Thursday, January 12, 2012

Beyond The Gray Sky

Well, now that the festivities are all behind us the gray, dreary days of January have settled in and it's all I can do to muster much enthusiasm for anything more than reading a good book while soaking up the warmth of the wood stove.  We have had an unseasonable warm spell, as it seems many parts have, so I did take advantage of that and spread a good layer of chicken poo and saturated straw over the entire garden area.  That should do wonders come spring.  I've continued the mulching and planted a few new evergreens to increase the visual interest of the gardens.  The chickens completely shred any annuals or tender flowers I try to keep in pots, so I ripped their sorry remains out (the flowers that is) and planted some sturdy small shrubs in their place.  At least it will give us a little more greenery to look at in all this gray.
The cold returned today with a vengeance, even a little snow this evening, so we can now butcher the meat birds.  We had put it off for a few days because it was just so dang warm and I prefer to do that when it's fairly cool if possible. The broccoli has completely pooped out but I have let the plants stay in order to give the meat birds a treat.  I throw them 1 or 2 a day to devour with some other greens.  They really enjoy that.  The cabbage are still holding on pretty good but I don't know if they'll make it to spring. 
As I stated in an earlier post, things are going well and this stage of our homestead is really coming together.  We are seeing some definite rewards from all our hard work and it's great.  But, there are always trials to overcome in this type of life.  Sometimes bad things happen no matter what we do.

Ya'll remember that we had one hen die a few weeks back, just out of the blue.  Well, the week after New Years Jack and I were inside eating lunch and I heard Chigger barking a bit.  I didn't think much of it but did go out a few minutes later to take some scraps to the chickens.  We let the hens free range during the day and Chigger does a pretty good job of looking out for them.  Well, as I approached the garden area I saw Henny (the red hen above) laying on the ground and Chigger was pacing back and forth beside her growling and obviously agitated.  She kept looking off into the woods but didn't seem to know what to do.  I could tell Henny was in bad shape and ran down to see.  Long story short, she had apparently been hit by a hawk and Chigger interrupted before the hawk could carry Henny off.  She didn't seem terribly bad hurt in a way but I could see two small puncture wounds on her head and she seems stunned, her eyes dilated.  I looked around for the other chickens and there was no one anywhere.  Even the meat birds had ran for the hills.  They were all crammed in the coop house and completely silent, which for them is quite a feat!  I ran in the direction Chigger kept looking but couldn't see any predator or anything or the other hens.  I guess Chigger sensed my intention because she ran down the trail a bit and stopped.  She barked a small bit and ran a little farther, stopping to look back at me.  I followed her and she actually led me to the other hens who were hiding in a clump of blackberry brambles.

I ran back to the house and called for Jack, who was already coming outside and we herded the chickens up to the coop house and inside.  We debated whether or not to try to take Henny to a vet and finally decided just to doctor her a little and see if we could tell how bad it was.  (Turns out we wouldn't have made it anyway.)  So, we wrapped her in a towel and put her in my studio by the stove.  She didn't seem that bad at first but then I noticed it seemed her head was swelling and I saw more puncture wounds.  They were small, like pin pricks right around her eye.  Suddenly she started to have a seizure and I scooped her up to keep her from hurting herself more as I ran up to the house to find Jack.  I knew we would have to put her down; her injuries were too bad but she heaved a big sigh and died in my arms before I could reach the steps.  I sure hated to tell Jack.  Henny was his favorite and a real good hen.  She laid every day right before sunrise, almost like clockwork.  Back in the summer she had developed a tumor on one of her feet, which we had to surgically remove.  She took it all in stride; no problem.  We buried her in the shady area behind the coop house where the chickens like to rest and scratch in the leaves.
So, things go pretty good for a while and then things go crappy but things go on.  We may go pick up a couple more hens if we can find some for a reasonable price.  We'll see.


HermitJim said...

So sorry to hear about Henny! Always hard to lose a favorite, for sure.

Hope things improve for you!

Pablo said...

Chigger sounds like a great dog!

Anonymous said...

Mother nature is not always an easy one to deal with, is she?
Hope the days get better and the garden will shoot out of the ground this spring!

Ed said...

This is almost like Meerkat Manor but with chickens.

edifice rex said...

Hey Jim! thanks! 'preciate that.

Hey Pablo! yeah, ol' chigger is pretty good. she tries hard.

Hey Peg! no, sometimes Mother Nature bites, literally! But it all works out. I'm certainly looking forward to spring.

Hey Ed! Ha! yeah, it's some kinda drama all the time. I'll have to tell ya'll about Ms. Prissy and her escapades.

Jenn said...

Awe Chigger. What a good dog you are!

Isn't she the dog that found you?

Sal in Maine said...

So sorry about Henny. It is never easy to lose critter friends.
Wanted to give you a heads up that I just emailed a mug order... since that dratted second penny never showed up.

Curmudgeon said...

I hate losing animals. Sorry

edifice rex said...

Hey Jenn! My niece found Chigger as a puppy and convinced me to take her because her parents wouldn't let her keep her. Glad I did too!

Hey sal! thanks and thanks! yeah, I got the order and will get a shipping quote soon for you.

Hey Dan! thanks man. Yeah, I hate losing them too.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Reading this post was a downer for sure, Annie, especially since a couple of weeks ago, I saw a hawk had attacked a cardinal in our yard and apparently carried it off. Sorry about Henny, but bravo to Chigger for being so protective.

chickory said...

Its happened to me four times over the years. I hate this for you, and Henry was a beautiful hen. My dogs are pretty good about watching out - not as good as a rooster would be but I cant have one in the city where the chickens are at least part time. I thought larger chickens wouldnt be hit by bantams are very vulnerable but that is the price of free ranging. Im glad you got to hold her - some off mine were carried off. GIve good ol Chigger a hug from aunt chickory

edifice rex said...

Hey Bea! Well, I didn't mean it to be such a downer although I know it's a sad subject; sorry! I have seen the hawks attack the cardinals around here too but one time the cardinals attacked back! It was a helluva fight.

Hey Chic! Dang, I hate that you've lost 4 that way! Henny was the smallest of our hens and I guess maybe the hawk picked her out. She was not much bigger than a banty. We hugged Chigger a lot that day; she was upset too.

Caroline said...

Unfortunately, when a hawk makes a strafing run at the birds on the ground, all a good watchdog can do is watch. It happens so fast!

I always wish that Ma Nature would direct the hawk people to take the House sparrows and starlings instead. Sorry about your Henny.

edifice rex said...

Hey Caroline! thanks. yeah, the hawks come in so fast there is not much anybody can do. They do normally go after the sparrows and cardinals because I've witnessed that, often times right in front of me! Henny was kinda small and I think they just thought they'd give it a try.