Saturday, May 25, 2013

And I'm back!

What have I been doing these two weeks? It may be more a question of what have I forgotten to do! We spent a week in Oregon with family and friends, throwing sand, picnicking in the rain, eating way too much amazingness and just being together, finally! And then returned to the whirlwind of homestead life in the spring.
 Peter had carefully reintegrated the chicken (the all black one) back into the flock while us girls were out of town. Best husband ever! Ferdy is doing well. She has a permanent limp, a bald spot and a wicked scar under her right wing, but she lives! She can fend for herself, though she has been demoted to the bottom of the pecking order. Poor thing seems a bit depressed about it, so we love on her whenever we go outside and make sure to give her a pile of treats when the other girls are busy and can't steal them from her.
After a round of rabbies boosters it was time for the house pets to have the attention. Mr Kitty had his once-in-a-lifetime-only visit to the vet. As we tried to explain to Emagene why he had to go and was coming back with an owie it became apparent that she has no interest in the reproductive system or function, though amusingly she does call all grown-ups Mommies and Daddies. Artemis, the best alarm dog ever, went for her yearly haircut a couple days later. 
It was interesting to hear Emagene explain what happened to all the animals to a visiting aunt. E seemed relieved that the dog would not becoming home from the groomer with an owie and be unable to play for a week, like the cat who apparently had an accident while getting his haircut and therefore needed to sleep for 3 days (like I said, no interest in the reproductive system yet and has no idea what the word "Neuter" actually means). She speaks of the chicken as having a really bad owie from the white dog hurting her. She speaks with such an intense emotion behind her tales. I think a chicken living in the tub for a week and a cat not wanting to move stirred her compassion level a bit. She's always been interested in and connects easily with animals. She seems a little more in tune with their emotional levels now. I won't be surprised if she ends up working with animals or surrounded by an extensive array of pets! She tried hard to "rescue" a chameleon from its cage at the pet store yesterday as it tried in vain to climb the glass. I knew if she held it, she would want to bring it home and I don't need another pet at the moment! 

Anyways- in the midst of all that, severe thunderstorms, tornado warnings (though none came close to us, thank the gods!), broken tree limbs, tap classes, the birth of a friend's baby, swimming, growth in the garden, crafting and general domestic duties have filled in the bits of time around all the animal happenings. We have managed to reset our sleep habits and just be together as a family in the last few days. It's been lovely!

Next week, as we move into the third trimester of this pregnancy, it's time to take stock of our house. Clean, rearrange, purge, stockpile, dedicate space and all other things needed to make space for a new family member to join our daily lives while holding dear the last few months of being a family of three. 
And plan a camping trip. 
Anyone have tips for a tent camping pregnant momma?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A week in photos

It's been awhile since I did one of these. And we've had a busy week! Enjoy this tiny glimpse.

Monday, May 6, 2013

how we are treating our hen

Yesterday I wrote a lengthy post about how grateful I am to be witnessing the continued health of the cardinal chicks. After I wrote that post (on my deck watching the trunks of the trees sway in the wind while Emagene swam) I suddenly felt "off." For those in the know, the kind of "off" that tells you the goods have kicked in, a little more than buzzed but still in complete control of your bodily functions. I was completely sober! (I'm pregnant and regularly have a 3-year old in the pool, the only thing I'll be ingesting is tea.) During this unintentional altered state, I notice just how heavy the tree in the corner was. It had sent all its growth out to the tips without strengthening its limbs. It seemed to be struggling to hold the weight of the leaves in the strong wind. Than a branch broke. It landed on the hen house, got wedged and required Peter and a hack saw to safely bring the rest down. (No one was injured but the tree). A few moments later I heard my neighbor lady yell is disgust. Her Chihuahua-mix, Crash, was chewing on a dead bird it had stolen from the pit bull puppy. I immediately thought of the cardinal family and ran to make sure everyone was ok. It was a female sparrow, the loss reinforced by the lament of a male sparrow soon after. Then I started feeling a bit numb and noticed whenever I looked at my chickens I would slip into tunnel vision. I started to wonder if the veil between the worlds was thin. I put all my energy into watching Emagene in the pool. These things come is threes. What would be the third? Pete was flying, Emagene swimming, the cat off chasing tail for the second day in a row. Artemis was sleeping on the deck, all the chickens accounted for and the baby kicking. I forced myself to let it all go and just BE with everyone right now. The feeling returned to my hands and my vision flattened out. We went about our evening, tucking everyone into bed and not dwelling on what I had experienced.

Than morning came.

Morning came with the sharp sounds of my dog's piercing bark. I've grown used to her barking me awake at 7:30 (almost a full 2 hours after morning feeding time) to tell me our chicken, Ferdy, is in the front yard. This bark was more intense. Something was wrong. Out of habit, and following the sound of a cat (which turned out to be a booty call for Mr. Kitty - he's getting sterilized next week!) I checked the front yard first. Nothing. I heard my older neighbor speaking harsh so i went to check the backyard. Sure enough, there was Ferdy trying desperately to get back over the fence and into my yard while the older neighbor was still trying to walk off the stiffness of a night's sleep and keep his dog-sitting charge off my hen. The poor man felt rotten that he couldn't move faster, that the dog had hurt the chicken - who could not jump the fence again due to her injuries. The hen finally let the old man pick her up and hand her to me, where she slumped into my arms in complete shock. Lifting the feathers on her back revealed more than I wanted to see of an animal I had spent a year bonding with.

This hen trusts me more than anything in the world. She loves to roost on the arm of my chair when I'm "lifeguarding" in the backyard, or sit on my lap whenever possible. She requires that I pet or hold her at least once a day; she yells through my bedroom window when the bird feeder is out of seeds and keeps the other hens informed about the circling hawks. I am too emotionally attached to this animal to simply write off her injuries as too much to recover from. True, some injuries are too painful or costly to heal and it would be more humane to euthanize the animal. In this case, I called my husband and demanded he bring home peroxide, gauze and liquid bandage. He left work a little early and basically took over the chicken repairs. He has cleaned and changed her bandages every time they have needed it while I continue with a long self-imposed research project on how to best heal this bird homeopathically (which is a much healthier way to fret and worry about the hen now living in my bathtub than sitting around wringing my hands).

After all that, I wanted to share with you some interesting things I found during this research process.

We initially followed the advice found on this forum thread for reattaching her skin and closing the wound. We flushed with tepid water, then with hydrogen peroxide, followed by a liquid bandage seal, honeyed gauze and a wrap made from old bed sheets (Walgreens does not sell VetWrap).

I then found this really interesting article about healing wounds with sugar packs.

And just for fun, here's a diagram of a chicken skeleton. Her major side wound (there are 3 really bad spots) is between the scapula and the corucoid.

She is currently receiving daily baths with Dr. Bronner's Lavendar soap and water (we chose to use soap since she is laying in her excrament and is in need of a gentle antibacterial wash), the soap is added to a basin of water, soaked into a cloth and then rung out over the wounds to flush the area (there is no scrubbing!!), followed by a sugar paste application, which is then wrapped with gauze pads lined with local, unprocessed honey. I have added a general antibiotic to her water and am continuing her oregano/garlic/DE supplement in her food. So far, her color is good, she is alert, and eating, drinking and pooping normally. Sadly, she seems to struggle standing. We are on the look out for signs of broken bones, dislocation or anything "structurally" that might be off.

Since I leave town on Sunday, we're hoping she heals enough to start face time reintegration with the flock. The girls outside keep coming to the door and peering down the hall. I believe they are looking for her. She doesn't answer their calls, which confirms for me that she is not well enough to be around them yet. Hens will peck the small, sick or injured out of curiosity but sadly it can turn into full blown cannibalism if left unchecked and the victim is overwhelmed or otherwise unable to defend themselves. We are going to avoid this!!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Three little birds

With the return of the sun and the ever earlier dawn, I usually wake a little grumbly and wanting to go back to sleep. Since trimming the hedge outside my bedroom window a little too close to Momma Cardinal's nest, which houses two almost-featherless babies, I now wake a little relieved. The hungry chirps of these tiny babies are getting louder and stronger. They are surviving. The parents did not abandon them as I feared since my human scent was a little close and the sun was a little too unfiltered. The branch I tied back on seems to distract the passing hawks just enough to keep their focus on the hiding chickens.

I know some of you will think I'm crazy, but just after realizing what I did and seeing the momma in distress and crying for her mate to come assess the situation, I did my very best to make eye contact with her; to calmly make a telepathic plea for forgiveness for my mistake; to ensure her I meant no harm and that if she was going to abandon the babies I would take care of them. Within 10 minutes the parents had assessed the nest and returned with food for the babies. I have sense seen her snuggling the chicks during a cold morning and have heard their tiny chirps repeatedly as we've seen Daddy Cardinal fly away from the nest in search of more food.

This tiny interaction, almost meaningless to some, has reinforced my belief that we are all connected; that what I do affects other beings. If I hadn't tried to reach out to them in peace, as you would a lost puppy, who knows how these two chicks would've faired. Admitting faults and taking responsibility for our own actions is important, no matter who is involved. Apologize, even if it was an accident, and you may calm a hurt soul and stop the spread of negativity.

Teach your children how to graciously admit fault and even more graciously forgive others; only then will our country find away to a point of healing.