Saturday, March 2, 2013

Chicken Doctor

Please forgive my rare appearance here on the ol' blog. I like to post something a few times per week, but this has been a doozie of a week. We began with Strep Throat and ear infections, progressed to allergic reactions to antibiotics, threw in some Pink Eye, and capped it all off with a literal flying leap from the top of Grandma's stairs, resulting in a broken 4-year-old foot. You're welcome, Kaiser. Anywho, I have been doing much less farming than I would like, and a lot more health care.

As the kids and I pulled into the driveway after having Titus' leg casted, we noticed one of my dad's hens, an old Pompadour who has always been at the bottom of the pecking order of his flock, milling about our yard. The two flocks tend to stay pretty separate from one another, so we wondered why she had left those other bullies in favor of ours. Moses quickly noticed that she had a long piece of twine tangled around her legs which was preventing her from taking full strides. She has always been a docile hen, so she allowed Moses to pick her up without much difficulty. The hard part was getting that twine off her dinosaur leg. It was so tangled in little knots that were digging into her skin, and I was so afraid of accidentally nipping her with the scissors, that it took about 20 minutes for me to cut it off. She sat placidly in Moses' lap the entire time, occasionally pecking the scissors curiously or peering up at my face through her mop of white feathers. It was a very nice moment. In my experience, helping animals on the farm usually involves pinning them down and working as fast and desperately as you can while they panic and try to escape, the end result being that everyone involved feels a bit traumatized. This, on the other hand, was a calm moment, and Moses and I could both tell that the hen appreciated our help. When we were finished and set her free, she didn't even go running off, but stayed near us, happily scratching and pecking up bugs.

Strangely, Madame Pompadour never returned to my dad's chicken coop after we untangled her. That night she didn't turn up in the nightly head count, and the next morning she could be seen happily wandering around the sand pit on the opposite end of the property, far from any other chickens. She didn't return to the coop that night either. The next day, I spotted her down by the edge of the pond where the grass is greenest and lucky chickens can even find baby frogs to eat. Her shiny black feathers and funny white poofy head made quite a contrast against the green grass and sparkly water. It was a beautiful sight. She looked so happy down there, though it was curious to see her all alone. Even bullied chickens like to stay with the group. She seemed to need some time to herself, though, and spent the entire morning scratching and pecking around the pond.

That afternoon, my dad came over to tell us that he had found her lying dead at the edge of the pond. Nothing had killed her; she seemed to have died of old age. Moses and I were both sad to hear this, but I also felt a soft touch of happiness as well. I was glad she decided to wander over to our house when she needed help, glad to have untangled her and have a chance to hold her a bit. I was proud of her for having such a good death - she had removed herself from the flock, which is natural in animals who know they are about to die - and gone to the prettiest spot on the property where she could live out her last days in peace. I'm glad I got to see her pecking around down there, and happy that this is a place that chickens (even the ones who end up on our table) get to roam free and enjoy themselves.

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