Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Sad State of Affairs

I am sorry to tell you that Dolly Madison is a murderer. I am also sorry to tell you that, as predicted, Dolly hurt herself leaping from the barn one day and for two weeks could only stand up with assistance. That’s right, I went out every morning and hoisted the turkey to standing position, and then I went out in the afternoon and lifted her again. I understand what this says about me. I understand what my life has become.

The sheep would not let Dolly rest in their side of the barn, even though they don’t use it that often at this time of year because they would rather be outdoors, lying under the hemlocks. So I put Dolly in a pen closer to the house, with a tarp over it to keep the rain off. For company—and since it’s time to incarcerate the English hens and practice birth control for them so we don’t end up with even more English chickens—I put a handful of English in the pen too. They may well be the same ones that lived in the bunny crate with her last spring when they were all infants. I also added another hen—Hickety Pickety, a black yearling who liked to lay her eggs in the hay feeder in the sheep room, and whom I found one day hanging headfirst down out of the feeder with a paralyzed leg. At first I thought it was broken, but it failed to become useable again. It simply continued to stick straight out in front of her. But Hickety Pickety got around remarkably well on her wings and good leg, and it was obvious she wanted to live, so I let her.

After two weeks of physical therapy in the Paraplegic Poultry Ward, Dolly was able to stand on her own. The timing was good because I had to go away for two nights on business, and John was spared the task of standing the turkey up each day. The second morning I was away, he called to say that Dolly had gotten up on her own and had used her regained powers of health and locomotion to walk over and stand on Hickety Pickety, who had come down out of the coop for breakfast. Then she stepped off, took the hen by the neck and shook her hard. John return the poor hen to the coop, where she died overnight of her injuries.

Today it is almost a week later. John and I brought down a calf hutch his mother kindly let us borrow from her farm, and I cut out the doorsill so Dolly can walk in. She did not, of course. But last night I made her walk in, so she gets the idea of sleeping in there out of the rain. Unfortunately, as of yesterday, she needs help once again to stand up. I am no longer convinced that her problems are injury-based. I think she may just be engineered to have been eaten last November, not to be still walking around. Her suspension is not adequate to the tasks required of it at one year of age. So now this irritating bird, who killed another animal with a disability almost identical to her own, is suffering the legacy of her own genetics. And eventually I may have to decide what to do about it.

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