Monday, August 26, 2013

Bad farmer!

I am a miserable farmer. 

I know this because as I sit here writing there is a chicken hanging out in my basement in a dog carrying case that is doubling as an infirmary. She has been sprayed with colloidal silver and rubbed down with Neosporin after having the deep gash in her back rinsed with peroxide. The gash exists because my other chickens are trying to peck her to death. 

They are doing this because I released her back to the coop with her sister after the reek of two grown chickens and three still sort of baby chickens jammed in a big bunny cage reached it’s nadir mid august. I know that you can’t release a single chicken back into the pack, but I didn’t realize her sister would run away and not come home that first night back (whether taken by raccoons or hawks or other critters that live in Sagg Swamp I’ll never know) and thus leaving my poor remaining chicken to be pecked down to blood and bones by her old siblings. So she’s back in the basement, in a dog crate next to her chicks, one of who appears to be bigger then the other two and thus is probably a rooster (shhh, don’t tell my husband!)

I showed my husband the wounded chicken after I found her huddled in the nesting box and the sight made him gag. It’s pretty bad wound, so naturally, I asked him what I should do, and he told me to talk to some of my farmer friends.  A suggestion I, of course, ignored. I know what the farmers would have told me, and I didn’t want to hear it. Remember, I’m a girl who spent $140 taking my first sick chicken to two different vets only to have it die on me anyway. This after I carried it around to work in an igloo lunch box and fed it baby food with a syringe.

I’ve gotten better, I really have, I didn’t name any of them this time, although the neighbor’s little girls call one Mathilda and one Lavender since they run down the driveway and skip their way across my cattle grate just so they can go hang out in the neighbor’s yard (Lavender is among the missing FYI.) but again, one of my sweet little chickens is in pain, and that makes me crazy. So even though I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t pick up the phone and call a farmer, I go online instead. You don’t have to worry about being seen as a wackadoodle for having chickens in the basement, once you’ve discovered there are people who have diapers for the chickens in the living room. I sort of straddle the line between keeping then as pets and keeping them as livestock -- not that I could ever eat one of my chickens, forget about that, but I do enjoy their eggs.

Anyway, the internet chicken websites which offered diapers said that chickens heal remarkably well and that I should separate her from the others and give her time to heal.  They recommend the vet of course, but I’m trying to be tougher than that. I’m trying not to be a bad farmer. Good farmers take damaged chickens and eat them, but ever since I started raising and hanging out with chickens, I’ve kind of lost the taste for them. It would sort of be like eating one of my dogs, or the cat.

I actually have had a bad chicken week, as two other chickens decided to not come home one evening after a day free ranging in the yard. I found the wing of one, so I know she’s in heaven, but the other could be sitting on eggs somewhere in the back 40. Or not. I don’t like to think about chicken death, but nature is ‘red in tooth and claw’ and tough on farm critters that want to party under the stars. Then the dogs, who discovered the chicken remains before I did, and who have been hanging out, slightly terrified of the chickens, for at least a year, decided for no good reason whatsoever to attack another of the chickens yesterday. So now I have a dilemma, I have run out of infirmary room, and there’s actually more chickens in the basement then in the chicken coop. So I’m trying to make her tough it out. I cleaned her cut, and put her back in their coop and am crossing my fingers. Hoping for no more carnage.

Oh and no one is laying eggs anymore by the way, or if they are, they’re hiding them among the hydrangeas or under the porch and I can’t find them.

As I said, I'm a terrible farmer.

Look, I’ve admitted previously that I’m a bad weeder, and that every summer the vegetable garden gets away from me. This year all the green beans grew too big and tough from a lack of harvesting. I have tomatoes rotting on the vine and for the third year in a row, I missed picking the bountiful crop of the not as sweet as I’d like them to be blackberries. I feel bad about the veggies, but the chickens are a bigger issue. There’s pain involved, and fear and death.

And guilt.

People hear that I have chickens and bees and a huge vegetable garden and think my life in the country sounds idyllic. I’m not so sure. The chickens ate all my lettuce and kale and Swiss chard and dug up half the peppers. Two of the hives succumbed to that last ice storm in March. And now I have three dead chickens on my conscious, plus two injured chickens that are not having a good time. And three little baby chickens who think it is boring in the basement, but whom I’m scared to introduce to the perils of the outside world. My husband tells me I should just give them away as the process of acclimation is not one that I’m good at handling.  But I’ve grown attached to them already; I even have a good name for the rooster.

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