Boys will be a pain in the ass

Tweedle Dum, the turkey jake, is super frustrated.  There’s a trio of wild (okay, dropped in by the neighbor so he can have guided turkey hunts on his property) toms that have been bothering us all day here.  They swoop in and rape my turkey hens, and poor Dummy can’t protect all three girls at once.  My husband first chased them off with a stick, but then he took my .22 revolver out there with bird shot and scared them off.  (.22 bird shot is not going to kill a turkey unless you hold the barrel to its head, so settle down, PETAites.)

So Dummy, who is so terrible at turkey sex the local hooligans have come in to show how much better they are, and outnumbered at turkey fighting, and for some reason, pretty small for a Bourbon Red jake, is spoiling for a fight.  Like a complete ass, he apparently got into it with Azrael, who is now sporting a bloody, lacerated comb and bloody feet.

Jeff wants to shoot Dummy and let the hens go off with the wild ones.  I admit, that would solve a lot of problems.  I’d say I never wanted turkeys in the first place, but that isn’t true.  I did want turkeys, but now that I have them, I don’t.  I’m tired of turkey poop everywhere, I’m frustrated with turkey noise, and now I’m pissed that my handsome, gentle rooster is wounded.

I didn’t have any Blukote, but I went out there and picked Az up and held him while I cleaned him up as much as he would let me.  I put some Neosporin (no -caines of any kind!) on him and let him go.  He closed his eyes for the washing part and gave me squinty sideeye for the salve part.  What a lovely, patient and good rooster he is.  I will invest in some Blukote, though.

And I have to seriously think about whether I’m going to keep these turkeys.

(And for those of you who are screaming, “But what about BAMF?!”, she is just fine.  Seven weeks old and getting feathers in her tail.  They look like nice, straight, stiff ones, too, so we are still hoping for pullet.  I might have pictures tomorrow.)

Growing Pains in the Coop

Bamf is now six and a half weeks old, and pretty much fully feathered.  That means she can regulate her own body temperature now, and doesn’t have to sleep underneath Amy, who has been showing signs of tiring of motherhood.

Jeff and I agreed it was time to let Amy and Bamf out of the brooder pen and back into the flock. The chickens were ready, but the enclosure wasn’t.  The hardcloth openings on the enclosure will keep in a big chicken (and keep out raccoons), but they won’t keep Bamf from slipping through.  We had to go around with chicken wire and reinforce the sides.

Jeff also worked on the door, putting in a barrier to discourage chickens from escaping when I open the door to put in food, water, and treats.  He also reinforced the wires in the door itself, because one of the center wires had popped loose and left an opening large enough for a small chicken like Sera…or one of the cats….to slip through.

Amy did not realize she was free from the brooder right away, but once she did, she spent a lot of time trying to escape Bamf.  It made me terribly sad, but I know that’s how the chicken thing works sometimes.  I knew it was going to be really bad at bedtime, because Amy was going to run off to the roosts with the rest of the chickens and leave Bamf alone.

And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.  Bamf spent several minutes calling and crying around the enclosure, and Amy ignored her.  Finally, I went in and captured Bamf, who screamed bloody murder and tried to escape–hen raised chicks are not nearly as friendly as human raised ones–and put her in the big coop.  She called and cried and still, Amy ignored her.  I blocked the exit and waited her out.

I did notice that while Amy thought she belonged on the roost with the other chickens, Maalik and Abby disagreed.  They pecked and bit and beat her with their wings.  When I went back to check on Bamf, who had quieted and gone to sleep on one of the lower roosts, Amy had been dumped off by the other girls and was trying to get back up.

It’s my hope that the flock will discipline Amy until she accepts her responsibilities and in the morning, I will find her taking care of Bamf again and helping her to find her place in the flock.

We’re not out of the woods yet.  Bamf doesn’t need Amy to keep her warm enough to stay alive, but she does need her to help her find her place in the flock until she can withstand the pecking order squabbles to find her place herself.

This is all new to me, too.  I am back to seeing Bamf as Schroedinger’s Chick–both alive and dead at the same time until I observe her.

Cross your fingers.

Castor’s Nest and Other Nonsense Around Here

Jeff’s fishing in Koocanusa this weekend, so the “kids” and I are home alone.  Twice I’ve gone looking for Castor in the house (the cats are not allowed upstairs with my mom, so I have to keep tabs on them), and both times I have found him here.

Castor's Nest

 

In a lovely little nest he’s made in my bed.  Yes, he scooched the blankets all around himself and then hid under them.  I haven’t been able to get a picture of him actually in the nest, because as soon as he’s discovered, he clambers out for scritches.

What’s adorable about it is that it’s almost exactly what Jeff does.  And you don’t know how many times I’ve come downstairs to find my big, tough, manly-man but completely allergic to cats husband watching TV, sniffling and blowing his nose, with Castor curled up against his chest.  Or lying on his arm.

When Jeff knows he’s going to sleep but the cats are in the room with him, he’ll put on Animal Planet for them while he covers his eyes with a pillow (Alaska native trick) for a nap.  (And for clarity, when I say Alaska native, I mean born and raised; if I meant First Nations native, I’d say which Nation.)  They love it.  When birds come on, they make that clicking chirp that says, ‘OMG if you were really here I’d eat every bit of you.”

CHICKENS

They are going stir crazy.  Finally the snow is leaving the ground and the girls are tired of looking at each other’s butts. I’m going to let them out as soon as I’m done here, but all of them are lined up at the enclosure door.  I’m actually going to open the coop door for them today. The enclosure door has a loose wire down the center and it’s now created a gap big enough for a skunk and possibly a smallish raccoon.  Not to mention my little feathered escape artists.

I’ll try to get video of BAMF today, but if I do, I’ll have to use my charging cable to upload from my phone.  It may happen, it may not.  But she is adorable. She’s clearly a mutt. My pure little white chick now looks about as pure white as the snow melting crazily out here. But she’s getting big, and she’s three days from six weeks old, and one week away from release from jail the brooder pen.

She was adorable yesterday.  She and Amy had knocked over their water fount, so they were thirsty.  Normally, BAMF won’t have anything to do with me, but she was so thirsty, she stood there and drank and drank, looking right at me.  I love it when she does that.

I have to get the enclosure fencing reinforced with chicken wire so the holes are too small for a six week old chick to escape.  I also have to check for “slip under” areas.  I noticed one today that looks problematic.

She is completely accepted by the flock, so there are no worries now about rejection.  I’m sure when she is older, she’ll have to endure some pecking so she finds her place in the flock, but it’s clear she belongs.  Huge relief for me.

If I buy silkie chicks this year, I think I won’t need to buy any more for a good long time.  I have a brooder pen set up now, so any broody hens we’ll move after the hatch.  I think I’m going to get good at this. Silkies are very broody.

TURKEYS

Not a lot to update here, other than Tweedle Dum is still figuring out the mechanics of turkey sex, and he’s still terrible at it.  I do not understand why, but he and the hens seem to need to do it only when I’m going in the enclosure door.  And then they do the deed RIGHT OUTSIDE THE DOOR, blocking it so I can’t escape. I have to wait until they’re done.

Turkey toms are not very smart and they form odd attachments to human females.  They will hit on their favorites.  Oh yes, I’ve been getting the dance.  And Dummy places himself between me and any human visitors, making sure to fluff up and show tail feathers.  “THIS IS MY HUMAN FEMALE.  BEGONE.”

I just wonder what the whole business outside the enclosure door is.  Does he think this is some kind of seduction?  I should video this to show you how bad he is at it.

Dear Gods, this is the depths to which I have fallen.  That turkeys want to have sex with me.

Home with the birds

Today was a lovely Sunday at home with the chickens and turkeys.  Well, the cats, too.  And the husband, Jeff.  Not necessarily in that order.

I let the chickens out of the enclosure. With all the predators around, and having lost some rare breeds to one or all of them (we’ve only seen feathers from one lost bird), the girls and boys only get to come out under supervision.  I check on them from time to time and do head counts.  With the turkeys as an early warning system, too, the birds are better protected.  While the predators decide whether Tweedle Dum, my tom, is worth a fight, enough time can be bought for me to come out with the shotgun and make sure everyone is okay.

So the girls and Azrael, my Rhode Island Red rooster, were out.  A couple of the girls stayed in.  Einstein, my buff Naked Neck, really doesn’t care if she goes outside again.  She’s more than happy to stay in the enclosure and feel safe.  She’s the last of the original four.

Scarlett, on the other hand, the last of the second set of four, is an inquistitive Red Star who likes to be the last one in at night, if she can help it.

Amy, the buff Orpington who is mothering the now nearly five week old chick I’ve named BAMF Snowflake (as a fuck you to fascists everywhere and also because she’s white as urban snow and yes, that stands for what you think it stands for), really wanted to go with them, but she’s not allowed.  Not until BAMF is fully fledged AND big enough to escape a crow.  When BAMF is six and a half weeks old, she and Amy will be released from the brooder pen and allowed to roam the enclosure. Outside time will be negotiated later.

At least, that was the plan.

Until I went to check on the girls and found BAMF running frantically around the outside of the brooder pen.  I called out that I was on the way to rescue her, and wrestled with the baling wire that holds the door shut, got inside….and found BAMF sitting placidly behind Amy in the brooder pen.  So she’s perfectly fine getting in or out on her own, thank you, and doesn’t need my help.

Well, that’s not happening.  I found the exits, two of them, just small enough for a five week old chick to slip through, and I had Jeff round me up some plywood to cover them.  Meanwhile, BAMF escaped again and there was a mad chase all over the enclosure.  I wouldn’t freak out except she’s not fully fledged yet, and it’s very easy for her to get chilled and die.  After five weeks of keeping this baby alive in the snow, rain and ice of North Idaho weather, to have it all go to hell because the little shit is an escape artist would suck.

Finally I caught her, put her back in the brooder pen and sealed off the exits.  Then, since dark was coming, I started letting the girls back in the enclosure.  I have to let them file in one at a time, because the turkeys want to come in, too, and I can’t have them in there knocking everything over and then stepping on poor BAMF.  The girls all try to follow Azrael in if they can, because Az gets really pissed at stragglers.  He and Castiel, the beta rooster (and a gorgeous partridge cochin), will wingslap and nip anyone who slips in the door after everyone else is in.

Naturally, Scarlett got a whooping, as usual.  And I went in the house and sat down to let Twitter depress the hell out of me.  Then I looked up and noticed Mikey, one of the partridge cochins, trying to quietly find a way back in the enclosure.  So back I go, outside, to try to help poor Mikey sneak in without getting wingslapped.  Timing is everything.  We both waited until both roosters had mounted someone else and then I quickly opened the door and Mikey dashed in.  I think she got away clean.

Later on, as I read about more corruption and bullshit and obvious lying, I looked out again and saw that Tweedle Dum, the turkey tom, was trying out his new moves on one of the Bourbon Red hens.  As in, climbing on, splaying the poor girl’s wings on the ground and biting her head.  I don’t ever want to be reincarnated as a turkey hen.  Ever. I said something to Jeff about it, and he came out to watch.  Grimly, he joked, “Yeah, baby, I love it when your wings are all splayed out in the mud and shit.” Dummy held her down a long time, because I’m really sure he has no idea what he’s doing.  I’ve watched him before, and I’ve never seen him get past the girls’ tails, which they cleverly spread on the ground, covering the cloaca. It’s sad, really.

Then I heard meowing from above, and noticed Castor, the nine month old boycat, was on the deck and had no idea how to get down.  I should have left him there, but I knew he’d just cry in front of the slider up there and beg to be let in, rather than find his way down.  He’s not allowed upstairs, so that wasn’t happening.  (Kitties that go upstairs in my mother’s domain get tossed outside.)

I held up the sled for him to run down.  I put it on my shoulder, so that he could run down past me if he liked.  He decided to try it.  First one paw, then another.  Then he picked up one of his back paws and WHOOSH! Flew right past my head, over my shoulder and onto the snow.

He’ll probably never do that again.

Well, now everyone is tucked in for the night.  Kitties are in the house and fed (and staying downstairs.)  BAMF’s under Amy–last I saw her tonight her head was poking up out from under Amy’s wing–and the chickens have all gone in to roost.

The only one still making noise is Dummy, who is upset that one of his hens is missing.  He’s gobbling and fluffing and gobbling and fluffing up there on the roost, and the sneaky little hen is hiding around the corner, roosting quietly on the rack next to my office window.  She keeps looking at me as if to say, “Please!  Don’t rat me out!”

I bet I know which one she is.

Good old invisible illness

When you can’t see a person’s illness, it can be hard to accept that it’s real, or that it’s very serious.  I understand that.

When your loved one has a crushing cold or a sinus infection, it seems very important and obvious that she should have her rest.  If you have depression with sleep disturbance, even deprivation, it is just as important–perhaps more so, because your illness is life-threatening–but it is NOT obvious.  And you can become very ill very quickly, even spiral into a crash, if you do not fight to protect your needs.  This can be difficult and frustrating and even dangerous, when your illness is invisible.

How dangerous?  Well, for starters, the chest pains started a week ago.  The visual disturbance and the beginnings of hallucinations started yesterday.  Yes.  From depression.  From the sleep disturbance and deprivation associated with depression.

It’s not a mood.  It’s not something that can be set aside when someone else has a cold or flu.  “Yes, let’s just put that on hold for a while, until you get better.  Then I can indulge this illness again.”  I am so tired of being expected to do that for people, just because they can’t see or believe in my illness.

If I could choose to set this aside, I would.  Permanently.  I would never go through this again.  I am desperate right now to get my sleep under control so I can then focus on my stress response.  Later, when I have those pillars under me, I can work on the soundtrack in my head.

But as long as I am battling the physical symptoms of my invisible illness, I am vulnerable.

So I fight.  And hope that I do not become so tired of the fight that I give up and let this thing take me.

A place I’ve skated too close to over the last week.

Seventeen days old

In other news, the baby chick is still, to my amazement, alive.

No pictures yet, because I try to get as much done in one pass as I can so I don’t disturb them and she gets as much “under Mom” time as she can.  Amy tends to jump up and beg for treats when she sees me.

The baby is dirty white with bright orange legs, so we think she’s Azrael and Maalik’s offspring.

Also, we had a young eagle circling the enclosure, trying to find a way in.  The turkey hens huddled under the deck and Tweedle Dum, the tom, gobbled “FUCK OFF!” several times.  Finally, the eagle took the hint.  I’m not happy about this visit.  I think I’m going to string up several old CDs with the shiny side out.

We also have a coyote pack not far off. This is a tough time of year.  I’m dreading the bears coming out of their caves soon, as well.

Homework assignment: Sleep

Someone linked Robert Sapolsky’s marvelous lecture on depression at Stanford some time back, and I was completely floored by how well it matched….and explained! so many of my symptoms.  Yes, it’s a seven year old lecture.  I cried as I watched it, even though he’s funny, because finally someone articulated all those things I couldn’t explain to people about where I am right now.  (And have been, over and over in my life.)

When I was about 19, my boyfriend at the time expressed complete exasperation with my constant state of exhaustion.  He told me I needed to get checked out, because lots of people managed a lot more activity than I did without being so tired all the time. (Here’s my middle finger for that guy.) I wasn’t tired like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome tired, but constantly sleepy and often just unwilling to move.

It’s really been a long time since I’ve felt truly energetic.  I probably haven’t felt energized since junior high school.  Now, I’m not a slug.  I’ve run a half marathon and all three times I went to college, I worked more than one job, did some kind of collegiate activity and took a full load of classes.  But yawning is my default mode.

Actual sleep, however, never comes easily, and I rarely stay asleep for eight hours.  I usually wake up anywhere from four to eight times during the night.  Even if I “sleep in,” and stay in bed for ten hours, more than half that time, I feel like I’m in the shallow pool of unconsciousness, and the slightest movement will wash me up into wakefulness.  And I’m usually right.

So this week, my counselor asked me to work on sleep.  If I use a sleep aid, such as Tylenol PM, I’m to do it for a full ten days, to make sure I obtain the normal sleep cycles and habituate them. I haven’t done that yet, but I’m thinking about it.

(Nope, no Ambien, thanks.  I’d be one of those people sleep driving to work at 2 a.m. and ending up in the river.)

For now, I’m doing lavender oil and starting a bedtime ritual.  (Jammies, wash face, teeth brushed, lavender oil on feet and back of head, read, then out.)

No change yet and I’m still exhausted.  So I’ll probably begin the sleep aid thing tomorrow.

I hope it helps.  It would be nice to have something help for a change.