Living with animals
Posted by joeabbott on March 12, 2013
The other weekend I came down with some sniffles and left a tissue box next to my “Xbox chair” … the next day, I saw that the cat was a bit bored. Since then I’ve restuffed the box a couple times with the now-destroyed Kleenex and, each time, Trasper will rip them out and create a mess only a vacuum cleaner can tame. I don’t mind too much but I hope he doesn’t start venting himself on the other tissue boxes we have around the house.
And, in addition to a cat who desperately needs more outside time, we have a chicken who we’ve brought into the house.
Over the past couple weeks our white hen had been showing signs of “slowing down”. She’s much too young to be falling prey to time and old age, so clearly there’s a health issue. We’ve added vitamins to the chickens’ water, given worming medicine, and they get plenty of fresh air and exercise, so it’s gotta be something internal. And there’s not a lot on “chicken medicine” in the Amazon book section.
We’d resigned ourselves to picking her up from the path or some other place when she finally died, but ended up having a change of mind. I was going to say “change of heart”, but I’m not sure we’re necessarily doing the right thing by her. It seems clear the malady is fatal, but rather then letting her go quickly (or helping her on the way), we’re dragging things out by letting her live out her days in a warm house with plenty of food and water. Not that she’s eating all that much.
It was a bit hard to see her try to jump even modest distances of a foot and still fall short, but I was resolved to let time and nature have its way. The harassing of the other chickens when she could get away was hard to see, but part of nature. We changed our minds when she was unable to move or protect herself in the coop and the other chickens knocked her over and walked by. No longer able to be part of the pack, she ceased to exist to the other birds before she’d even died. The alpha hen walked by her without even a glance as the white hen lay upside down, unable to right herself, on the shelter floor.
And so we brought her inside, put her up in a cat carrier with a lot of wood chips, and provide her food and water. The cats ignore her for the most part, we clean the carrier daily (the stink is something else!), and we’re waiting for her to go. She can’t seem to stand and just sorta lays there, usually sleeping. From the fact that she’s drinking a lot of water and looking a bit jaundiced, she may have some renal failure, but we can’t be sure. Caring for a sick hen is harder (only because you’re not sure what to do!) than you’d think.
When we got the chickens we said, “they’re not pets”, and we continue to break that definition. We feel badly because, if this were our cats, we’d know exactly what to do and would be doing it. With a chicken, we’re just letting it die slowly and say to ourselves, “it’s just a chicken” and somehow try to believe that or have it make sense.