Saturday, 8 January 2011

Painful Separations

Doris is now in residence in the garage. The hospital wing has swung in to action and she is not overly impressed. Since thursday evening, I have been squirting .2ml of Baytril down her throat twice a day, and she has been making her displeasure known. Her condition seems no worse but no better. She seems to spend most of her time sitting in the mini coop and I can't be sure that she's eating or drinking unless I put her out in to the hospital run. Then, she pecks about a bit, drinks and nibbles at her food. This could be a sign of serious illness. Equally, it could be a sign of a depressed hen who has been separated from her flock.

Her demeanour isn't hunched, and she is still carrying her tail high. I don't think she's lost any weight, and she doesn't feel thin or scrawny. I feel sorry for her, locked away on her own in the garage to be honest. However, I know that the best way of ensuring her recovery, and the rest of the flock's health, is to continue as I am. The rest of the girls seem well, but I am keeping a close eye. They also seem oblivious to Doris being missing. Chickens are not generally sentimental creatures.

Celia has finally given up on being broody. I was just congratulating myself for this development when I spotted a huge pile of feathers in the corner of the Palace. Celia has chosen January to go in to moult. I swear that bird's biological clock is wonky. She is back mixing with the flock, and belatedly duffing up Gladys and Hilda. When she can catch them. Which is not often. Those hens can move. I was stroking her yesterday while she chatted away to me when something rather embarassing happened. I tickled her under the chin, while surruptitiously checking her general condition. Being broody for weeks on end rarely results in a beauty queen. I gave her a quick once over and was pleased to find her healthy, if just a bit scruffy. I ran my hand down her back and through her tail. And when I lifted my hand, most of her tail came with it. It was like a dandelion clock getting caught in a strong breeze. I looked down at my hand full of feathers, and looked at the hen in shock. For her part, she seemed to register from my reaction that something was up. Straining her neck around, she clocked her own bald bum. I've never seen a hen do a double take before, but Celia was clearly astonished. She looked at me, looked at the empty air where her once fine cushion had been, looked at the feathers in my hand and then squawked with horror. We both felt a bit awkward at this point, I suspect. I couldn't very well stick Celia's bum back on, and she couldn't easily walk away with any dignity. It was a stalemate. Being the human, I decided it was my responsibility to bring this encounter to an end. I took my handful of Celia to the composter, giving her the perfect opportunity to scuttle away in to the shrubbery to inspect the damage.

I later saw her rearranging what was left, much in the way a balding man might try and fashion a comb over. Poor chook.

(In completely unrelated news, I wanted to let everyone know about Hedwig. Hedwig was the little frizzle cockerel I hatched in the summer who I initially christened Nigel. He went to live with a lovely Twitter friend and was spoiled rotten. Sadly, Hedwig was found dead yesterday. With no obvious signs of illness, and no sign of attack, it seems it was just his time. My sympathies go to his owner, who I know adored the crazy little shuttlecock. I'll admit to feeling a little sad at his passing, but also know that his short life would have been extremely priviliged.)

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