Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Unsinkable Demeter

I lost the post about my latest chicken disaster, so the discription will be less immediate than it ought to be. To make a long story shorter, Benny and Lytton escaped by digging under the lattice work that encloses the area beneath the porch. The kids next door knocked on the door to tell me the news. They had captured Lytton, so I returned him to the house and set out to look for Benny. Suddenly I remembered that the chickens were outside. I headed to the back of the house with dread, and sure enough, there was Benny inside the pen surrounded by what I thought were dead chickens. It turned out that they were not dead, but severely wounded. After returning Benny to the house (not before he took a bite out of one of the children), Iwent back to assess the damage. Three of the chickens were lying on the ground covered with blood. The other was nowhere to be seen. Carefully I picked up the first injured chicken and placed her inside. When I opened the door, there was Demeter sitting on top of the nesting house, unharmed. She watched with some interest as I placed her less fortunate companions on the floor and checked them over. They all had very bad puncture wounds and raw, bloody areas.

Having called the vet once about a similar event, I knew that there was no point in asking for medical advice. I had to just hope for the best. When I looked in on them later, they were all still alive, but the next morning one had died. I put her in a bag, put the bag in a box, then put it in the dumpster. How desensitized I have become since the first time I had to deal with this situation. I couldn't stand to even go near the chicken house for days and had to ask Will to remove the bodies. That's not to say it is easy for me or that I am not upset by what happened. But it is shocking how quickly we can come to accept the formerly unacceptable.

This morning I found the two injured girls feeling better and Annie II moving around pretty well. Mary II was still down, but looking a little more chipper. Tonight I took their favorite treats, crackers, down to them and they both ate with relish. Mary still wasn't on her feet, but she was upright and looking bright-eyed. I hate to think what kind of pain they must be in, but they are certainly bearing it well, quietly and with dignity. Demeter was gallant enough to allow the sick ones to eat without molesting them. I have hope that they will survive.

It is a terrible irony that I have wanted to give these chickens a better life than they have ever known or could hope for, and yet have been responsible for the horrible death of so many of them. Even now, though, I have no intentions of giving up on them. At least for the time that I had them their lives were far better than what they had before. They lived in a windowless, dank and moldy room inside a barn. There were so many of them crowded together that they could hardly move and they were covered with wet sores from being constantly pecked by other chickens. They had lost many of their feathers. For a short time, anyway, they had it easy and comfortable.

I have shed many tears over this incident, but I have put my energy into plugging the escape routes the dogs have found in the hope that somehow I will be able to lick the problem.

And the night before the chicken episode, Benny was sprayed by a skunk.

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