Sunday, January 29, 2012

Garlic Chicken

Garlic is good for what ails you.  If nothing ails you, it's good for that, too.  This "truism" applies to chickens as well, I'm finding out.  My writing schedule is off by at least a day since Nina started acting odd.  From previous blogs you know that hens scratch and peck constantly.  There is a lovely intermission for preening in the mid-morning and one late in the day, but the rest of the time is spent in industry.  No one would say that a chicken is a contemplative creature,  especially not a hen.  But Nina, a gloriously glossy Black Australorp, stood thoughtfully by the heat lamp yesterday morning when the other girls pushed and shoved to get out the coop door for their morning treats.  Nina did not move. Nearly all morning she sat on the nest without laying an egg.  Around noon I found her standing in the cold fog by the ragged raspberry stalks with a very far-away look in her eye.  No scratching.  No pecking.  No movement.  When I came along side, she took a slow step forward.

A call to the avian clinic revealed that there would be no one to check Nina until Monday.   They recommended that I keep her warm and provide food and water.  She spent half an hour in the house on my lap with her eyes closed most of the time while I planned the next space for her.  Creating a hen infirmary on the closed end of the coop where the heat lamp lives was added to the Things I get to do today.   An old gate served to give her privacy and seclusion.  Food and water were available--garlic water (a ground-up clove per quart).  She began to drink thirstily in the afternoon.  The food was untouched.

I tucked her in for the night with a sheet over the gate to help hold in the warmth and this morning held my breath as the sheet came off--not sure what would greet me. There was Nina, on her feet, looking eager to join the gang.  Slowly over the course of the day, she returned to hen behavior:  an occasional peck at the ground became more focused until she actually ate a few flakes of rolled oats thrown out for the girls' afternoon treat.  I was ecstatic.  She scratched under the tree. She ate greens,  and joined the other hens in the chicken buffet.  Tonight she's looking good on the roost with rest.

I've heard that when people get old and cranky they should eat lots of garlic.  That wasn't Nina's problem, but I'll bet it's good for that, too.

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