down there is waterproof or up on little planks, too. And anyway, it has been fixed now, and should make it through the season.

What would I do without Briana? All this stuff would still be neatly stored on shelves, not doing any good for anyone. My mother, Georgia Dee, would be so excited to see what we are doing with her inventory!

In stark contrast to recent disasters, our Jewelry Manufacturing Centre is up and running! New board member Briana Bell has dedicated herself to creating some exciting new items for Georgia Dee’s Gift Shop. We are specializing in earrings this year, by popular demand. You will start seeing new inventory . . . soon! Watch this space!

Stevie Ray, already looking a bit rough, and Squirrel. Stevie Ray was so good lookin’ he didn’t have to have a personality at all. He was cool, you know?

Little old Stevie Ray left the Dude Ranch in mid-October. He had been diagnosed with an abdominal mass in April. At seven years old, surgery was not an option. He rallied and had quite a few good months before he decided to check out and that was that. I miss his silly antics and his good looks, and so does Squirrel, his cage-mate.

Brutus (named before her gender was known, but I don’t judge) and Cookie Monster, beyond, with her four-different-colored feet.

Waiting in the wings are Brutus and Cookie Monster. They were thoughtfully referred to me by Stevie Ray’s veterinarian as potential future companions for crazy Squirrel. They were recently spayed and are in the process of being slowly introduced to Squirrel, after occupying a nearby-but-separate space. Rushing the process rarely works and these spoiled girls are first class prima donnas. Fingers crossed!

Oh, Conchita!

Conchita had her final veterinary checkup (Apparently Dobby had issued instructions regarding how to register a complaint.) and moved out to the infirmary as a first step toward reintroducing her to the flock. Now that Samantha has joined the flock, Conchita has advanced to step two: navigating the Bully Pen (a separate enclosure within the larger aviary). Her broken leg has healed but she’s got an uneven gait. Mostly, she’s got to re-negotiate her position in the flock. Pecking order is no joke.

Samantha at the green bowl, Eartha, Windy, and Frieda this side of the fence, then the little white hussy, Ping, and her useless but devoted boyfriend, Boxcar.

So, who is Samantha? Samantha, otherwise known as Miss New Hampshire, is an older hen whose companions are no longer with her. Lately, a bobcat had been spending his afternoons staring at her through the secure fence that surrounds her coop. She was lonely and so now she’s here. Introducing a new hen can be challenging, but the flock has been very cooperative. She started out in the Bully Pen. Norman the Goose magnanimously accepted her without controversy. It wasn’t long before Eartha befriended her and joined her in the Bully Pen.

Ping in the distance, then sweet Eartha, and Samantha. Adelita is outside the fence.

It wasn’t long before Samantha was accepted by all and she is enjoying her new friends and her new home.

For cryin’ out loud, Windy! That’s pathetic!

The hens molt (get new feathers) this time of year. It isn’t always graceful. Most will lose and re-feather gradually. You’ll see the feathers around the yard, but otherwise it’s no big deal. Once in a while, a hen will have a very rough molt, like Windy. She’s uncomfortable, and she’s going to kill me when she discovers I posted this unflattering photo. The new feathers emerge through the skin encased in a waxy substance (How else would you push a feather through skin without mussing it?) that she’ll pick off as she fluffs up the feathers. The intact new feather shafts look like little toothpicks on her neck.

Turkey and a few friends. They have figured out that my flock comes out for a catered garden party every afternoon.

Remember Turkey the duckling who grew up in my bathtub and was released? Here she is! She’s the female with a mostly orange bill, more slender than the others. I’m serious: she’s in that crowd somewhere.

Not Cinderella’s coach.

Lord Dobbington, as he was referred to recently, always steals the show. The weather turned cold, so I jokingly got out his old halloween pumpkin costume. He seemed glad to see it again, so I found this rubber ducky rain slicker on sale, free shipping. He would wear hats and clothes when he was a baby, but refused during his haughty teen years. Now it seems he has discovered the practical side to jackets. Hats, not so much.

Rubber ducky raincoat on capybara.

Dobby is kind of a goofball, possibly a spoiled one. Grazing time is short, and pickin’s are slim, so he often has Uber deliver a bucket of bamboo to the kitchen. “Someone” has knocked over this bucket and spread out the bamboo for inspection. “Someone” is also demonstrating that his milk bowl is empty.

Foot-in-bowl disease is rampant at the Funny Farm.

October’s most time-consuming effort was the publishing of Dobby’s book. Rewards were autographed and shipped out to the Kickstarter backers (Thanks, again, everyone!)

“I could eat that!”

Prince Dobalob’s book is available online as a print-on-demand paperback, so any “not available” baloney you may see on Amazon is simply not true. If you have trouble buying your copy, please contact me here and I’ll try to figure out what’s up. I’m also collecting links to international sources, so let me know if you find it abroad, especially in Asia. The eBook will be available as an ePub edition soon, and I’ll update this post with a link here when it’s up and running. Sorry, no Kindle version: it doesn’t like graphics and it loads up sorta goofy. We haven’t given up on Kindle, but don’t hold your breath.

Gotta get this published before I am interrupted by any more baby pigeons coming in! It’s always something!

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!