...sometimes even a single feather is enough to fly. (Robert Maclean)


A Christmas Chicken

Some people have ham for Christmas, right?
Some people have pork or turkey 
or tofurky or chicken...

We have a Christmas chicken in our kitchen right now.
But it's not the kind of chicken you would think.

Oy vay.

Just what I wanted for Christmas (and my much-anticipated vacation from work):
The Christmas Chicken Infirmary.

It's a traveling infirmary in a clear plastic tote,
so we can keep an eye on our girl Brahmie.

Hopefully Brahmie's respite in the house will be brief,
because I've got other stuff I was planning on doing this vacation...

(oh, you know...
like relaxing and mostly doing whatever I want to do,
instead of worrying about freakin' chickens!)


So what happened was...
Yesterday before we went out to do some errands, we checked on the girls.
Boo found Brahmie all slumped over in the coop.
She couldn't stand up, and her crop was empty!

Either she has some sort of disease (Marek's?!)
or her molting has really taken a toll on her
and she's become nutritionally depleted in a major way.

It's so hard to tell.
You never really know what's going on with a chicken.

We propped her up by the window in the family room for a bit,
but Boo decided that since she's a social creature she should be with us more.
The kitchen is the central place.

It's definitely a stressor for a chicken to be away from their flock,
but Brahmie seems to be taking it all in stride.

She's had a lot of interesting experiences in the last 24 hours.
She even went in her traveling infirmary with us on our errands yesterday!

She's been looking all around and watching what we're up to.

 Besides the weakness in her legs and her curled up right foot,
she seems pretty normal.   

If Boo hadn't found her, she most certainly would have died before too long,
from starvation or dehydration,
or the other girls could have pecked her mercilessly
and maybe even have killed her.
It's a brutal world out there in some ways...
it's hard to stomach!

Brahmie is one of our 5 remaining original hens...
she's 3.5 years old now,
and she's been a great girl and had a fantastic life.
 She's given us the biggest, BEST eggs out of the whole flock...
 And I absolutely love when she sees us coming into the chicken yard
and she comes running / waddling / barreling towards us 
as quickly as she can manage 
to greet us
and to see if I have any treats!

She's a real gem of a girl, and it'll be so sad to lose her.
If it's possible to restore her to health,
we'll do whatever it takes.


I love the girl, and I want her to get better so much.
But her timing really sucked.
And the whole infirmary project is a huge drain.

  I just hope our intervention efforts don't backfire on us this time, 
like they did with Dommie.
(Two weeks of heroic efforts and she still died).

For awhile today, I thought...
 maybe we should have just let nature taken it's course...?

But when, oh when, do we EVER do that???


Let's have a rehash of our amazingly fun Christmas day, shall we?


- watched Brahmie around the clock, moving her from room to room with us 
"She's panting.  Do you think she's okay?
"She's eating! What else should we give her?"
"Oh, she's closing her eyes... do you think she's trying to sleep...?"
"She spilled her water all over, oh $%&*!"

- almost set the house on fire (distracted by the chicken drama)

- did not exchange gifts (that was so lame, I'm never not giving gifts again!)

- bickered about stupid stuff

- took turns being grumpy 

- blew off our friend's invitation to come eat at her house and play games

- ate only cookies all day and failed to shower

-  felt sad about our dead dogs and people

- went to pick up some Thai take-out for dinner, 
but the restaurant got confused and delivered it instead 
and that caused more grumpiness and bickering and ultimately a loss of appetites.

When we weren't doing all of those fun things, we spent the rest of the hours in between
researching about vitamin deficiencies, homeopathic remedies, and possible diseases...

I really had no expectations for Christmas day other than 
for it to be moderately pleasant and relaxed,
and we (mostly I) failed on all fronts.

But some good things came out of our chicken health research.
 We've taken some action like 
- we've given her causticum 30c and 200c 
- and lots of food (feed/scratch, shredded carrots, rice, worms, cabbage...)
- and squirted high doses of Vitamin B down her gullet.
and our very sweet veterinarian is ready to help us out with anything else we need for her.


So even though it was probably my crappiest Christmas day on record,
(well, besides the one two years ago when we were in bed with the flu
and our sweet dog Tucker was dying - that one was definitely the worst...!)
there's still a ton to be grateful for
and the great news is that Brahmie seems stable at the very least
and it actually seems like she's made steady improvements in the last 24 hours.

Yesterday she couldn't stand at all... she'd just fall flat on her face, poor girl!
This morning she was only able to stand for a very wobbly few seconds.
Late this afternoon she stood for 40 seconds!
Her right foot which had been all rigid and curled in, is loosening up.
She's even started to preen!

We took her out to visit with her flock,
and immediately they began communicating with each other.
She was happy to see them, 
but she's definitely not strong enough to be out there on her own,
and we can't take the risk of them pecking at her...
she'd have no ability to get away or defend herself.
You can't really function as a chicken if you can't walk and scratch,
so she needs to recovery pretty quickly if she's going to have any quality of life.
 We can't keep a chicken in a tote in the kitchen forever!

(fyi: it makes it hard to eat in the kitchen with her watching -- especially eggs and chicken!)

I'm not much of a praying woman anymore,
but maybe, just maybe,
Brahmie can have a little Christmas miracle!





Doo we have a roo?


Why yes, we think we do!


So we've been saying lots of funny things around here lately.

Things like this:

"Do you think she's a rooster?"

"Listen!  She's crowing!"

"Well, she seems like a good rooster..."

"Um, she's definitely a rooster."

"Maybe she's a transgendered or intersexed rooster.
That would be perfect for us!
A hermaph-roo-dite."

"Should we keep calling her Emmaline?"

"Maybe we should call her Coque au Vin?"

 "How do you think the old girls will take to getting mounted?"

"Maybe they'll like it when she tries to have sex with them."

"But what if she turns into a mean rooster?  a rapist rooster?" 
"Then we could have restraining-order-soup?"

"I wonder when she's going to impregnate some eggs?"

"Wait, does she have a penis?"

(fun fact:  turns out, roosters do not possess a penis!) 


Things are all mixed up around here.

When we go to their little coop, we still say, "Hi girls!"
Emmaline doesn't seem to mind.
She doesn't seem to identify with one pronoun over another.
And she knows she has to fit into our very funky household.


Personally, I like having a girl rooster.

I like thinking she's a tough broad.
A motorcycle ridin' mamma
who majored in gender studies at Smith or Wells,
with tattoos on her spurs.

A Radical Roo.
That works for me!


So, Emmaline, our very own Radical Roo...  is still figuring out her vocal cords.
She doesn't crow a lot.  Just a little.
And she's not super loud.
Sometimes she's a little raspy.
Must be all those mixed up hormones.  

Here are some videos of Emmaline in action...

Wait for it...!
(She lets out a good crow at about 15 seconds in!)

Here she is strutting her stuff a little,
and watching over Betty and Goldie while they eat...

Ever since we lost Wellie to an aerial predator (some type of hawk, we think),
Emmaline has been especially vigilant, looking everywhere for threats.

Awww shucks.
She's quite a girl!


hickory nut "tea"

There weren't many local hickory nuts in our area this year.

At least not in our yard,
and probably whatever crop there was, 
the squirrels managed to get to first. 

I was happy to find some folks on ebay who forage for nuts 
in other areas of the country
and sell them in bulk boxes.

I just had to buy some hickory nuts because I didn't want to go through winter 
without hickory nut tea!

I had never heard of hickory nut tea until last winter,
and wow!
It is so delicious!!!

Look at this beauty!
Like a brain...!

I don't know if hickory nuts have any specific benefits for your brain,
but drinking the tea feels really deeply nourishing
and the fact that it's delicious makes it even better.

A quick google search told me that hickory nuts have:
a bunch of healthy fat
a little protein
vitamin A
vitamin B-1 (good for your muscles, heart, & central nervous system)
vitamin  B-6
vitamin E
magnesium (so important, and most of our soils are magnesium deficient!)
and a little calcium
and probably a bunch of other good stuff.

Hickory trees are native to North America.  
Hickory nuts have been a valuable food source, 
appreciated by Native Americans,
who made hickory "butter" and
"milk" (this tea) and used it in much of their cooking.

Hickory nuts are really tough nuts to crack.

You can put them in a plastic bag and pulverize them with a hammer.
Some folks recommend soaking them in warm water for 30 minutes or so
before attempting to do anything with them because otherwise
 they shatter or explode or
just keep bouncing out of the cracker or from underneath the hammer.

Before I knew about the plastic bag method
I tried just hammering them and 
that was a total disaster - they just flew everywhere
and I didn't manage to crack a single one.

Then we tried a cracker.
The GET CRACKIN nutcracker.
Made right here in the USA and I got ours at Lehman's.

It works really well.
But now having tried the plastic bag and mallet method, that's much faster.
It destroys the plastic bag, though,
so be prepared for potential mess.

 I'd recommend putting a kitchen towel or something underneath to catch what falls out of the bag
where it ends up splitting.

I smashed a bag of our hickory nuts smithereens in the driveway tonight
because we were both craving some good hickory brew.

The goal for making hickory nut tea is actually 
to shatter them as much as possible, 
to expose as much of the shell surface and nut meats.
There's no fussing and mussing about separating shells and nut meats,
you want all of that good stuff because it infuses the brew
with deliciousness and nutrition.

Look at how moist and full of healthy oil these are!

 Pour your smashed hickory nuts into a big pot.

 Add water.  (a 3:1 ratio, or just eyeball it...
I've done even a 6:1 ratio and it's still been amazing!).

The finest bits of nuts will float automatically.  
Cover and heat until it reaches a low boil and then turn it down to simmer.

 You'll get some nice frothing action.

 As it simmers and steeeps,
the brew will turn darker from the shells,
and all the delicious nut meats will be floating like a
gorgeous mosaic on the surface.

Scoop yourself out a hearty portion
and sweeten to taste with maple syrup.

There's no need to worry about shells getting into your cup -- 
they all stay down at the bottom of the pot.

The nuts give such a fun texture, you get to drink and chew!
This is absolutely my favorite steaming beverage to have anytime in the fall or winter.

I hope you can find some hickory nuts so you can try
this nutty nourishing brew!