With every plunge of the shovel I feel some relief. I’m digging out strawberries, and monitoring the dog-bit hen Sweet Tart, who is happily dustbathing in her newly partitioned end of the hoophouse.
After three days and three nights in here with Sweet Tart, our newest hen Maybelline tore off Sweet Tart’s scab and drilled deep into her thigh. The Bearded One saved the day, but he had to throw a glove at Maybelline to do it. She was in a crazed feeding frenzy, eating raw meat like a ravenous carnivore. That I subjected Sweet Tart to this torture is weighing on me. Everything on a farm is life and death, I think. Everything wants to eat everything! I can’t get my mind around it, so I’m spending the day digging. Shovel therapy.
I’m removing the strawberries that I transplanted from one of the circle gardens last summer. We’ll give a bucket of starts to Momma Goose and a bucket to the neighbor who gave us Maybelline. Then I’ll plant broccoli, cabbage and kale seeds. But first I shovel in well-done chicken manure compost from last year’s meat bird pen.
I’ve read that birds evolved from dinosaurs. It makes sense. All chickens will attack an open wound on another chicken.
It’s just one of those chicken things. The way it is. Dig. Pick out rocks. Dig some more. Rake.
The Bearded One finally got Maybelline off of Sweet Tart, who laid there passively accepting her fate, after having been chased around furiously for goodness knows how long. We re-doctored the bloody wound and moved her back to the house for the afternoon.
Maybelline spent the afternoon in the hoophouse, and then we put her on the roost up in the coop with the rest of our hens that night. It worked. They accepted her the next day with hardly any hassles partly because she is enormous.
Sweet Tart will stay by herself in the hoophouse until she is completely and totally healed.
I stop working and check her wound again. It’s a lovely yellowish brown crust of gunk. I can even make out a little face in the dried skin. Nothing looks gross to me anymore.
Since Maybelline has been in with the other hens, we’ve had two pecked eggs in the nests.
Chickens will eat their own eggs if given a taste. We’ve had this problem before, but not for many months. Last time we used plastic Easter eggs to fool and discourage them, and it worked.
We don’t know for sure which hen is doing the pecking, and I don’t want to blame Maybelline for everything. The Bearded One says he is fine with blaming her.
I am actually sweating now, and have to take off my hat. It’s 55 degrees in here. 40 degrees outside.
I put Sweet Tart down and she flaps wildly then limps out into the sun to peck under the blueberry bushes. Garfield crouches on the deck, and both Ruby, who is beside the deck, and I monitor him as he acts like he’s not monitoring Sweet Tart, which he most certainly is.
And then the Bearded One comes out of the house with a plate and a glass. Bless him, he is bringing me lunch. He sets a tall glass of water on the railing as he unlatches the gate at the top of the deck stairs, then walks down past the cat, the dog, and the chicken.
Sweet Tart’s partitioned area in the hoophouse has an old picnic table with her nest box at one end. I brush off the dried chicken poop and then take off my dirty gloves. My hands are not clean and I don’t care. The Bearded One lays out napkins and the beautiful plate — a chicken sandwich, chips, and orange slices.
“I don’t hold anything against Maybelline,” I say, crunching a chip. “It was just too long with a hurt chicken and she snapped.”
“She snacked,” says the Bearded One.
I roll my eyes and take a big bite of my home-grown chicken sandwich. Everything wants to eat everything — I guess that includes me.