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Daily Drama 74 – Little Dead Hen

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Daily Drama 74 – Little Dead Hen

For a little dead hen, she looks pretty darned good. I deserve some credit for resurrecting her, but she has been very cooperative so if I continue to take good care of her, she’ll be talking back to me for a while yet. You can see in the photo below that she’s sitting down instead of standing up, scratching for bugs in the barn shavings like an old lady.

Stand up, you lazy bum! (9/28/18)

Samantha came to the Funny Farm a little less than a year ago. She was the last of her flock and the bobcat circling her coop every afternoon was not an incentive to increase the chicken population.

Samantha, otherwise known as Miss New Hampshire

Samantha is a very shy hen. She was excited about joining her new flock, but there are rules about seniority. Establishing the “Pecking Order” is a serious undertaking and I am careful to sequester new additions to the flock. They can get acquainted through the fence without any casualties and once everyone is bored with the new denizen, it’s usually safe to introduce them, with supervision.

Not ready for Prime Time, Samantha looks hopefully at the gate into the communal barn area.

Samantha made friends easily, and Eartha politely asked to join her in the Bully Pen. They were inseparable and this partnership helped Samantha to be accepted by the rest of the flock.

L to R: Eartha and Samantha, BFFs forever

It didn’t hurt that Conchita was still in the infirmary, recovering from a broken leg. As the Boss Hen, she determined whether the pecking order met her requirements. But not from the infirmary. With her status in limbo, the remainder of the flock had settled upon an easy democracy, with no single hen taking leadership.

Samantha taunts the Boss Hen, Conchita.

Almost as soon as Samantha left the bully pen, Conchita moved in to complete her recovery. Samantha continued her induction into the flock through the fence. The other hens were deferential to Conchita, even in her diminished capacity: limping and sequestered from the flock.

Obligatory photo of Dobby, Samantha in background.

Recently arrived hens are reluctant to join the garden party outside the aviary each afternoon. Wild beasts populate the back yard, after all. Three months after her arrival she was as eager as the rest of them to dash out and destroy the back yard in search of bugs and greens.

She’s not ordinarily mud-colored (2/8/18).

The photo above was taken in early February. She isn’t the chubbiest hen I’ve had, but she looked okay then. She has never been as heavy as my Wyandottes, who remind me of the Chicken Run hens. Bend your knees when you heft those beauties.

Looking decidedly scrawny (6/28/18).

Look at Samantha in late June of this year. Can you see her sunken chest? I had already become concerned about her weight loss, but most hens come to me at an advanced age, and they are notorious for not living much past 5-6 years. They have been bred for either meat or eggs, depending upon the breed. Samantha was a five year old New Hampshire. She hadn’t laid for a year when I received her and she has never laid an egg for me. That’s not really the point, here, and what makes it a sanctuary. We don’t judge hens based upon their egg laying skills. All I ask is that they make me laugh once in a while, an easy task for hens.

Samantha is on the left, acting perfectly normal (7/13/18).

The photo above was taken in late July. August was the same and then I found her dead on September first.

This dead crow photo illustrates the position I found her in, wings splayed out, head at an awkward angle. Tiny Princess Blur was clucking over her and several other hens looked on from a safe distance. Except that instead of being on display like this crow, Samantha was in a drainage ditch, covered with mud, looking more like a pile of debris than a little red hen. It honestly took me a minute to figure out I was looking at a chicken, so throughly camouflaged was she (that’s the gecko photo), a trickle of muddy water displaced by her ghoulish presence. I picked her up by the feet, as one does with a filthy dead chicken, and set her on a picnic table. I quickly looked around to see if a raccoon was in the aviary, or if there was any other collateral damage. When I saw no other carcasses, I returned to the table.

I turned over the corpse to look for evidence of an attack but her head didn’t flop like a dead chicken. I nudged her noggin and felt a very slight resistance. She was alive! Her eyes were closed and her head was covered with mud. Her feathers were so caked with wet mud I could see her skinny breast and protruding breastbone, skin visible between the matted feathers. I took her to the infirmary and set her under a heat lamp. I didn’t dare add to her misery by trying to clean her up. I syringed some water over her muddy eyes but they didn’t open. Her breathing was shallow and I feared that she would aspirate any water I tried to get down her throat. I shut the infirmary door and continued my chores, assuming she would die.

At noon, she was still alive. I syringed her eyelids clean but she didn’t open them. At the end of the day, her feathers were dry so I removed the heat lamp and set her prone body onto a heated kennel pad. I didn’t want the heat lamp to roast her. I worked some more on her eyes and cleaned her face a bit and said good night . . . and good-bye.

The next morning, she was still laying there, but she tried to move her head when I spoke to her. When she didn’t choke on the water I syringed down her throat, I gave her some pain meds (meloxicam). Then I finished cleaning her face and turned her over on the kennel pad. When I checked on her in the afternoon, her eyes were open. I started her on antibiotics (enrofloxacin).

The following morning she was struggling to sit up. I righted her, gave her more water, pain meds, and antibiotics. I made up a tray of food: layer pellets, bird seed, and lettuce. I went in to get some rice, her favorite, from the refrigerator. By now, her former owner had texted, recommending grated cheese. I added a little slice of The Bartender’s Famous Cornbread and took it out. She took a few excited bites and was done. She should have been hungrier.

Seriously, this girl is skinny.

On the fifth day my little dead hen stood up. Her feathers had started to fluff out and she tentatively explored the infirmary. She was still on antibiotics and I attributed her lack of appetite to the meds. I added yogurt to her meals, along with mealworms and dried shrimp, some of Dobby’s leftover probiotics, oyster shell grit, an apple from under the tree, and some other fancy chicken treats, no longer an item to scoff at. She was very interested, but not ravenous.

Decidedly more animated, nearly one week post-death (9/7/18).

She looked- and looks- perkier every day. She’s skinny, though. Also, she is molting, always stressful and never a good look.

Get out a black crayon and color everything black, even her eyes. You can even color outside the lines, that’s how bad it was.

I pack her a fancy lunch every day. Today she had scraps of whole-grain bread, frozen peas, LMF Digest 911 (probiotic powder), honeydew melon, and cottage cheese. No hard-boiled egg today. She scampers over to look, takes a few pieces out, and then she’s through eating. What more can I do?

The Avian Hilton breakfast buffet

I took out Conchita’s abacus. If I set it up perfectly, I can tell when/if she’s pushed the markers around. They have been moving, so it must keep her busy for a couple minutes a day. I ordered her a xylophone, The Bartender is going to buy her a cabbage to hang up.

The heated kennel pad blanket is in the foreground, by the door. She sleeps on it, as close to her friends as possible.

When the abacus and mealworm cornbread failed to do the trick, Samantha went to the vet. Her recovery had reached a plateau. She was not dead, but she had not improved beyond where she had been before her death. Dr. Vincenzi is the best veterinarian in the world, (he kept Dobby going for many years) and I had done all I could do.

“Where the heck are we?”

Samantha was very well-behaved and several assistants came through to meet and pet her. She left a stool sample, and I folded the towel over it, so as to preserve it in pristine condition for the vet.

“I don’t know. It’s grocery store corn, isn’t it? Not from the farmer’s market?”

I had brought a fresh corn-on-the-cob for her, out of habit, I suppose. What self-respecting hen doesn’t attack a piece of corn? Samantha stared at it while Dr. Vincenzi chanted incantations and performed some ritual voodoo outside of the exam room. He returned with the verdict: Lymphoma. Samantha has lymphoma.

Everything tastes better at home.

I am crushed, but I will give her the best care I can. No wonder I found her face-down in the big muddy. No wonder I couldn’t make her gain weight. She will spend time in the barn (out of the infirmary) while the others are having Garden Party in the back yard. Today I put Eartha in with her, sprinkled dried shrimp on the ground for them to forage. I’ll pack Samantha an interesting and tantalizing lunch every day. I once had a hen, Lula, who took metacam every day for two years, for arthritis. I can do this, too.

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Daily Drama 73 – Mystery of the Missing Hen

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Daily Drama 73 – Mystery of the Missing Hen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Drama 72 – New Brown Hen and a White One

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Daily Drama 72 – New Brown Hen and a White One

The rescues keep on comin’.

Meet Coffee Bean and Angel

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

But where do WE sleep?

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

The new girls also came with a nifty chicken coop.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bartender and Dobby, July 2009

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

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!

Daily Drama 59

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Daily Drama 59

Dobby’s diving video is featured on Bored Panda! He also made the front page of reddit yesterday! Woohoo! It isn’t quite the same as The New Yorker magazine announcing his candidacy for the 2016 presidential contest, but it is still pretty cool! That didn’t go so well, anyway.

A little bit of the Amazon River, right here in my backyard, complete with indigenous species!


Stacy’s Funny Farm is a non-profit pet sanctuary. You can read more about it here.