Chicks and teats

by Ken Carpenter

          Sometimes it does not pay to get out of bed. Other times, even if you stay in bed, a rampaging horde of bedbugs could pack you off. Then something changes, and a minor miracle gives you a little faith in the future, or at least in whatever fate has in store for you.

Basically though, things just are what they are and you deal with it the best you can.

The last few months have seen some drastic changes around our household. First we lose one of our hens to what might be called a free-ranging dog, which is what we called our hens until the murderous incident. A word of caution to those who don’t think dogs need to be in a controlled environment; my 20-guage now hangs near the front door.

After spending half a day running chicken wire around the bottom of the goat pen, which is now considered an extension of the chicken pen, our hen’s movements are restricted.

Then we inherited two Banty hens, two Banty-Cochin cross hens and a Banty-Cochin rooster who may be the laziest chicken I’ve ever seen. They came from the friend of a friend who became a victim of the economy and had to give up much almost all of that which she held dear. We promised that our dogs, chickens, goats and rabbits are like our kids, and she believed us.

When we picked up the chickens, we met her two-year old Papillion

male dog named Dandy, who was soon to be turned over to the Sandpoint adoption agency because she could no longer keep him.

          To make a long story short, Dandy took one look in my eyes and decided to adopt me. He wanted me to pick him up and cuddle him, and when I put him down and went around the corner he barked until I came back to him.  

          We took our new chickens home, and within a day we called and said we would take Dandy, even if we were just fostering him until she got back on her feet. When we picked him up, he jumped into my arms and there he wanted to stay. His owner, with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face, called him a little traitor. The tears in my eyes made me feel a bit traitorous too, but it still seemed like a love at first sight thing that could not be denied.

          Dandy fit in nicely with our other four dogs, after an initial uprising, and within a week it was like he’d been there for his whole life. I’m hoping it is not a fostering, because we have a bond that will be hard to break.

          He didn’t even mind that we changed his name to Andy, for Dandy just didn’t seem right. I still space out occasionally and call him Dandy, but he just smiles at me. He likes where he is and who he is doesn’t seem so important.

          Within a short time, catastrophe struck, and our 6-year old Dachshund Sadie Von Weenie Pie became paralyzed in her hindquarters. Taking meds and being restricted to a small kennel for a month did not help, and a very kind lady loaned us a little “chariot” that she could pull herself around with.

          Sadie-Bug is still without the use of her hind legs, and our life is greatly complicated because of it, but half of a Sadie is better than none. There is still hope that she will recover use of her legs, so we aren’t giving up on her. She still loves as good as ever, and doesn’t seem to look at the situation as anything but a minor inconvenience.

          Now, back to the chickens. My new fencing operation worked perfectly except for one thing; Sweetpea, one of the Banty-Cochin hens, flew over the fence at will, even when we trimmed her wings.

          She would stay gone for a couple of days at a time, and we had no idea where she was going. Half a block down the street another crowing rooster resides, so we thought the feathery little hussy was out looking for some strange stuff.

          This went on for weeks, and one day I look out the kitchen window and there is Sweetpea waltzing along with nine tiny birds chasing her. At first my illogical brain thought it was a herd of cannibalistic sparrows, but it was of course her new baby chicks.

          I went out and put them into a small dog kennel, along with a big handful of food for the starving hen. My wife Joy then got home and we went in search of her nest, in case some slackers were still there.

          When we found it, one little chick was laying there amongst the four unhatched eggs and the scraps of the others. It appeared lifeless, but was not cold so Joy did what any quick thinking woman would do; she popped it into her cleavage.

          I made some crack about how some birds have all the luck and Joy hissed at me. Not yet being senile, I shut my mouth.

          After setting up a larger kennel in the spare bedroom, on a tarp and layered with straw, we put food and water into it and watched the poor mother gorge herself. She had obviously stressed her body out for her babies.

          Meanwhile, the bosoms continued their work.

          Within 20 minutes Joy declared that she had just said a prayer to Saint Francis and Saint Anthony, so that the little baby would go to wherever it is baby chicks go to when they die.

          I asked if that was the famous Saint Francis the Sissy, and she told me in a stern voice that, no, it was Saint Francis of Assisi, a town in Italy. I mumbled something about how there must a lot of sissies there, but she merely glared.

          At that point she said in an excited voice that the chick was moving, and no more than ten minutes later she put the recovered baby in with the others. All ten are still thriving, and it appears our bedroom will be a chicken coop for a good share of the winter.

          She gives credit to the prayers to the saints.

          I give credit to the saintly bosom.

          We all have our own beliefs.