I went to the library bus and while I was in the parking lot, the manager of the liquor store popped outside and waved me down, asking me to come in the store before I left. What in the world, I wondered, could I be required in the liquor store for? Who knows, though, really. It’s a small town.
Well. It turned out to be about a chicken. There was a hen that had appeared some days ago and was living in the snow bank and brambles behind the liquor store. They were feeding and watering her, and she was spending nights 10′ up in a tree. (This was 3 weeks ago, when there was lots of snow and -15C nights).
Would I bring this chicken to a good home? First, we had to catch her. She was nervous and quick, and with the help of passersby herding, blocking, and diving in the snow after her, I caught her, and immediately stuffed her and her cold feet into my coat and zipped her in. (Chickens always love the coat treatment. Dark and warm – they calm right down(.
Yay, the chicken was rescued, and I was bringing a new girl home. I had one more stop to make.
I stopped in at the assisted living home, going inside with the chicken hidden in my coat, and just as I was turning to leave, the amusing novelty of being out in public with a concealed carry chicken got the best of me and I turned back, “Hey, you should see what I’ve got in my coat, haha!” I unzipped enough for her head to pop out, and they squealed, and gasped, “Oh, would you mind showing some of the residents?!”
Thus began a room to room progress of coat chicken show and tell, most of the sick and elderly residents petting her and grinning with delight. She was a gracious celebrity, quiet, mild, tolerant, poking her head out and “holding hands”.She’s drifting south in my jacket. Notice her little foot out gripping my hand.
After a much bigger day than most chickens have before noon, we got home. I put her in a chickery for isolation and acclimation.Immediately all the old chickens crowded around to inspect.
I put her in the coop at night, then back in the chickery for the day, then a few part days loose. She had a hard time at first so I’d put her back in her box for a break and a meal. It’s hard to find one’s place in a big flock. She’s small, a bantam something, the same size as a few teens, Very quick, high-stepping, nervy.
She’s integrated now! She rolls with clique #1, the pufflings and the top rooster – a surprise. She still hops into the open chickery, often in the morning, nostalgic-like. I used to stay in here.
When I was driving to go get the new Silkies, I was thinking many things along the lines of “What am I doing?” But then I got there and it was not a good situation for chickens, so it all made sense, and I took all the birds I could away, glad I could liberate some.
The next morning, I opened the ramp on the new flock to the first real dirt and sunlight, and more space than they’d ever had, and…nothing. No one budged.This pretty little Silver hen was set to be first out, probably just because she slept by the door.When I opened up, she immediately started doing owl impressions, swiveling her head around to look at everything.She was especially interested in looking up. She’s never seen so much up. Perhaps they’ve never seen sunlight. She was taking her sweet time about assessment, so I left her to it and did something else.
20 minutes later:Oh! She’s dipping a toe in! A whole foot!Two feet! And a roo peeking out behind. This whole procedure to get to this point took another twenty minutes (she’s going to have a sore neck), so I left her to inch down the ramp on her own. No one was exactly pushing past her to be the first.An hour later. Finally, landed! The brahmas spectating at the viewing window.
Another hour later:Half the birds are still in the box, but the ones out have polished off their food, knocked over the waterer, and are SO into scratching. I’ve never seen scratching with such enthusiastic abandon. I expected some wild, weird, bad behaviour from the crazed refugee chickens, but they seem pretty… normal. Sweet, mild. Peripherally vision challenged. Harriet Potter has found her happy place.The roosters sizing each other up. That’s exactly what the viewing window is for. Controlled contact.
The next night was rainy and a bit bleak. In the morning when I released the sleepover chick, I hadn´t marked it, although we´d talked about banding it, to know which one was “our friend”.
HW did some out loud wondering whether we´d have another visitation. Jokes about discovering the good life in the house aside, maybe this little bird had an injury. A sprain? Perhaps it was having a hard time and the falling in the tank was a symptom, not cause.
In the evening, he closed the coops again and returned without remark. He climbed to the loft, where I was, then halted meaningfully at the top of the ladder until I looked up.
No way! There he was, holding a guinea chick to his chest, chick looking at me with neck stuck out, orange legs dangling.
The bird’s total comfort with the proceedings was the first clue this was the same bird. And now I will be wrapped in a towel and snuggled. Yes, please!
Wow! Night two! This time it had not gone for a swim and was only wet from the day´s rain, but it had been struggling to get up on the coop, and allowed HW to catch it (I don´t think it tried to get away very hard).
Same procedure: Wrapped in towel, hugged, pet on the head (same bumps on the head confirmed definitely same bird), encouraged to go to sleep. The chick was a little bit less tired tonight, keeping eyes open longer, but even more relaxed. Totally silent. Lounging.Like the previous night, I fell asleep with it and it woke me later by hopping up, then resisting my hey go back to sleep hand over top of it, and I put it back in the night box.
Now HW´s jokes about having a house guinea seemed a bit more real. Hmmm.
HW called me to the door with urgency, just while he was doing the coop closing round.
He was holding an exhausted, soaking wet guinea chick!
I´d been worried about that stock tank, sitting practically under the guinea coop, especially when the chicks were first emerging. Then when they were older they managed to start roosting on the coop together without my supervision, or incident, and it´s been weeks since they were hopping up on the coop, using the rim of the stock tank as a jump off point. I figured we were well past the risk of someone falling in.
But no. He´d found this baby swimming, exhausted and nearly dead.
I snatched it up in a towel, wrapping it up with just a beak sticking out, and held it to my belly. It was shivering hard. I rocked with it in the rocking chair for awhile before remembering it´s mammals that rock, not birds, and then I took it upstairs, as we were headed there, to bed.
It took about an hour to stop shivering, and a couple of re-wraps with a dry part of the towel.
After it was out of the woods, then it was all fun. It would poke its head out of the towel and then suck it back in, like a turtle.
It was a dream come true, being able to hold and snuggle a little chick!!
I put the swaddled bird in HW´s lap ´”for a minute” to go out and make a last check that there was no one else in trouble outside. The guineas were really shrieking up a storm. HW: “Where’s Roberta!”
When I got back, he wouldn’t give it back! He called me a chick hog and told me to get my own chick. “Me and Roberta are hanging out.” Whenever he leaned or reached for something suddenly, the chick would protest with a little trill. He kept it in his lap until he needed to get up for something, and I got it back!
Eventually it started to pant, and I loosened the towel, more and more. It was totally unwrapped at the end, but very, very relaxed. It was clearly perfectly happy to be where it was. No designs on escape. It was very tired, dozing off, sticking its neck out, and then, Awwww! resting its head on my arm and going to sleep! Adorable! I pet its bumpy little head and skinny neck, hugged it. It was into it. Looking at us. Making little sounds if someone moved too quick.
HW said “you´ve got a little dinosaur over there” and said it´s not going to want to go outside again, now that it´s experienced the good life. “You´re going to have a little house guinea!”
I was very tired myself, and I fell asleep with my arm around it. HW thought I would roll on it and I should put it in the box, but I didn´t. How often am I going to get to cuddle a little wild chick? I´m going to get every minute I can.
Sometime in the night, it got restless, and woke me by standing up, hopping on my arm. So I put it in the box then and it was silent until morning.
I carried it back out, head whizzing around trying to figure out where it was, then getting excited as we neared the group, and voila – back in the flock!
I found this bedraggled bee sitting on the plastic of my greenhouse. I don’t know what happened, but she was finished. She obviously was at the end of a run (pollen baskets full) without the strength to carry on.
Luckily, I had just made bee syrup for my bees, and (carrying this nearly-dead bee; I’d already picked her up), I went home, dipped my finger in the pot of syrup, and started walking back.
The neatest part was that a second after getting the syrup on my hand, I felt all her feet suddenly grip my skin, grabbing on. Like a hibernating robot- ACTIVATE feet! Before, she would have dropped off if I tipped my hand.
She turned, her tongue came out, and she started sucking greedily. I held her for some minutes, but after deciding I had to care for some other animals, I had to wipe her and a drop of syrup off my finger onto a perch for her to finish on her own.
I used to save bumblebees that got trapped in the house like this, with a drop of honey on a butter knife. Set them outside together and the bee will come back to life.
My observation is that bees are not truly dead unless their tongues are stuck out, however dead they otherwise appear. I examine bees apparently drowned or froze, curled up like death, and if their tongue is not protruding, I set them in the sun, or in the sun in a flower for a snack. They are almost always gone a little later, or I even see them reviving, revving up their wings. If their tongues are out, it’s too late. All over.
Happily, they are doing very well. Not bad, since I thought this hive sat on the edge of 50/50 winter survival chances. They are vital and exploratory, polishing off a jar of syrup every few days, and making appearances at the neighbours’. The pollen du jour is now bright orange. Dandelions, perhaps?
Even though I can’t inspect them thoroughly yet, I gave them an empty super, sure that they were gonna bust their seams any moment. All that pollen has to go somewhere.
H.W. has taken more of an interest in them, watching them every day, and reporting that the bees HATE the “door” (the entrance limiting stick). We’ve been having warm days, and the inbound flights start bottlenecking at the entrance mid-morning. Then he pulls out the stick and “the bees BOIL out!”. It takes a few minutes to rebalance, like traffic after an accident is cleared. Then the bees come shooting in and out like a time lapse video of La Guardia at 16x speed.
The bees have decided to share the chickens’ canteen. I don’t understand; they have their own perfectly good bowl. But they line up on the edge, drinking. Every night I have to go and fish out (usually three) soggy bees and deliver them to their doorstep. In the day they can pull themselves out of the pool and dry off and warm up in the sun, but at night they are too chilled to fly home. I hold my finger with three bedraggled bees by their door. The evening arrivals are zooming in and they land on my hand on their way in. I can feel the warm sweet air of the humming hive coming from the entrance, and the grateful swimmers perk up in the warm draft, drag themselves off my finger and indoors.
I tell H.W., who is sympathizing with bee frustration, that the stick still has to go back in at night. “But they hate it!” As it turns out, the bees are more than capable of opening the door themselves. They just don’t shut it.
This one did not hit a window. I was riding my bike home, two panniers heavily laden with cucumbers, when I overtook a bird limping and flapping along at the edge of the asphalt.
It was a little mourning dove. Familiar to me; I’m used to seeing a pair of doves at this spot on the road.
She let me pick her up without setting my bike down. Good thing, because it would be tough to lift up a loaded bike with one hand.
Her wing was almost detached, held on by the skin, with a little break in the skin on the wing, and her underside was bloody on the same side as injured wing and limpy leg. This bird was hit by a car.
So there I was, a bird in the hand, scorching hot day, heavy bicycle, a kilometer from home. What to do?
I rode home one handed, with the bird in the other hand. I sort of displayed her in front of me, somehow hoping that a passing driver would stop and offer assistance. Is that a bird? Can I help?
In fact, even the couple that pulled over to take a snapshot of our local pastoral beauty, while I was standing right there on the other shoulder, did not even register the bird in my hand.
The bird sat peacefully folded in my hand the whole way home, facing interestedly into the wind. It must have been similar to flying for her. Nothing new here.
Once I had to signal a left turn and letting go with either hand was not an option. Uhh, what do do here? Gesture with the bird. No flipping. That was the only time she wiggled a little, when I waved her out in space to point at my turn.
Phew! Made it home. Bird into box.
I was fully expecting her not to make it through the night. I assumed I had picked her up right after her accident and that she may any minute succumb to internal injuries.
But no, in the morning she was alert, even made a couple bids for escape, although she could not be interested in food.
A friend picked her up to put her on the Hope for Wildlife underground railroad. That is, connect her to the network of volunteer drivers of injured wildlife.
I don’t expect this bird could be saved with a wing injury that bad, but at least she got to the hospital.
However, under the heavy guilt trip/awareness that we would be the last chance for this challenging, thrice-rescued dog, and with the help of Cesar Millan (dog god) and his sage advice (Exercise first, then discipline, then affection), we managed to keep him. Cesar’s insistence that any dog can be reformed (it’s just a lot of work), didn’t hurt either. He wasn’t kidding about the work.
He took up so much time, he set back some of our projects. Exercise, for a husky in young adult prime, is daunting. We tried an hour a day (Cesar’s minimum). It wasn’t enough. A 20km trail run, 3x a week, is enough. Just. And that’s a run, pacing with a bicycle at trail speed. Not walk, not jog. It’s a ride that wipes me out, and I’m on a bike (I don’t look forward to when I have to do the dog run). It tuckers him out until he’s content to lounge around for a day, and then he’ll be full of dog beans, ready to go again.
Thankfully, he has grasped from day 1 how to run with a bicycle, always attentive and respectful. It has made it possible to exercise him adequately.
Somewhere along the way he became a reasonably good dog.
He’s not as embarrassing as he used to be.
One example of a lot of other charming traits he exhibited at the beginning: he had some phobia of the leash around his legs. The lead simply getting looped under his “arm” would inspire him to suddenly hurl his body in all directions at once, thrashing and flailing around on the ground while shrieking insanely about it; on the whole, behavior appropriate to being attacked by a swarm of hornets. This was a mesmerizing spectacle, especially because it often wasn’t clear what provoked the scene.
It was effective, to a point. Usually he came untangled out of all that thrashing.
Now, he gets a foot tangled and he hops along on three legs, waving the hooked paw around to free it with a resigned look on his face. Again? Like a normal dog.
When I see him running around smiling, and greeting me, and wagging, and running to me when I whistle, I found you! and otherwise being a “normal dog”, I remember the contrast. We did not take receipt of a normal dog. It was months before we saw flat ears (a relaxed submissive indication).
I think he gets satisfaction now out of being obedient, and having a job to do (stick around, smell things, run with the bicycle, occasionally chase or herd things).
He definitely knows the meaning of several commands and phrases: Where’s the dog? Get out of there! Get over here! Is it time for a dog’s breakfast? What do good boys get? Come, let’s go, eat it, ok, sit, stay, down, drop it, bring it, get’em, high five, heel. Heel was a real game changer. I think it may be the most important thing to teach a dog. To switch from a dog yanking up ahead or just being too rambunctious to quietly walking behind you, wow! Sometimes he takes it too literally and walks on the heels of my shoes, like we’re in elementary school. That’s super annoying, but I don’t think it’s deliberate. And the occasional damp nose or furry head bump on the back of a bare leg is kind of nice.
I am glad that he is totally unfazed by thunderstorms. He talks about everything else; I’m glad he doesn’t freak out during storms.
I am not glad that he has not learned from the first 11 porcupines. *However, we have had some dead porcupines around these days, and although he is fascinated and compelled to investigate them, he approaches a porc corpse like it’s a bomb. Tiptoes, neck stretched out to maximum length, inquisitively twitching nose at a careful inch and a half remove. His last encounter was a tail slap, not a mouthful, so perhaps this is progress??
I am glad he’s a brown-eyed husky.
I am glad he grasps the concept of leashes, and trees. I’ve known many dogs who completely fail to grasp leashes in conjunction with trees, stop signs, etc. He very quickly sorts himself out when he wraps around trees, unless he happens to get double wrapped, which seems to be too much to deal with. This reminds me of the classic intelligence test for animals with the tether and two poles. Will the animal walk around the pole to reach the food?
I’m glad he hardly ever barks. Almost never. He barks at bears in the night, which is handy. And oh, does he bark at porcupines. More than once, I’ve heard “that tone” in his bark and set out at a dead run towards it, hollering in vain hopes of interceding. This always ends with meeting him running towards me, as fast as he can with tail tucked and almost crouching, yelping and crying and writhing in pain.
I’m not glad he’s the world’s lousiest guard dog. Anyone can walk right up to him and he’ll jump. Whoa! Didn’t see you there. You really snuck up on me. He sleeps like a log through the night. He’s not terribly useful yet.
I’m glad he is a vegetable dog. Such a vegetable dog. Crazy about vegetables, from the first time he started whining when I was feeding the hens lettuce, and I realized he was not salivating for a chicken, but eager to eat the lettuce. Tomatoes are his number one, ranking on par with dog biscuits. Carrots are dearly beloved. He’s crazy about cukes. Snap peas are an unconquerable temptation. He has a spot he is allowed to lie just inside the garden gate, which he loves to do (he catches beans I toss to him). I’ll park him there and be absorbed working, and every time I glance up at him, he’ll be still lying peacefully gazing at me, but he’ll be a few inches nearer to the bed with sugar snap peas in it. Lettuce, kale, beans, squash…I haven’t fed him a vegetable yet he hasn’t eaten.
I’m glad he’s come to terms with the chickens and now knows he may not put them in his mouth. He’s actually not bad at responding to their alarm cries and even herding them. The Silkies are another story. He wants them in his mouth, bad. But I’ll give him a pass on that. They just too much resemble wind-up stuffed toys, and don’t resemble the contraband chickens at all. It would be hard to associate.
I’m glad he talks. So strange, how really only huskies and Malamutes vocalize like that, and it can only be called talking. He’s conversing; there’s an exchange. It’s just like talking to someone with another language. Neither of you understand a single word, but the meaning can be communicated.
He’s been encouraged to talk (we talk back to him), and I think I’m coming to understand some of his “speech”. He’s got an awful lot to say, and it’s just wild how he will make a particular (complex!) set of sounds exactly over again, sometimes louder, or slightly faster or more intense. He’s clearly saying the same thing again, deliberately. Like, are you hard of hearing? How many times do I need to repeat this?
We have a bird in a box! A little sparrow in a shoebox, for three days. On Saturday I was shocked awake by a bird smashing into a window with the force of a snowball. It was sickening. It doesn’t feel good building in the woods and then installing a bunch of windows that birds don’t understand and will slam themselves against. I’ve hung strings on most of the windows to help them see it, and it helps greatly. We have only had one bird casualty, and one chickadee that got its bell rung but recovered. This bird hit the only window without strings:( I ran outside and found the bird gasping and quivering on its back, scooped it up, and took it in, holding it for several minutes, with my whole hand wrapped in a towel for dark, soothing. When the bird started to perk up, aka try to escape, I took it outside and held it up to a branch. It seemed just fine, standing up on my hand, and it stepped confidently onto the branch, spread its wings after a moment, and jumped off to plummet straight to the ground. Then I had to recapture it, as it scampered away in the underbrush. Gravely inform HW we now have a pet sparrow. Quickly google what sparrows eat, rescue sparrows, etc. Create a habitat shoebox. This is a young adult sparrow. It has vestiges of the clown lips that baby birds have (called gape flanges), and on the first day it would sometimes do the “feed me!” squat and gape when I was feeding it. It’s fully feathered, though, and had full capability of flying, before hitting the window.* Now its right wing droops; the tips no longer meet over the tail where the wing should rest. In fact, it drags under his tail and sometimes he poops on the wing tip. *This is important because lots of fledglings get “rescued” because they can’t fly. They can’t fly because they’re learning how. Right away, we found instructions to immobilize the wing in position of rest. So together we held the bird and wrapped its tiny body, with the kind of medical tape that only sticks to itself, trying to leave its other wing free and legs free so it can stand up. Well, the bird lay there panting like it was gasping its last, flopping pathetically and apparently unable to stand. After an hour or so, I was convinced that it was dying of internal injuries. Although it was wrapped barely tight enough to hold the wing, I thought if the bird’s gonna die anyway, then at least I can take the wrap off him. I took the tape off and the bird immediately affected a miraculous recovery. Hopping around, exploring the box, breathing normally. Later, Hope would say sometimes you can wrap a bird, but “Birds hate to be wrapped.” No kidding. So cute! I fed and watered him with a popsicle stick. The first day, I gave him flax seeds and sunflower seeds. Nothing. I offered a worm (alive). The worm inquisitively poked her in the face, and got no response. Ants? No way. A mosquito? Why yes! Hmm, I could spend all day mosquito hunting. I gave her quinoa, because we had some cooked, and she gobbled it up. Also quickly proved that beak wiping is a universal bird thing. Then I ground up the flax and sun seeds with mortar and pestle and mixed it with the quinoa. We have a winner. Every hour or two I would come back to the house and feed the bird. Very time consuming, holding the popsicle stick while the bird picked and chewed one grain at a time. I can see how baby bird care is a full time job, running the parents ragged. The first day, the bird seemed fine, not in pain at all or bothered by the wing, shaking it once in awhile. Also content. I covered the box in the early evening, and it fell asleep with its head tucked under the injured wing. Adorable! The next day, there was no more crouching and begging, and I saw him help himself to water out of his tiny cup! Also, she would pick up food that she dropped. I started leaving food on the floor of the box, and also dabbing chunks on the side of the box for him to peck off, while I got something done. I added a strawberry to the mash and got rave reviews. I gave him a whole strawberry, and he demolished it. Soon she mostly fed herself, but I still offered tidbits on the stick. The second evening, she developed a tragic obsession with escape. He’d bump his head on the grate, peck at the wires of the grate. Very sad. I covered her early to calm him down. Hopefully, the energy to make jailbreak attempts is a positive sign.The third day he was even more obsessed with escape – give me liberty or give me death! (unfortunately, each means the other in this case). She’d never say no to a mosquito, but otherwise, when offered food, she’d kind of attack it momentarily, like hunger itself was an irritating distraction, and then resume craning her neck at the grill ceiling. In the evening we packed her off to Hope for Wildlife. We passed her over to a volunteer animal delivery driver (!), to go to the animal hospital, and get a bird Xray (!), and hopefully rehabilitation. I had no idea something so awesome as Hope for Wildlife was here, in Nova Scotia, and on tv. I’m more impressed with this province all the time. The same day as calling Hope, my bird issue was “dispatched” and someone living near me called to arrange a pick-up and transportation (!) FOOD: The suggestion to feed a wild bird cat food is almost universal (high protein meat based). I thought about it, but most cat foods I wouldn’t feed to a cat I liked, so I decided I’d dig up worms if I had to. Luckily, I didn’t have to, because worms went over like a lead balloon. The live offering was a complete fail, so I minced one. Let me tell you, mincing an earthworm is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever done. First I dug, and picked out an inch of worm that was severed by the shovel’s slice. Perfect, I thought, already dead. Only the pieces of worm that have the smooth ring that holds their DNA can survive being cut. Right? Not necessarily so. Every piece I cut, no matter how small, writhed and contracted and to all appearances, experienced pain and tried to escape it. Not to mention excreted mud. Uggghhh-willies! They only stopped moving when they dried out a bit. Death, finally, by dehydration. Thinking about the circle of life and how everything I thought I knew about earthworms may be wrong, I managed to complete the mincing of that one segment of worm that may or may not have been doomed anyway. The bird ate it, but preferred quinoa, so I stuck with that. Earthworms are manna for baby birds, but not such a big diet item for adult birds (thankfully for me, gagging over the mincing). Here’s what I fed the bird, that it liked:** Cooked quinoa (couldn’t get enough) Boiled egg, finely minced. Ground flax seed Ground sunflower seed (hulled) Hemp hearts Strawberries (big hit!) Mosquitoes A few cereal and bread crumbs Some soaked, top-quality high protein dog food (for high performance dogs), that we had (because we have a high-performance dog) It snacked on the dog food, but did not love it. **As Hope told me on the phone, birds need a big variety- they need protein, fruit, vegetables, grains, and seeds. If I had the bird longer, I would have tried adding garden greens, meat, beef suet, cereal, and nuts. And they need it all minced very small, at least the young adult bird I had did. It would reject any chunks too big to chew, including a whole flax seed. Spoggy the sparrow is a wonderful time lapse of a house sparrow hand raised from blind, pink, transparent infancy.
For months, our primary feeling about him was What were we thinking?
Closely followed by It’s a good thing he’s cute.
He was pretty troubled when we got him, a huge handful, and he introduced himself by killing one of my chickens. It was a bad beginning and it didn’t really improve.
Any progress was swiftly followed by equally dramatic backsliding.
Oh, and the porcupines! He couldn’t get enough of them, and usually had uncanny timing for hitting a particularly hard day, late return home, or only one of us home for the night.
But HW persevered (I washed my hands of him around the three month mark- “He’s your dog now. I’ll dogsit by prearrangement”).
And this winter, the dog turned a corner from trying dog (very very trying), to good reasonable dog. He settled down, as though he’s finally adjusted. He knows what to expect from each day, and what we expect from him. Now he’s content and relaxed dog. A big upgrade from psychoses potpourri dog. (Finally). It’s been nearly a year.
He actually gives us more pleasure than grief now, which is saying something.
He’s always been funny, but a dog needs to be really funny to compensate for being such a case for so long.
But now, we see flat-ear dog smiles all day, and we adore him right back. He’s HW’s constant sidekick.
Thankfully, he was always decent at running alongside a bicycle, because this dog is made for mileage.