Thursday, November 16, 2017

Charming Chickens: Gallus gallus domesticus strikes a pose

Colorful English sayings whose fowl roots are on the roost

Nesting behavior: an instinct in pregnant animals to prepare a home for the upcoming newborn(s). It is found in a variety of animals, such as birds, fish, squirrels, mice and pigs, as well as humans.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Charming Chickens: Gallus gallus domesticus strikes a pose

Hen Chronicles: No, it's not time to say goodbye just yet

I thought she was a goner.

When I headed out to the veterinarian’s office with Snow, our Plymouth Rock, late yesterday afternoon, I feared her number was up. Snow is at least six years old, possibly older, and although she just completed a molt that left her with a whole new set of sparkling white feathers, her behavior has been off for more than a week.

Snow has been eating, and she still comes running at snack time, but otherwise, she isn’t moving around very much. In fact, she spends much of her day in a hunched pose, with her tail down and her head and neck tucked into her body.

She gets in and out of the coop. But unlike Nellie and Hope, Snow can’t hop up onto the roost at night anymore. Instead, she parks herself in one of the nest boxes on the floor of the coop, waiting quietly until Liz and I head out there in the early evening and place her on the roost. She eagerly grabs hold of it with both feet and a brief flapping of wings.

So Liz and I were apprehensive yesterday when we tucked Snow into a cat carrier for the 25-minute trip to the vet’s. It was dark by the I time I headed down the driveway. Snow was quiet and still during the drive, possibly having fallen asleep.

The other folks waiting their turn at the clinic had a more standard array of pets: a beautiful, all-black pit bull, a yellow lab, a tiny dog of some breed I could not identify. The people who walked in after I had arrived peered into the cat carrier, as pet owners often do in such places.

“A chicken?” one dog owner asked.

“Yes,” I replied. “Do you have chickens?”

“I do,” she said, a bemused note in her voice. “But I’ve never seen one in the waiting room before.”

I rarely take any of our chickens to the vet; yesterday’s visit marked only the third such trip (and the second for Snow) in five years. It’s difficult to even find a vet who treats chickens, so I always assumed that seeking professional help for our hens made me something of an odd duck, so to speak. But chickens are popular pets these days, and the receptionist said Snow was the second chicken to visit yesterday. It turns out the clinic, which is located in a rural area in central Maine and cares for both large and small animals, typically sees two or three chickens every week.

I held my breath when the veterinarian entered the examining room, but the news turned out to be surprisingly good. Snow’s temperature and heart rate were normal, her lungs were clear, her plumage was magnificent, her feet healthy. Her crop was full, confirming that she had eaten her fill. She’s lost some muscle mass, the vet said, and she may have a touch of arthritis. Bottom line? She’s old. I had been under the impression that chickens typically live about 10 years, but the vet, an experienced hand and a chicken owner himself, said seven to eight years is the norm.

“So you don’t think she should be euthanized."

"Oh no,” he said.

Once we were back home, Liz and I repeated what has become the new normal. I lifted the hinged roof of the coop and Liz held Snow over the roost until the old girl dropped her landing gear and wrapped her dinosaur-like toes around the horizontal post. She settled in for the night. Between Nellie and Hope. Where she belongs.

Nellie, Hope and Snow in June 2014.