Friday, August 16, 2019

a fluff piece

Captain Hastings lost his only companion a few weeks ago. For a couple of years there were two elderly, retired hens for him to look after: The Dark Golden Hen and The Little Brown Hen. But early last Winter, The Little Brown Hen, who had never been "right" from Day One but always seemed happy enough, began to go downhill quickly and I had to put her down. I am a big "quality of life" person. I'll go a long way to try to keep everyone happy and comfortable, but I also think there are worse things than dying and sometimes the unpleasant decision is the right decision. The error that I have sometimes made has been waiting longer than I should have, and I'll try not to make that mistake again.

The Dark Golden Hen was on an Assisted Living program all through the Winter, which involved a cooked breakfast served each morning, and a Staffperson (that would be me) going out to the paddocks at dusk every evening to call her - she would answer - so I could pick her up and carry her up the stairs into the stilt barn, where she had a cozy box of hay and a heat lamp on every night. (That's right. I kept a heat lamp on every night all Winter for the comfort of one hen. Is this a good time to point out that I never refer to myself as "a farmer"?)

Spring rolled around at last, and The Dark Golden Hen was active and happy and tottering around followed everywhere by Captain Hastings...until she wasn't. She gradually became so incapacitated that her quality of life was seriously affected.

Suddenly, Captain Hastings was the sole chicken on the place.

I kept a close eye on him, worried that he would become lethargic. And I took steps. I did two things: I asked people if they needed a rooster to take over a flock, and I asked people if they knew where I might find a couple of healthy young hens. It was a question of which would happen first.

Captain Hastings has been toughing it out the past several weeks: still crowing at 4:20 every morning, still making routine visits to barns and paddocks, still coming to the porch door in late afternoon to ask for sunflower seeds. But he also began to get within ten feet of me when I went out to do chores - something he has never, ever been willing to do. I took this as a sign of desperation for companionship, not a sudden appreciation of my finer qualities.

Well, good news!

Yesterday, these two 4-month-old Lavender Orpingtons
joined our merry barnyard band.

Aren't they pretty?!

I didn't have to drive far to get them, and the woman who raised them was very nice and even insisted that I choose the two I wanted from her flock instead of just "the first two you can catch," which was my suggestion.

I chose two that have noticeably different shading right now, so I will be able to tell them apart by appearance until I get to know them. At the moment, they are living in a huge dog crate (it was my Irish Wolfhound puppy crate of years gone by) in the big barn, where Captain Hastings can visit them and the goats can look over the stall door at them but NOT visit unless I am there. Not that the goats would hurt the hens - they are a bit fascinated by them, really. But they might jump on the crate to try to get to the little dish of chicken feed, and that could be catastrophic for all concerned.

Mallow says, "I'm just LOOKING!"

And how is Captain Hastings reacting to all this?
Well, yesterday he spent most of the afternoon visiting the girls - walking back and forth outside the crate, settling down to chat, snacking, being quietly sociable - before heading off to his bedtime perch in the stilt barn.

This morning, he waited outside the big barn - at a safe distance, of course - for me to open the stall door so he could go in and visit again. The girls are staying in the crate, but there is plenty of room in the stall for visitors, and Captain Hastings can fly over the half-door if he wants to get in or out.

Unlike Bud. 

Bud knows this door is the only thing standing between him
and a bowl of chicken feed.
Which could make him very sick indeed.
Give it up, Bud.

 And here is the first portrait of one of the new girls:

So...what's new in your barnyard?