Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hen down!

A while back, it was finally warm enough outside to move the chickens out of the corner in the garage by the hot water heaters and into the driveway for an afternoon of sunshine.

One thing I've learned about chickens so far is that when confronted with something new, they completely freak out.

They started squawking fluttering all over the place - trying to hide in the corners.  Since I speak chicken now, I could totally hear them saying "The light! The light! Stay away from the light!"

But then, the brave one, Queenie, left the seething mass of squawking feathers and tenatively stepped into the center of the box.

And then she keeled over and died.

"Hen down! We have a hen down!" I yelled.  Ray came over to investigate.  Queenie's body deflated and she spread out one of her wings as if to display all her grown-up feathers.

Ray and I were perplexed.  Queenie and Bossie both started alternating between this strange behavior and running back to the mosh pit where the rest of the girls were continuing to freak out about the glowing orb in the sky.

Eventually, the other chickens started keeling over on the floor, deflating, and spreading out their wings.

As usual, my photography skills were lacking and I didn't realize the camera was focusing on the wire and not the chicken playing possum, but you get the idea.

We figured they must be sunbathing.  A quick internet search confirmed that for us.  Apparently this is "normal" chicken behavior.

What is NOT "normal" chicken behavior is trembling and weak legs.  We really do have a hen down, sadly, and it's Baby Ducky.  It started a few days ago, so I've isolated this one from the rest of the flock.  It continues to eat and drink, and seems pretty pissed off to be missing the party in the crate next door, but this is the way it has to be until I reach some sort of conclusion about what is wrong with this chicken.

Many less-than-quick internet searches have revealed not much.  So, I figure one of three things will happen.  It will get better, it will die, or it will be wobbly all it's life.  We shall see.  Sadly, this is the one chicken that everybody gravitates to.  It could be the crazy feathers, or the diminuitive size (it's the only bantam in our flock).  Or maybe it's the "pluck" (ha!  get it?  chicken humor!) that this little runt exhibits.  I will keep you posted. 

Meanwhile, work has started in earnest on the coop so that we can move the girls out to their own apartment now that they are old enough.  Ray and I have been doing our research, talking to other chicken owners, touring local coops and cobbling together a basic plan.  Which, of course, changes frequently in the course of construction based on materials available, new ideas, and the odd mistake.  It IS just a chicken coop, after all.

But it is a literary chicken coop.  Even though the girls can't read, visitors will be able to ponder a short piece of poetry called Home to Roost, by the current Poet Laureate, Kay Ryan.  We just won't dwell on the fact that the poem is really a metaphor for one's mistakes clouding one's mind.  It's just about chickens!

Bridget has really gotten into the decorative aspects of the coop.  She asked Ray to make a couple of rooster-shaped cutouts from wood and she painted them.  They will adorn the doors where we gather the eggs.

It's coming along!  I will be excited when the girls make their big move.  And like that big, bright, orb in the sky - the changes are sure to freak them out.

1 comment:

Michele S said...

It may just be a weak one. It's so hard to tell. Some of them just aren't strong enough to make it. Good move on isolating it though. The other ones will kill it if is weak. Chickens were the original bullies.