Part Two of Melanie’s memorial posts.
Click on the link to read her post:
Part Two of Melanie’s memorial posts.
Click on the link to read her post:
The rescues keep on comin’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Meanwhile, the geese, ducks, and hens continue to enjoy their afternoon Garden Party.
They are more wary without their Royal Guard, but Norman keeps an eye on the flock, and they all watch out for each other.
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!
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.
During this difficult time, I am not writing much. The Funny Farm continues to be a constant in my life, and the antics of the hens, the guinea pigs, the rabbit, and so many silly birds bring many smiles. Tomorrow I will welcome two more elderly hens, monitor their acceptance into the flock, help them to adjust. There is plenty to write about, but I am not quite ready.
Until then, my friend Melanie is writing for me. Our work together for the ROUS Foundation continues because we share a personal connection in our work to gather and distribute information about capybara veterinary care.
From Melanie’s website, Capybara Madness:
You can read about him by following the link below:
Chickens come in many colors: white, yellow, brown, black, and all sorts of speckled and blotchy mixed colors. Mine are brown. All kinds of brown, subtle markings, slight variation in comb shape. Well, there is also the puny white/orange/black speckled Princess Blur, the banty Mille Fleur. Due to her diminutive size, she could be brown and I could still spot her a mile away. Emmy Lou Harris, the new hen, is brown. Of course she is.
The arrival of Emmy Lou means that Samantha, otherwise known as Miss New Hampshire, is no longer the new hen. She has been here since October 2017 and has totally integrated with the flock. Norman the goose has accepted her as a full-fledged member and he’s as protective of her as he is of the rest of them.
Princess Blur, on the other hand, has yet to admit that she is a chicken. The cats are terrified of her and she chases mallards in the yard. Dobby tolerates her, and she successfully lobbies for extra garden time. Are all Mille Fleur hens kooky?
New hens are sequestered (in the bully pen) from the flock until they accept each other. I had Emmy Lou only a week when I discovered bossy Conchita (yes, the one who broke her leg . . ) in the separate pen, and Emmy Lou happily exploring the larger yard with the other hens. Other than a few scurries and quick departures, Emmy Lou was getting along nicely. Since then I have found her back in the bully pen, taking a break, but she’s generally well accepted.
Emmy Lou hasn’t been to the garden yet, though. She is able to explore the aviary in peace when the others are out in the yard. It also means she hasn’t met Dobby, though he visited the hens in the aviary this morning. Emmy Lou kept her distance.
Here’s Dobby helping me put the poultry away after the garden party. (FAIL)
By the way, this is what the back yard “grass” looks like after our wet winters. It looks like dirt.
This is why Dobby goes to the front yard to graze, especially in winter and spring. There is even new grass coming up on the path between the aviary and the gate to the front yard.
I re-seed with a pasture grass mix in late spring and this year the germination has been fantastic. The yard has almost complete coverage already. Unlike your lawn, which is probably a mix of perennial rye and Kentucky bluegrass, pasture grass is food grass. It has some perennial rye, but it mostly has timothy grass, orchard grass, and tall fescue. It would get tall and shaggy if Norman and Cubicle (the geese) weren’t such good mowers. They are much more efficient than Dobby.
Phoenix the pigeon moved out to the aviary in Spring. He discovered my female pigeon, Cor-ten, and they keep laying eggs. Phoenix is very helpful, taking turns on the nest, and he seems very content. That is, until I remove the eggs. Every egg that hatches means one less rescue I can take in, so spring is all about finding nests and taking away eggs. I’m happy to let the resident wild mallards raise the neighborhood ducklings.
Speaking of wild things, here’s Conchita and Dobby. You might be able to see the three crows on the roof. They have been making quite a racket, because “Three” is a baby who begs constantly. They are teaching him that my yard has the best treats.
Unlike lovely Emmy Lou, Brutus the guinea pig is not quietly joining the herd. She can’t get along with sweet Squirrel, my funny boar. She and Cookie Monster share half the pen.
Squirrel is a very entertaining guinea pig, and a gentleman, too. A sow’s dream come true. He always got along with Stevie Ray and was crushed when he died. Brutus and Cookie Monster were intended to become his new herd.
Cookie Monster adores Squirrel, and so she visits him frequently. I can’t leave her with him all the time, because Brutus is bossy when she returns. I’m afraid that eventually Brutus would reject Cookie Monster if she spent too much time “next door.” So she commutes back and forth and everyone is happy, at least some of the time.
I though April was wild, but after 17 years here, I have deer in the front yard. Coyotes have been pooping in Dobby’s front yard, and I have even seen cottontail rabbits next door. Dobby had a cottontail out here several years ago, and he loved that bunny. I hope he has another one visiting this summer.
I put up a mason bee house in March and was stunned to see how popular it is! Look at how many of the condos have sold!
The squirrels have been crazy this year. They’re always nutty (sorry, couldn’t resist), but this year’s squirrel games are wild!
This is a subtle reminder to visit the Gift Shop. Briana and I are making lots of jewelry, and I will post a bunch of new stuff when the finished items overflow our “finished” basket.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.