Sunday, 19 March 2017

Old age

Lina and Henrika

This week we lost a friend.

One of our guest hens started feeling poorly, nothing specific, we just saw that she felt uncomfortable with life. We fed her home-made berry soup and other goodies and she felt better for it, but on Friday morning she went back to curling up like a fluffy ball.

I called the vets a couple of times, during the week but as there was no eggs stuck or any sign of an infection, there was not much they could do for her. Old age comes to us all, eventually and these hens have lived a full, luxury life with their family. Now it was time to go to hen heaven.

I took her to the vet and the dear hen was put to sleep. Then I wept buckets worth of salty tears because that's how I am.

What I learned, a few hens ago is, that a bird in real pain takes ages to slip away to the next life. Their fighting spirit is so high on adrenaline so their body fights back. Being birds, they do not show weakness easily. It's to do with the fact that in nature, predators line up to eat them. So as a hen keeper, you must be really alert to this and help as soon as one shows the slightest discomfort. Our friend slipping away gently, was commented on by the vet as a sign that we got it right. She was a nice hen, though.

As I'm on the subject of old age, Lina and Henrika, our oldest hens’ spring to mind. In the autumn, when I changed the layout of the hen house, it was to keep the hens away from the draft by the stable door. This was something our older hens understood immediately and soon adapted to. Lina and Henrika grabbed the best spot and have stayed put all through the winter. When dusk sets in, you can see two small ladies hurrying through the stable on small spindly legs to settle above the water tap, in the warmest corner. I think they have a bet on, who can hit the tap most times during the night, so I had to make a cover for it. Even small, slightly old hens poo a lot.

The famous five, the youngest hens in the group, are a head strong lot. All through the cold season, they have slept, side by side, next to the front door. All the alternative space in the world and they have stayed put. They tell me it's the closest they can get to winter bathing and, that it's good for you. In order to survive this notion, they have eaten their own body weight in food, each day, this winter.  As they are an active, noisy lot I think they might be on to something but you must be young and energetic to cope with their health regime.

Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My are finding the faint smell of spring most invigorating and are getting bouncier by the day. This means that our dear, round balls of wool, jump around for a while and then do a few sprints. After that they need to eat a bit in order to carry on celebrating the arrival of light and warmth. They are very sweet about it but you have to watch out when they start their spring dance. None of them seem to grasp the fact that when they run past someone, they send them flying, as their tummies stick out on the side. This means that they do collide with each other at times, but so far, no casualties to be reported. Fingers crossed.

Dear husband finished his wood chopping and is very pleased with his work. "and so he should be!", said Ebba the dog, who has checked every single log, to see that they all smell right. As they all smell of dear husband, we can report that he did not call in any helping hands. Ebba is a strong, firm foreman but she's generous with her compliments for a job well done. Now all we have to do is stack the wood and as we would like it to be done well, I will not be helping with that, either.

Ebba can't help because she is busy with her new hobby of animal spotting. In the evenings, the moon is bright and the night is cold, Ebba has noticed that hares, raccoon dogs and foxes that pass our house. This has led to frantic gallops through the house in the middle of the night, Ebba running from window to window, commenting loudly about her findings. In the end, we had to draw all the curtains to get her to settle.

Now Ebba keeps a regular check on things and all our furniture is being tested for strength and endurance. Ebba seems to be a dog that does everything whole heartedly and with gusto. This new hobby will probably end abruptly when the first elk walks by. Here's hoping, anyway!

It's been a funny old week, lots of ups and downs but that's how it goes, I guess. My box of birthday treats, sent by my dear sister six weeks ago, arrived! Thank goodness, she did not send me any cheese from the country that knows about dairy. What I did get, amongst a lot of things, was heavenly chocolates. Maybe it was meant to come this week, when it really hit the spot. The new postal service is possibly timing our mail? Six weeks is a long time, whichever way you look at it, but we are glad it arrived. Ebba sniffed through the content of the box to check that all was well so, maybe the customs could hire her? She has enough energy to work two jobs. Security and Sniffer dog. This would cramp her style as the "Best hole digger in the county", so maybe it's not a good idea. I will keep that thought, though. You never know.

Time to let the sheep out and clean the stable. I've had my pot of coffee so will buzz along.

Be well and enjoy spring. Oh, and Finland is voting for it's national butterfly which I find very charming.

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