Chickens

Chickens

Since I’d always thought I’d wanted to live in the country on a farm and not be a city-child, I decided that chickens would be the easiest farm animals for me. So, I built a hen house and two wire-enclosed chicken runs, then got myself a dozen Isa Red hens. It’s important to cover the tops of the runs with wires, too, as chicken

hawks, raccoons and coyotes can easily make a meal of chickens. The image I’d had of free-ranging my birds quickly got squashed by more experienced birders. Along with the Isa Reds over the fourteen years of keeping chickens, I had Silkies, which I bred and Cochins plus a rooster named Clarence and his lady friend, Mable.

Clarence and Mabel were either Barred Rocks or Dominiques, I was never quite sure. They were a handsome pair and while Clarence was never interested in having sex with Mabel, he slept by her side each night high up on the roost but he chased my Isa Reds aroung the hen house, the run outside and sometimes pulled them off the nesting boxes when they were trying to lay eggs. He was a right old pest. One day a year or two after Clarence came to live with us, I found him outside in the run one morning, leaning against the side of the hen house. By then, I’d learned that a sick chicken in the morning is usually a dead chicken by noon so I called the fellow down the road who had given me Clarence and told him Clarence was sick. He rushed up with his wife’s baby thermometer, placed it into Clarence’s bottom and declared that Clarence had a temperature. Since I didn’t want to loose himm I suggested we take him to my vet, Dr. Penny Rowland at the vet clinic nearby. When we arrived, Penny looked at me, then at Clarence and declared quite firmly that she was a small animal vet not an avian vet though she did agree to ‘look’ at Clarence. The high temperature confirmed, she gave him a shot of antibiotics and sent me home with a bottle of liquid antibiotics in an eye
dropper bottle, plus a bill, which was made out to Clarence Proudfoot for $34.

Back in the hen house, trying to hold a heavy and squirming rooster, pulling down his wattles and trying to open his beak to medicate him with the eye dropper, took some doing. The first two days I managed but by the third day Clarence shook his head, disconnecting the eye dropper and promptly swallowed it. In a panic, I tucked Clarence beneath my arm and raced back to the vet clinic only to be told that Dr. Rowland would not be in for a half hour. Clarence, perhaps sensing the gravity of the situation, sat very quietly on my lap, surrounded by dogs and cats and not pooping, which I appreciated. When Dr. Rowland walked into the clinic, she took one look at Clarence and me, and supressing a rather large grin, said in a rather loud voice, “now what!” After a lecture on the fact that if she opened Clarence up to remove the eye-dropper, it would cost me at least $150 and that I could buy a chicken at the grocery store for far less. Frozen. I decided she was right. Clarence would have to take his chances having the eye dropper lodged in his throat or wherever it was by then. He was given another shot of antibiotic, this time on the house, because by then, I suspected the story of Clarence and I was going to make the rounds of the vet clinic as their entertainment for the day or week or whatever. So, I took Clarence back home and knew his days were numbered. I separated him from his flock and made him a comfortable nest for his last days on earth and every night at bedtime, because I’d mastered the eye dropper bottle, Clarence was given an eyedropper full of Crown Royal. I often think that city people provide great entertainment for locals, who wonder what we’re doing when we get farm animals and how long we might cope with the solitude of the country. I can’t imagine living in an urban area again but it may happen one day when we can’t manage the acreage we have here now.

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