Friday, August 19, 2011

Farm Story for August 20, 2011

Deb Potter, Merciful Hearts Farm,

I have been flogged twice this week by a particular rooster. Fortunately, I had trimmed his spurs a while back so that he leaves a big bruise but does not puncture my skin anymore. It sure does hurt though. As I was going back through older market stories I came across this one about him. As I thought of his beginnings my anger toward him dissolved. I never imagined one of my regular market stories would save anyone’s life but thanks to this story our pushy rooster will keep his happy home. And I apologize to those of you who might remember this story from a few years ago.

This story started on a wet Saturday when we were due at Saturday Market. I drove through torrential rains on the interstate but tried to remain optimistic. As I exited the interstate, the rains slowed to a drizzle. I arrived at Market in a steady mist so decided just to unload my coolers of eggs and my tables. I left all of my wool products and soaps in the car thinking I would unload them closer to the Market start time. To make a long story short, as it got closer to eight o'clock the rains got heavier. The difficult decision was made to cancel Market for the day. Katy and I drove home and changed into dry clothing.

I decided to go about a normal day. Even though Al feeds the chickens when he gets up each morning, I make an early morning walk through to gather the duck eggs and to check on everyone. I waited until the showers let up a bit and headed out. It was just before ten o'clock. As I neared the chicken yard, I could see a wet lump in the mud at the end of the small pond. As I got closer, I realized it was a poor dead chicken that must have gotten bogged down while getting a drink in a heavy downpour. I could tell by its small size that it was one of the younger chickens that we'd started in July. When I got closer I realized that it was the little oddball chicken that the hatchery had added to my order as a bonus. This peculiar chicken was a white crested black Polish. Its feathers were black but it had a huge poufy mound of white feathers sprouting out of the top of its head and cascading down so that its eyes were almost covered. I had liked that little bird so was especially upset to see that was my dead bird.

As nasty as the weather was, I still couldn't leave that little dead body out in the mud. I decided to wade into the edge of the pond to retrieve it and move it to someplace a bit more dignified. As I took my first step down the muddy bank, my foot slid out from under me. I managed to keep from going all the way down to my knees by grabbing onto the fence near the edge of the pond. I was muddied but not badly so I steadied myself on my feet and reached for the body. It was about two thirds buried into the mud and every feather clung to it in odd directions, having been so completely soaked by the pounding rains. Its white crest was a dark clump of mud. I reached out and grabbed the edge of a wing so that I could pull it out of the mud. As I started to tug, I heard a little sighing sound. I took one muddy step closer so that I could get my hands around the bird's body and snatched it up. He tried to chirp. He could not open his eyes as they were plastered with mud. What little skin I could see through the mud coated feathers was a sickly blue white. But he seemed to be alive. I wrapped him up against my shirt and ran to the house with him.

I kicked my muddy shoes off at the downstairs door and raced my little messy bird to the kitchen sink. I began to run warm water over him. The first thing I did was wash out his eyes. He barely opened one when I was done but that did not discourage me. I washed and washed and washed some more. Every time I thought I was close to done, I was able to wash one more time to get more mud out of his feathers. I even washed between his little toes and up under his toenails. I hoped that the warm water was helping with his body temperature as it was so very low when I found him. Color was not returning to his skin but at least with the mud gone I really could see his skin. I even pried open his little beak, held his head sideways under the faucet and rinsed gritty mud out of his mouth. I wrapped him in a towel and held him up only to have his head flop heavily to the side. That was not a very good sign. But he did open an eye briefly for me.

I found Katy's blow dryer, set it on low and sat on the couch drying the little guy for half an hour. I would hold him at different angles so that his feathers blew up and away from his skin as I did not want any water trapped under them. His only response was to squeeze his eyes shut even tighter as the warm air hit the white feathers on top of his head. Once he was dry I put another small towel around him and set him on a heating pad while I mixed Gatorade. I was able to get him to take Gatorade from a syringe so got a fair bit into him and then just left him on the heating pad to recover. Every time I checked on him I gave him another shot of Gatorade. He was beginning to open his eyes when I lifted him for his drink. I did not know what to expect but it was a nasty rainy day outside so I had all the time I needed inside for this little project.

By the end of the day the little fellow was standing up. He did not walk far but did eat at a bit of feed that Al had brought in from the stable. By Sunday morning he definitely looked like he was planning to live. The house cats spent plenty of time trying to peek under the door to see what I had. I kept him safely locked up in my bathroom until Monday when I returned him to the chicken yard.

I have just a few chickens that have names as there are just too many to keep up with but this little fellow definitely deserved a name and it seemed appropriate for my Crested Polish chicken to have a traditional Polish name. Katy asked a European friend for suggestions. There was only one suggested name that I could pronounce, let alone remember and that was Pavl. I was told it is the Polish equivalent of Paul. So our little fellow became Pavl. Little Pavl was one lucky bird. And as much as I hated that Market was canceled, I believe his luck would have run out in that pond had I been delayed a few more hours.

I did corner Pavl after his latest attack. I turned him over, held him to the ground and scolded him. When I let him up he scurried away. I hope he got the message that I am still in charge around here as I don’t like having to watch my back every time I pass him.

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