Sunday, September 12, 2011— (On September 20, the full moon, “Harvest”, will rise nearest to earth.)
I spent most of yesterday working to rescue and keep safe a beloved old hen.
She’s the last survivor, 11 years old, from my first flock. She came home with me at just days-old, out of a “sick tank”, and at a marked-down price. I rigged a special baby tank and heating-light in the living room. In it she grew, became strong, and later became integrated with the other chicks, all still very young.
Welsummer matured into a beautiful and sweet hen. She wasn’t the most dominant and always took care of herself among the flock. I knew each bird as an individual and loved the entire group. They communicated constantly, a flock with leaders and losers, with clowns, thinkers, and hunters.
Well, few places might be more violent than a hen-house. The birds huddle and constantly vie for dominance. Stronger ones pick on those less aggressive. My first hen that passed did so from natural causes when the flock was five years old. After that, maybe once-a-year, a least-dominate bird would pass away.
I hated losing any bird and tried keeping one or two of the declining hens alive. An experienced veterinarian medicated them and helped me do all possible to bring each from the brink. My successes were brief, and finally and clearly, I understood that when a hen gives up eating and drinking, and behaves differently, she’s decided to go.
This spring, knowing Welsummer won’t last and realizing I’d miss my chickens, I acquired new babies and brought home seven, all different breeds. I raised them apart from old Welsummer, who didn’t want them around. They were visible and interactive with her through fencing, and as they matured, I periodically released them with old Welsummer. She chased and frightened them greatly until they grew larger.
Eventually, all the birds became integrated.
Meanwhile, it tured out that one baby’s a rooster and happens to be huge, He’s a Jersey Giant breed, and already taller and heavier than all the others. He’s begun watching over and protecting the hens.
Yesterday, it became evident that he fears and dislikes Welsummer.
While hurrying from the hen-house to greet me, in mid-tracks she had to reverse and run squawking. The rooster chased and leaped attempting to attack her. She escaped, and he left no doubt abouts what he’d have done if managing to capture the old hen.
Yesterday, Welsummer moved into new quarters, in my garage. She hasn’t yet enough space but is protected. There’s a roost on which to perch, and best, she’s willing to eat and drink. Today, I’ll figure out how to enlarge and improve her area. Once she’s accustomed to and comfortable in the garage, we’ll proceed. I’ve always thought it would be cool to have a “house chicken”.
Long as she independently eats and drinks, Welsummer’s old age will be safe and comfortable.
Dear Friends: Who’d have imagined? That danged rooster better not ever attack me! Diana