Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Backyard Flock: Nine-year old wonder girl

Mid-September, we made a four day trip to New York. The timing seemed particularly bad, as our oldest chicken, nine-year-old Pee Wee, seemed like she was on her last legs - literally. She could hardly walk. The situation looked so dire, we left burial instructions with our son, should she pass while we were gone. You must understand, Pee Wee is a pet from our very first batch of chickens. She lost her best friend, Rocky, years ago, and, since then, she has been number one in our hearts. She comes when called, and always has something to say to me when I open up the coops in the morning.

We were surprised to find that, although she continued to suffer, Pee Wee was still with us when we returned. She seemed alert and her feathers looked fine. It was just the legs that weren't working. Getting up onto her usual roost was out of the question, so she was sleeping on the floor of the coop. My best guess was that she had arthritis.

Amy grew up in a large extended family in a village in Malaysia. Large backyard flocks were the norm. They supplied not only eggs, but meat for the table. Whenever a chicken got sick, her grandmother would give it an aspirin. So we started dosing Pee Wee with an 81mg enteric coated aspirin every other day. She seemed a bit better, but it was hard to tell in the short run. Over the weeks, however, we began to see encouraging signs: walking slightly better, coming out of the coop as soon as the door was opened, instead of lingering inside. Recently, she seemed to have much better control of her legs, to the point where I would swear to Amy that I saw her running for the food, as soon as the door was opened.

The other night, she stayed outside long after all the other chickens had gone home to roost. I talked to her a bit, and finally, she went inside. It was getting quite dark, so I shined my flashlight through the window of the coop so she could see where she was going. After a minute, I heard a loud "ker-thump." It seemed like she had tried to fly up onto the roost and had crashed. I went around back and opened the large door to check on her. There she was, up on the roost. And she has roosted like that every night since then. During the day, she runs around as if she had never had a problem. She is obviously back. What a girl!

In other chicken related news:

Our local Dollar General does some really nice things for the village. In addition to collecting loose change for DG's school grant fund, the local manager puts out a bin to collect items for various local charities. For the past few weeks, they have been collecting dog and cat food for Nick Ormes's animal rescue, which is located on the back of the Yellow Springs Botanicals property (former Stutzman's nursery). I have been a frequent and long-time supporter of the work Nick is doing in rescuing mostly farm animals. You can very easily help out by buying some extra pet food the next time you are in Dollar General, and dropping it into the bin by the register. You can check out Nick's website by clicking here.

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