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