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


special needs hen

For those of you who are curious about how Brahmie is doing,
I thought I'd give you a status update.

We had her in the house for maybe 2 1/2 days, 
and during those days we'd take her out to be with her sisters for a little while.

Every time we'd bring her back inside to her recovery area, she'd stand up as much as she could.
I thought, "Oh, being in the house must be helping her get stronger..."
Then I realized the errors of my thinking!

The last time we brought her in, she flapped herself right off the counter
and would have taken quite a tumble if I hadn't been there to catch her!

I don't understand chicken language very well, but suddenly it dawned on me...
Maybe all of the attempts at standing and the loose attempts at flapping
were signs that she wanted to get the hell out of the house!

After all, when her sister Dommie came into the house two winters ago, she never came back out! 
Maybe since Dommie came into the house, the girls started gossiping.
Hens are a gossipy bunch, after all.
Maybe they were clucking about the chicken yard, saying things like...

 "Oh, once you go there, it's all over.  That's the end of the line... 
You may as well throw in the towel, run into the road, or go visit the Foxy Loxy's den..!"

Brahmie wants no part of that end-of-the-line business.
She does not want this to be the end of her line, and even if it IS the end of her line,
she definitely doesn't want to spend it in a plastic tote in our kitchen 
listening to all the strange sounds of a house.
You know, with dogs and people... 
and NPR.

NPR is an ever-present entity in our house.
Even though Brahmie wasn't a fan of living in the house,
she was intrigued by NPR.

After all, now she's the most cultured
and in-the-know chicken in the flock,
not to mention the whole neighborhood block!

She was appalled at the news.
She'd turn her head from side to side. 
Bok Bok???!

(Just like my Boo talks back at the radio when it gets her riled up!)

Brahmie couldn't wait to get back to the coop to tell everyone about
the radio thing, with the voices coming out of nowhere,
and all of the things she learned about
like the shootings in Paris,
and how to fix a carburetor in a 1986 Volkswagen
from Click and Clack.

In fact, she liked NPR so much,
 I overheard Brahmie telling her sisters that if she could,
she'd send WSKG and WEOS some eggs for their fundraising drives,
or maybe she'd volunteer to answer the phone.

Enough about chickens listening to NPR.


The bottom line is, Brahm just wanted to be with her flock.
Her crew.
Her peeps.
Her sisters!
 (and her nieces, too!)

So, what to do?

We convened an emergency CSH meeting (Committee for Special Hens)
and decided that Brahmie is eligible for an ICP (Individual Care Plan).

Due to her sudden inability to walk and perch among other things,
we've determined she needs some accommodations.

For example, she has integrated co-foraging multiple times daily.

That involves a 1:1 aide taking her to be with her flock,
and providing assistance with food by preparing foods for her
(i.e. shredding carrots and cabbage, preparing vitamin water, etc.)
and setting her food in front of her where she can reach it and can choose what she wants.

Her flock was so happy to see her!

Grass!  I never thought I'd see you again!!!
That house didn't have any grass!!!

(Luckily there were a couple of warm days before the snow came over the break,
Brahmie got to enjoy some sun and fresh air and grass outside with her girls...)

She is not about to throw in the towel anytime soon.
Whenever she hears us talking about euthanasia,
(and now that she's listened to NPR),
she knows we're not talking about the Youth in Asia.

She's a smart girl.
So she starts saying to herself,

I think I can...
I think I can...
I think I can... walk again...!

(aka: the story of  the little hen that could!)

And we sure hope she can walk again,
because we definitely don't want to do that euthanasia thing.

We are not real farmers.
We are not even close to real farmers.

We are sentimental, sobbing,
grave-digging, funeral-having
chicken loving

But if Brahmie was clearly suffering,
I'd force myself to do it for her sake.

The awful deed.
The brutal mercy.

But luckily it doesn't seem like I have to do it.
At least not now.

With the accommodations we've made,
she seems okay...!

She gets to be with her flock, and that boosts her morale.

And as long as we put food in front of her, and she eats it, by golly,
she has a will to live,
and we'll keep taking it one day at a time,
and providing all of the accommodations on her ICP.

She also receives 1:1 physical therapy twice daily, in the integrated setting.

She has to keep her strength up and not let all of her muscles wither away, you know.
(Besides, she has to get some air on her underside since she's always sitting on her bottom now.)

Now there is a girl
who is determined to get better!

When she's outdoors, she also requires special protection from hawks
since she's like a sitting duck for a predator.
Well, she's a sitting chicken, of course.

We found an old rolled  piece of fence wire
that was formerly used to be to protect a tree from deer damage,
and we figured it would do the job in a pinch.

The cage wire wasn't just for the hawks, either,
we also wanted to see how her sisters did with her
once we put out her buffet of food,
knowing that they would want some
and could be mean to her and keep her from getting it.

We lifted the cage, and it was a beautiful sight --
no pecking, no fuss, just happiness at being together and sharing food together!

It's amazing that Brahmie hasn't lost any social status throughout this experience!
In a less docile flock, the others might sense her weakness and peck her... even to death!
Gruesome, I know!!!

But our flock seems to have barely noticed that there's anything going on with her.
Maybe they think she's broody and just sitting a bunch.
Either way, they're happy to share in her buffet of goodies and to keep her company,
and to listen to her tales about her adventures in THE HOUSE.

She even got to hang out in the dirt bath area.
Maybe one day she'll be able to fluff dirt up under her feathers again...

Oh, we hope so.

She got to nap in the sun with Specky,
and Commie checks on her regularly.

We even saw Commie preening her a little bit!  So sweet!
(Brahmie is looking a little disheveled since her ability to preen herself has been impaired.)

Sounds like another accommodation to me --
hygiene and personal care!

Oh, we love that girl.

She's quite a hen, whether she can walk or not, and she knows it...!

She doesn't like to be boastful,
But she does occasionally let the others know that her eggs
have routinely been rated "the best ever."

We're hoping that this spring she'll get better
and get back into the egg-laying business.
and she can boast all she wants!

Heck, if she can recover from whatever this is,
she can tell the world her story on NPR!

Her last official accommodation
involves spreading out a muslin canopy over her spot on the floor of the coop at night, 
to protect her from poop falling on her from above.

In the end, all of these "extreme measures" are totally worth it
because we totally love her.

Giving her fresh treats and water and exercising her a little
and moving her around doesn't take up THAT much time out of our days.

It's the least we can do for all of the amazing eggs she's given us over the years,
and for her sweet companionship.

Get well, Brahmie!  You can do it, girl!!!
Ira Glass is waiting to interview you this spring!

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