Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dolly Madison, A Bird Apart

Wren Cottage Farm is 10 acres of verdant Pennsylvania hillside, perched atop Woodbourne Hill in Susquehanna County. That's in the Endless Mountains for those keeping score at home. The purpose of this blog is to entertain my city friends with tales from the series Liz calls “As The Hen Turns,” and to give other rural types a sense of comfort that they are not going through this ridiculous life alone.

Today’s story is about Dolly Madison, our little turkey. We’ve never had turkeys before because I am a vegetarian, and there are some animals you really only keep around to eat. But when I was first getting started with chickens, an old-timer told me that turkeys were immune to Marek’s disease, a virus which kills unvaccinated chicks to the tune of 33-50% of your hatch. And the turkeys pass on their immunity to the chickens they live with. So I thought it would be a good $5 experiment to import a day-old turkey from Clodhopper Farm, home of my generous friends Pete and Eliza. Since the very tiny baby bird was a broadbreasted white, I named her Dolly. I figured in a week she’d be bigger than the baby chickens who were 2 weeks her elder, and they would not peck her and annoy her. Unfortunately, Dolly turned out to be not big and brassy but quiet and refined, and given to sticking her head in dark holes when she could no longer bear the ugliness of life. So we added the surname, and when I found her hiding behind the waterer with a bloody nose, I removed her from the toddler room at the chicken juvvie home and built the Madison White House out of an old dog coop we had in the yard.

Dolly is now growing madly, perhaps because she is no longer afraid for her life (you may not realize how mean chickens can be, but the pecking order is serious, and unpleasant), and although it looked for awhile like she literally did not know to come in out of the rain, she is a killer fly-catcher, which keeps the bugs down nicely in the barnyard. In a few more months, Dolly and her attendant staff of bantam English game fowl will move into the barn with the rest of the flock, but for now, she is the primary attraction in the dog garden outside the kitchen door.

And in spite of their extreme ingratitude, not a single chick has been lost to Marek’s this year.


  1. I am so excited about this blog I put it in my feed reader before I even read the first post.

  2. Great to see we can keep up with your rural adventures. Want to blogroll? (That means you put a link to my blog in your sidebar, and I put a link to your.)