Don't look if you're squeamish

What you need to fix a broken chicken:

40 cc of tube fed Harrison's Recovery Formula
0.8 cc Trimethoprim, an antibiotic
125 mg tablet Clavamox, another antibiotic
1 gram of Benebac Gel, a probiotic (because of the anti-'s)
0.8cc Carprofen, strawberry flavored, for pain
Chlorhexadine for flushing the wound
Tube of Golden Yellow poultice to pack the wound after flushing

As time has gone by, it's gotten simpler.  We dropped the tube feeding (but she's so skinny! i'm constantly worried I should forcefeed her again).  Then the pain reliever.  Last night we lost the first antibiotic and the wound flushing.  All we've got now is the second antibiotic for a few more days, the probiotic, and the Golden Yellow.  I want to show you the wound progress now, in case you are as morbidly curious about these things as I am.  If not, tune out now.

Here it was 15 days ago, after the surgery to close everything up.  I didn't think it looked that bad.  Of course, the feathers are covering half of the back wound and all of the tail bite.

Here's 11 days ago, when things got putrid and before the vet cleaned everything up.  Eeeew.

Nine days ago, after the vet took out the yuck and put the first application of the magical curry medicine.  This was the day I got so sad about how pointless it all was.  If you know where to look you can see that the wound is bone deep.

This is today.   Okay, I know it may not look that good from the aerial view, but trust me, the improvement in nine days is nothing short of miraculous.  It is dry, infection-free, and the bone and muscle is completely covered.  The edges are healing to pink and the center fills in more and more every time I look at it.  You can see that the feathers are coming back. 

Yesterday I put Batty in the yard for an hour with the other chickens.  She kept up with them, did all of the chickeny stuff like scratching, bug-catching, dust bathing, tail shaking (with her 2 tail feathers).  At dusk, she went to the coop and flew up to the roost with everyone else.

I let her sit there for a bit, but eventually had to take her back in to her hospital jail (formerly Tiny Dog's crate).  It will be a happy day for both of us when she goes back to the coop for good.


Chinese Medicine at the Vet's Office

Despite being on some pretty strong antibiotics, Batty wasn't doing so hot a couple of days ago.  To be blunt, she smelled like rot and probably felt worse than she smelled.  Tuesday morning I took her in to the Exotic Animal Doc and they cleaned up the infection, which went way deeper than it looked.  When they were done, the situation looked pretty dire and we began to talk about euthanasia.  Doc Exotic gave her 50/50 odds, but sent me home with a second antibiotic and a new herbal poultice to try.  I wasn't too hopeful, but two days later, Batty is feistier, more active, and the wound has completely dried up and appears to be shrinking.  Also, she has started pecking Tiny Dog again.  That's got to be a good sign.

The herbal stuff is blowing my mind. It's called "Golden Yellow" and stains like a mother. And it smells disturbingly like curry. I know it has a lot of turmeric in it, but I'm unsure of the other ingredients. I googled the heck out of it, but only found ingredients listed in Chinese. Apparently the recipe is a closely guarded secret. I did find story after tale after anecdote of the success people have had using this stuff on the most hideous of open wounds. Dogs with disgusting tumors that disappear and horses with gross facial boils that recover completely. All of the stories have to do with pets though. Seems like maybe humans might want to give this stuff a try, too, right?

So, I'm optimistic.  We'll see what Doc Exotic says tomorrow.  Give us all the love you've got.  We need it!


Both Kinds of News

Good news first.
Batty is walking more.  And eating more.  And she has started to drink.
She went outside today and enjoyed a grassy snack. 
Her sisters paid her a visit.

Her dog paid her a visit.

Her cat paid her a visit.

Everybody was very polite to Batty.  They told her how pretty she looked in the sunshine and ignored the big yucky thing on her back.

Now the bad news.
The Evil Hungry Stray was back today. 
 I chased him off before he could do any damage.
I think he saw the murderous gleam in my eyes.
Then I spent two hours reinforcing the coop.

Also, the yucky thing on Batty's back has a foul odor.
We're going back to the vet tomorrow.
Wish us luck.


Sick Chick

Batty's rehabilitation plan involves a lot of tube feeding.  See that very long orange thing?  That's supposed to be carefully slipped past her trachea into her crop.  To do that, you use one hand to pry open the reluctant beak, one hand to thread the tube, and the space between your cheek and your neck to hold the syringe.  Okay, got that.  Now comes the actual feeding.  For that part, I'm supposed to use one hand to hold her beak open to keep her from shaking the tube out.  The second hand is supposed to push the gigantic plunger to move the mushy food substance through the tube and into Batty's crop.  Problem is I don't have super-hero-istic plunger pushing strength.  That THING just wouldn't budge.  "Bastard!" I cursed.  "Mother!" "Punk Plunger Puppy Jerk!"  It still didn't budge.  So, I had to let go of the bird and push with two hands.  Very quickly but not too quickly. Just right quickly. Which, as it turns out, is not quickly enough. Batty would then shake and cough and out would come the tube.  Sigh.  I did manage to get about half of the stuff into her, but neither one of us was impressed with the process.  

Oh, I forgot to mention how important the Batty Burrito is to the process.  Even in her weakened condition, she knows how to give me the wing.

Not wanting to repeat the tube feeding business, Batty decided this morning that it was time to eat.  The Backyard Chickens Listservers recommended scrambled eggs and yogurt as the best sickroom food.  Odd, maybe, but Batty approved.  Those Backyard Chicken folks know what's up.  Atticus the Cat may have influenced Batty's appetite as well.  He has that, "Are  you done with that?" look.

And then she was up on her feet!  All she could manage were a couple of seconds of drunken staggering, but it was more than she could do yesterday.  I just noticed that the poor thing only  has two tail feathers left.

Now she's resting in the sunlight.  As happy as it's possible to be, when two days ago you were this close to being a stray dog's lunch.
Brave Batty.


Lost and Found

A pack of three stray dogs has been running through the neighborhood for the past week or so.  Animal control has been called.  And called. And called again.  But honestly, I'm not sure they're all that catchable.  They're fast and there is still too much country around here for them to slip away into.  Sigh. 

This morning, while I was getting ready for work, one or more of the stray dogs managed to get over the 5 foot fence and into the backyard with the chickens.  It was fast and brutal and I didn't even know what was happening until it was all over and the dogs had slipped away again.  Here are the ones we lost, the way they looked in their baby days:

Miss Mouse


Black Beak

Storm Cloud

Such sweet and simple little creatures.  We will miss them.

Now I want to tell you about the one we found, because it actually could have been worse. (Warning: Somewhat graphic picture of our dog bite survivor below.)  I won't go into the details, but after several hours of cleaning up loose feathers and worse, it looked like we had two who came through completely unscathed, two who had somehow escaped only slightly scathed but extremely scared, four who were completely lost to us, and one who seemed to have completely disappeared.  I was especially grieving for our Batty, who has always been the most snuggly.  Look at her here as a baby with Isaac:

I counted three separate places in the yard where the dog must have attacked on three separate occassions.  It looked like hundreds of her feathers were spread across the grass.  The last spot was near the fence next to some gouges in the ground where the dog had leapt out of the yard.  I figured he had taken her with him.  Anyway, for some reason my heart was insisting that, even though I couldn't bury Batty, I needed to gather up every last little fallen feather so that I could at least bury those.  I guess I was kind of crying, so I didn't hear it at first.  It was a soft, very, very tiny little trill.  Like the sweet noises hens make on the roost to sing each other to sleep at night.  It was coming from that small dark space behind the deck steps.  I got on my hands and knees, crawled in there, and couldn't believe it when I saw Batty down there with her face tucked into the corner of the corner.  She was hiding.  I don't know how, but each time the dog had gone after her, she'd escaped.  And then she'd hid so well I'd almost missed her under there.  She was a mess.  You don't want to know.  We had to take her to Raleigh to the exotic animal vet (since when are chickens exotic?), but she handled it all brilliantly.  She even laid an egg while under anesthesia. That's what I call a good girl.  Isaac thinks she has earned a new name, so now he calls her Brave Batty.  She's got a lot of healing to do, but here she is, in all of her injured glory:

I think she looks kind of smug.  She's always wanted to be a house chicken and now she's got her wish, doctor's orders.  At least for the next two weeks, anyway. 

And, in the words of F. Gump, that's all I have to say about that.


Broody in the Henhouse

Miss Mouse decided to go broody on us yesterday.  Nestled down in the left nestbox some time in the morning and hasn't moved since. The girl has gone all zombie-esque, with her eyes half-closed and staring.  Last night I tried to stand her up and hurry her along, but she seemed to have lost all function in her lower limbs and maintained the squat position, even when dangling in mid-air.  Also, she's plucked all of her chest feathers, apparently in order to better bake the two eggs and a golfball I found underneath.  Eww.
Unfortunately for Mama Mouse, the two eggs are about as likely to hatch as the golfball -- no Roo in residence. 

When she isn't zoning, Mousie sometimes gives us a half-hearted hiss.  I guess that's her idea of defending the nest, but all of the cute feather fluff detracts from her ferocity somewhat. 

With Miss Mouse staked out in the left nestbox, the right side is getting a lot more business. 

And the cranky hens are getting crankier.

I posted to the Backyard Chickens listserv regarding ways to Bust a Broody.  Had several messages back about isolating her in a bedding-less wire-bottomed cage for a few days to cool off her nether parts.  A couple of the more chick-crazy listserv members bemoaned the "waste" of a good broody and suggested that we buy a few fertilized eggs, stick them under her, and let her hatch a few.  Problem is, we don't have room in our coop for anybody else.  So, friends, would you like Miss Mouse to hatch any little fluffernutters for you?  Liz P., you know you want some.



Ocklawaha to Eno

It's no secret that I grew up in the woods, in a trailer. It's something I like to tease myself about, especially if I have an audience. I was one of a legion of barefooted tomboys the Ocala National Forest turned out over the decades. But not everyone knows that I grew up in the woods on a river. The Ocklawaha River, to be precise, the muddy step-sister of the pristine, spring-fed Silver River, famous in Florida for its glass-bottomed boats and gigantic cyprus trees inhabitated by mysterious chattering families of feral monkeys. So, it wasn't just the bare feet, but also long pony-tailed hair perpetually dredded with river water, and shorts bottoms that were never anything but wet from a bathing suit underneath and muddy from river bank play. I remember always being sticky and sun-burnt and a heathen, really. When we were kids, we could spend a whole day cruising Juniper Run in a canoe, letting the river do all the work as we glided past 15 foot gators sunning themselves, great (and I mean great big) blue herons fishing for their suppers, and hordes of turtles piled cattywompus on partially capsized logs, all but an armspan away.  As children, we really had no sense of the surreal, I promise you.

Anyway, I thought I jumped that ship a long time ago.  Stepped out of the current and brought myself north to urban Durham, North Carolina, and Duke University, the proverbial fish out of river water.  I never joked even once, at Duke, about the woods or the trailor.  I knew, somehow, that it wouldn't have been funny. And I got used to thinking about Then and Now like they happened to two different people.

But this weekend, after a beautiful day lingering in the Eno River,which rumbles less than a mile from our house, Isaac said to me, "I feel sorry for people who don't have their very own river."
"Huh," I said, "Me too." And I surely meant it.  Guess that still makes me a river kid, doesn't it?  Wonder what that does to the whole Then and Now distinction. 

Just look at those river kids:

Jada is a water pixie and she promised to that her stick could mix a birthday present just for me out of the whole, entire river together:

Critter hunting:

Even a snake's heart isn't unaffected by Spring.  Look, they are making love:

The boys ran wild, roaring through the water:

They would disappear at times, so I would wade down a ways until I spotted them playing together on the bank:

Or sword-fighting down by the bridge:

Tiny Dog doesn't like to get his paws wet, but he kept watch over his children at all times:

That face! Oh, how I love that little face!

Thank you, Eno, our very own river.


Carpe Paleta

The current selection at Loco Pops:

He went with chocolate brownie:

I'm a Mexican Chocolate all the way:

Have you had your Loco Pop today?

Atticus and the Vole

Wanna know why this guy is stuck outside, crying through the kitchen window for me to let him in?  And wanna know why, rather than letting him back in, I unsympathetically took his picture and posted it here on my blog?


This morning when I got up I immediately did a circuit of the house, opening windows and doors to let in the warm spring breeze.  For about an hour I enjoyed the fresh air circulating in my wake as I worked on my morning jobs.  Ahhhhh, Spring! Birds chirping, the smell of fresh grass clippings, sunshine flooding in, and...what was that?  Dammit, I'd know that off-key, long, moaning growl anywhere.  That's the sound of the cat, Atticus, bragging over a fresh kill.  And, double dammit, it's coming from the hallway in front of Isaac's bedroom.  Aaaarrrrgh!

You know, I've come a long way in dealing with the death-to-small-animals phenomenon that comes along with having a feline in the family, despite the fact that my first experience was a traumatic one.  Imagine being exhausted from a long day doing whatever exhausts you most, taking a hot bath, dressing in clean, sweet-smelling pj's, and then crawling into your fresh-sheeted, ultra cushy bed to cuddle down with your book and a purring cat wrapped around your feet.  You're in the cozy zone, right? Well, now replace the purring kitty with an off-key-moaning-growling kitty.  But still at the foot of your bed. Atop your freshly changed sheets, and your super luxe comforter.  Yep.  Slowly, suspiciously, sit up in bed, set aside your book, and place your glasses on your nose to get a better look at what is going on down there.  Notice the cat hunched over the tiny fluff of fur first, then the dark wetness and the lapping (lapping!), and finally the fact that (gasp!), the thing is in pieces! A mouse. A dead mouse. On the bed. In pieces. Now screech, leap, flap your hands, hyperventilate, pace, shudder, call your brother, and wail for help. Listen, disbelievingly, to your brother inform you irritably that it is after 11pm, deny your request for help, remind you (annoyingly) that you have dissected all forms of mammals small and large (remember that dolphin? that was awesome.) in your former life as a biologist, and wish you good luck in your clean-up effort. Click. 
Now clean up the mess.
Go to bed.
And follow that most universal and effective of advice - try not to think about it.

So, yes, I've come a long way. I no longer screech, wail, or shudder.  I stomp.  I no longer call my brother.  I scruff the cat, sling him out of the house, and head immediately back to the scene for clean-up.  When called for, I have a special spot in the yard where all fresh kills go to complete the circle of life (aka, the compost pile).  Luckily for today's victim (tiny-eyed vole), the compost pile was not needed.  He seemed uninjured, though seriously frightened, so I scooped him up and took him outside, wishing him better luck tomorrow, and promising him I would make the cat pay.