Monday, September 5, 2011

Minus One

Sadly, our little flock has been reduced in number. When I let the pullets out of the henhouse yesterday morning, Cluck Norris didn't come piling out with the others, and I opened the side door to find her huddled on the floor, not reacting except to open a bleary eye when I poked her (most unusual, as she usually freaked out the most when picked up). She was clearly ill, and we isolated her from the others, in a box in the living room, while we quickly chicken-proofed the yard and let the other four out to free range for the first time, with my parents (who were visiting) on duty to prevent escape or foray into the off-limits garden. With Cluck in quarantine, refusing to move, eat or drink and showing signs of infection, Matt and I quickly cleaned the coop completely of straw and shavings and litter, cleaned the run, refilled the henhouse and run with clean straw and shavings, gave the water dish a good clean and installed a new "big girl" chicken feeder.

(Click on Photos to Enlarge)

 My dad with the chickens, who loooooooove watermelon!

Lady Macbeth, Goldie, Esther and Penny all seemed hale and hardy and clearly enjoyed the freedom to roam, but unfortunately Cluck died around noon.

I kind of feel like this was our induction into the world of farming, although not the first chicken death I have dealt with (I had the unfortunate experience of losing both of my cousin's chickens to raccoons while house sitting three years ago....). Chickens get sick pretty easily, and we had been lucky to have all five chicks make it past chickdom, so to lose one at 10 weeks was sad, but not tragic. I think we handled it in the respectful but pragmatic way we want to deal with all animal deaths in our little family, treating the animal with dignity but moving on after the death has occurred, and not belaboring the point. Our best guess at the cause of death is Coccidiosis, a common infection among young chickens. It comes from ingesting chicken poo that is infected, so we are now keeping a much closer eye on the cleanliness of the coop and cleaning and refilling the water dish far more often, while looking for a waterer that will be easier to maintain. You live and learn, I guess, and it may be that we were being too lax about the state of the coop and the water, although it also could be something far more random. Luckily, the remaining four pullets are all healthy and lively and strangely seem more tightly knit and flock-like without Cluck.

On a brighter note, we had a great weekend visit from my parents, enjoying the fun of watching the chickens being, well, chickens, eating lots of good food, and trying to beat the heat (highs have been around 90 degrees again for the last few days and are predicted to stay that hot for the next week at least). Before we ended up in Portland, I took the train to Centralia, Washington and met my parents there, and we camped nearby and spent all day Friday at Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, exploring and enjoying the various visitors' centers, and taking a 6-mile hike through the desolated blast zone on an epicly clear and gorgeous day.

We hiked from Johnston Ridge Observatory, on the north side of the volcano, facing the crater formed by the 1980 eruption. Thirty years after the lateral blast knocked down trees and covered this area in up to 100 feet of silt and ash and killed every living thing in its path (including 57 people), the land is still barren in most places, although gorgeous with wildflowers and scrubby brush, but no trees. In the photo above, you can see the new lava dome that is growing inside the crater. If you enlarge the photo, you can see the many vents sending up steam on top of the dome, as well as a big puff of steam venting of the near slope of the mountain.

 Photos by Dad

 My parents have been wanting to see Mt. St. Helens and the monument since the eruption before I was born, and we finally did it!

 Mt. Adams behind Spirit Lake, which was displaced and filled with trees leveled by the eruption.

We were just five miles from the crater, a very beautiful and extremely humbling view.


FlowerLady said...

Sorry to hear about Cluck.

What a wonderful trip you had with your folks. The pictures are great.

Have a good week ~ FlowerLady

Bluezbandit said...

Sorry to hear of Cluck Norris' demise. Its always a sad day when an animal dies. Hope all the others are fine. Looks like your hike was lovely.