Monday, January 02, 2012

Paper Whites and Seven Nights

The paper whites bloomed! Bulbs are such a simple joy. Simply a joy? Paper whites are good. The day Maria, Weazie, and I planted them was lovely, and I really enjoyed the time we spent together. The little collection of pots stayed on the table outside. I watered them, some times. I thought of them, now and then, as the busy December days zipped by. There were a couple of times when I scrutinized them, thinking, maybe these are duds.

But, lo! Here they are. Pretty. Delicate. Cheering.

It's a nice reminder that sometimes, when we follow steps, take some care, and wait... things will turn out, a happy outcome is possible.

Maybe you read Bird House Bits... the sidebar post with my random notes, headlines, announcements, and tidbits. Seven nights ago we had a scary and sad attack on the shark cage...

"It's been a long, dramatic night. The boys heard the chicas panicking... went to investigate and saw them all a flutter. Nothing else. Then it happened again. This time Alex saw a bobcat fishing its paw into the shark cage. The damn thing got Kamen. It's horrible. Even after we chased it, then secured everything and were making our presence strongly known, the frackin cat returned. Believe me, we retaliated. But the cat is still stalking... so all critters are in the garage. Tomorrow we beef up security. Thank goodness for my swift and determined boys, Geoff too. I need a shower, and a cry.
December 27, 2011
1:53 am"

"Three hours sleep, on top of grief and stress, plus installing more shark cage safe guards all day = a tired, filthy, weary, sleepy, voraciously hungry, too wiped-out to cook... Me. And wouldn't you know it? With all my energy and focus shifted to the farm part of the Bird House, the interior has really *gone to the birds!*
Mary Poppins?
Nanny Mc Phee?
Mr Clean?
December 27, 2011
5:16 am"

Kamen was very badly injured. The bobcat had her in its claws and was fishing her through the cage. When we arrived all we saw were feathers, lots of them. Her poor body was a dark pile, limp. I was actually dismayed to pick her up and find her still breathing... I did not want to have her linger, suffer. It was almost midnight, Alex shone a light on her, and he looked away. I wanted to look away, too. Under her wing there was no skin, a tennis ball size membrane was inflated from a puncture wound. It was bloody, translucent. She struggled, to get away, to breath.

I should have snapped her neck. Swiftly. Mercifully. I asked Geoff to bring me a sharp knife. I was determined to be a good farmer. But she got away from me. She ran across the yard, hunkered down between the fence and the food bin. And I lost my resolve. I felt like a terrible farmer, because I was not being merciful.

I brought her inside, wrapped in a towel, and held her for two hours. In that time the bobcat returned; even with Geoff and William and Max and Alex armed and patrolling. Even when it ran off, they could hear it in the alley shrubs. Fearless predator. Our other chicas were traumatized and ruffled. Geoff held Kamen, while William and I transferred all the chickens into the garage. We double secured Sanka-bunny, who was deep down in her rabbit warren.

I settled Kamen in the garage too, and felt ashamed. I expected to bury her in the morning.

Seven nights have passed, and here is Kamen, this morning. I call her Robot Chicken. Yes, she is alive. I tell Geoff, watching all those episodes of Grey's Anatomy have really paid off. He reminds me, Kamen is a chicken. And I say, well, maybe it was experience I gained from watching Food Network, which is kind of sick humor, but sick humor is a specialty of mine.

Every night I tucked her in, near the space heater, and said good-night. Every morning I expected I would be burying her. Sometimes being too optimistic feels foolish, naive. Her neck was torn, she had claw marks all over. The injury beneath her wing is still quite gnarly. She is missing a lot of feathers, and her weight has plummeted.

But... as long as she seemed willing to try, I was too, so I went into the Internet in search of remedies. I am sorry... I read too many pages and articles to site all of my sources, but this is what I did:

1. five regular aspirin crushed and added to a gallon of water... Geoff worried about the blood thinning properties of aspirin, but the article said this solution would give her pain relief, and she did not seem to be actively bleeding, which is weird. Her chest puncture went clear through her chest cavity.

2. Pedialyte... someone mentioned a pet specific electrolyte drink, but I could not find it and had no time to visit every pet/feed store in the county.

I filled a bowl with equal parts aspirin water and plain Pedialyte.

3. I kept her warm and isolated.

4. People's Paste.
I first learned about this homeopathic remedy when my cousin Gabe used it on his hand. He shredded his palm in a skate boarding incident. It was gruesome, but people paste had it healing and restored in days. It was astonishing. I cannot believe I hadn't thought of this stuff in thirteen years, but the words popped into my head that first morning when I decided to do what I could to help Kamen live.

I found links on the Internet, of course, and the recipe at Frugal Granola.

People's Paste
"People’s paste is a mixture of equal parts myrrh powder, slippery elm bark powder, and golden seal powder. The powders are thoroughly mixed, and brought to a paste form by stirring in raw honey. The paste is spread over cuts and punctures and let to dry to form a “scab” (the slippery elm bark can create its own “bandage”). Apply a band-aid or gauze over the injury, if desired, to prevent the dried the dried paste from falling off, or from getting wet & turning back into goo!

The dried people’s paste on your wound should be carefully reconstituted and dabbed off with a small amount of warm water and replaced with a clean application of paste at least once a day. Because people’s paste is so effective at drawing infection out of a wound, it’s important to remove the old “contaminated” paste regularly.

All of the components of people’s paste contain potent antimicrobial properties, while the raw honey also aids in tissue repair.

People’s paste may be made as needed, or a larger batch may be stored for future emergencies. People’s paste may become hard if stored for any length of time. This can be remedied by either mixing in more raw honey, or filtered water."

5. Hydrogen peroxide... I diluted this with warm water, because I felt horrible about how much it was going to hurt if I poured anything over her open wounds. So, after washing away dirt and muck with the hydrogen peroxide... (she fainted, actually... and Alex and I watched as the solution bubbled up from her chest cavity with each breath, and then we about fainted, too).

I applied the People's Paste to every sore and cut I could find, and wrapped gauze around her neck and under her wing. She was limp. I wrapped her in a towel and held her. And though it wasn't in any chicken care article, I talked to her. I painted a chicken world of grassy fields, and sandy banks at the edge of shallow, clear streams, where only fluffy clouds made shadows, and the starry nights were warm and safe. She slept in my arms.

I have been changing her dressing. I have been talking to her, and feeding her. Maria wants everyone to know that Kamen ate the cherry tomato Maria found for her in the yard. And today she is enjoying some time in the sunshine, picking at the grass. I am still uncertain. We think of Mike the headless chicken, and Alex reminds us of the blessings of rudimentary design. Every morning, we look at her and marvel, and say, "Looks like she is going to be with us one more day."

I will wait another week before returning her to her sisters, and Son of Zoltar. When we weren't nursing Kamen, we were securing the shark cage and making over-all improvements out there. I think Betty and Shebot like the safer set up.

We moved the shark cage out of the flood plain, and set it on top of pavers. The bobcat had been digging under the cage. With a look of semi-maniacal glee, Maria described how the bobcat would dig, and dig, and dig, and then he would bump his head real hard! And she laughed at her vengeful vision.

We also wired the shark cage... no more paws fishing into the chica's home.

The bobcat has returned.
I smoothed the dirt around the cage, so I could see any tracks. It's a big cat, if those paw prints are any indication. But our improvements seem to have secured the chicas, and we haven't heard any squawking from the poor dears. Soon, I will bring Kamen back to her mother, Puff.

Between my shame, and my doubts... I couldn't bring myself to post about the wounded chicken sheltering in our bathroom, but it's been seven nights, and sometimes with care and time, good things do happen.


Jessica said...

Thank heavens that your love, determination, and endless care and energy have brought Kamen through this attack, Natalie. If chickens can have a "near death" experience like humans do, I suspect Kamen has "seen the light" and will live a super charged existence going forward! Congratulations to you and the family.

Jennifer said...

It's a wonderfully amazing and affirming story; what a terrific farmer you are, and how good to know that Kamen has responded so well to all that loving care.

Anonymous said...

Super Chicken!

Visty said...

What a story! I have never had the luck to keep chickens, but I think that if I were in your situation, I would have done the same thing. We have an irrepressible will to live, but we also have an irrepressible will for the ones we love to live. I am so glad to hear she is pulling through. You are an amazing farmer.

Peaches said...

Please contact your local Animal Control or Fish and Game to see if they can capture and relocate the cat (before spring). My love to Kamen.

tara said...

Amazing story. We have nursed chickens that shouldnt have lived but they are plucky (hehe). I have used crazy glue to close large wounds after irrigating them with first aid liquid.
Hope she makes a speedy recovery to the coop.

test said...

Well it seems you have it all under control again, or did I miss something. (Other then you and your beautiful family).
Have a great new year, and we are looking forward to seeing you soon, about 10 weeks.

ArtyZen said...

WOW! I had actually thought Kamen was a gonner so I'm delighted and amazed at this story of dedication and application. People paste...obviously as incredible as it sounds. Well done you - well done Kamen. Well done everyone for keeping that bobcat at bay.
Much love and thank you for growing bulbs to flowers in all senses of the word.

judy in ky said...

What a heart-warming post, Natalie. I had tears in my eyes reading about poor Kamen and all the frightened chicas. Then I laughed a little when I read about Maria's maniacal glee. What a wonderful nurse you are to little Kamen. I read with care all the steps you took, especially the Peoples Paste, which is new to me. There have been no reports of bobcats in our area, but there have been coyote sightings apparently.
I understand how devastated you must have felt about the attack. Thank goodness you have brave warriors at the blue house.

d.a. said...

I hadn't heard of "people's paste" before either... thank you for posting it!

I know well the heart-stopping, chest-squeezing fear (and hope) that nursing a bird can bring to one's self. I will think good thoughts for Kamen - the will to survive can be so strong!

One small recommendation for the shark cage: the chicken wire is okay for temporary protection, but it's better for keeping chickens in/out - not so good for long-term protection against predators. Predators can easily chew the wire open (raccoons are famous for doing so). When you can, check out "hardware cloth" - much stronger/more resistant. Much love to you, your family, and your chicas...

Irish Zan said...

You did everything right. More than I probably would have done. I usually hand my cat and credit card over the counter and tell my vet, "Fix it", whatever "it" happens to be that visit. I feel so helpless. So I applaud, a standing ovation is more like it...for applying your maternal instincts and quick thinking and common sense. What you did in those first few moments saved Kamen's life.

You did everything right.