Tag Archives: Stacy’s Funny Farm

Daily Drama 73 – Mystery of the Missing Hen

Standard
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.

Advertisements

Daily Drama 72 – New Brown Hen and a White One

Standard
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 70 – Vintage Bird

Standard

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.

 

2018 Stacy’s Funny Farm Calendar

Standard
2018 Stacy’s Funny Farm Calendar

Facebook fans selected the photos for a 2018 calendar, and then I couldn’t find a good, cheap way to publish it. So, here is a FREE calendar! You have to print it yourself.

Here’s a pdf:
2018 SFF calendar 1.5mb

Or you can print one month at a time:

2018 SFF calendar
2018 jan SFF calendar

2018 feb SFF calendar

2018 march SFF calendar

2018 april SFF calendar

2018 may SFF calendar

2018 june SFF calendar

2018 july SFF calendar

2018 aug SFF calendar

2018 sept SFF calendar

2018 oct SFF calendar

2018 nov SFF calendar

2018 dec SFF calendar

Daily Drama 66 – The Chicken in the Bathtub

Standard
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!