The queen of the coop is gone

Hi Top was just getting worse. We couldn’t afford it, but we took her back to the vet anyway just to grasp at straws/see if they had any other ideas. I had privately decided they were wrong about the infection and this must be some kind of intestinal blockage or something. And you don’t do surgery on chickens for things like that. Hell, most people wouldn’t shell out $200+ to take a chicken to the vet in the first place. But most chickens aren’t Hi Top.

Anyway, Mike just called to confirm what I feared. She’s not gonna make it. I had taken her out into the backyard in my arms for a few minutes earlier this afternoon so she could feel the sun on her face again. She actually opened her eyes a couple of times, even. But she was barely hanging on even then.

Out of all the damned chickens we have, it just had to be her, huh. This freakin’ sucks so bad. I have a coop full of feathered assholes who don’t pull their weight around here, but it just has to be Hi Top.

Rest in peace, goofy butt. I’m sorry we couldn’t save you. It is never going to be the same without you here and we’re going to miss you every day.

Hi Top and Glenn, the chihuahua of roosters

I sat up all night with Hi Top. I was afraid if I didn’t, she’d die when I wasn’t looking. I can’t think of any metric by which she could be said to be doing well. She’s not doing well.

I force fed her some homemade electrolyte solution a few times. Wasn’t prescribed by the vet but I think she’s probably only swallowing half her meds, if that, and I won’t repeat the smelly details on what’s going on with her – it’s in the last post if you’re interested – but there’s no way she’s not dehydrated.

I’ve also never seen a chicken look at someone with actual hate before, but I’m pretty sure that’s what I got when I maneuvered the medicine dropper into her mouth and pushed the plunger. That or the most iconic “I am so done with you” chicken face ever.

I really need her to be ok, esp. after losing Raven earlier this year. Raven and Hi Top are (were) my two special girls.

Hi Top and partial view of Raven’s butt last year

So I didn’t get caught up on communication last night yet again, y’all, despite pulling an all-nighter. I’m really sorry. I’m just getting pulled in so many directions this week – well, for the last month, I guess. It’s kicking my butt, but I’m still among the healthy and living, unlike plenty of folks who started out 2020 that way but got interrupted, so I complain only sheepishly. But I’m starting to feel a little punch-drunk with the nonstop action lately.

In peripherally related news, when I went out to do dawn chores, Glenn, the black frizzled rooster, was giving the other boys a worse time than usual and generally being a bully. When I catch him doing this, I call this Glenn Needing a Hug; he gets picked up and toted around under my arm as I finish morning chores while I talk to him very calmly like he’s a small animal and make sure all the other chickens can see this happening.

Glenn: 14″ tall and definitely not bulletproof.

I want him to not panic around me or the prospect of being handled, but I also want him to know who’s in charge, what side his bread is buttered on, and that he isn’t actually 10 feet tall like he thinks he is. (He’s also not the head rooster, though he occasionally acts like he is, and Joe, who is the head rooster, is generally too busy doing his job to even take the bait when Glenn runs at him. He just dodges slightly out of Glenn’s way and goes about his business.)

This is Dickhead Joe, who’s the head rooster and who is not a dickhead at all. He’s a very good rooster. That was just kinda where my daughter was going with the chicken-naming at the time.

Well, the little shit took a run at me when I was going to pick him up for his “hug.” This is basically rooster fight mode – they kind of square themselves up and do this sort of flapping little run towards their opponent, chest out, almost leaning back a little as they move forward to make their chest protrude. It might seem kind of cute if you haven’t had to deal with the bloody aftermath of a rooster dustup before – they will eff each other up – and it *does* seem kind of cute when Glenn does it, ’cause he’s like a teacup rooster – at least at first.

We call this one Pretty Boy ’cause I guess we ran out of creative juice that day and, well, he is pretty. He’s Glenn’s favorite target for bullying.

But even teacup frizzled bantams have spurs unless you do something about them, and spurs suck no matter the size. While he kind of seems like a chihuahua – they tend to be forgiven more easily for bad behavior that could get a larger dog in a lot of trouble – the fact remains that bad behavior is bad behavior. Now, he didn’t actually “complete” the forward movement part and run at me – perhaps because I wasn’t responding in kind, ’cause I’m not a freakin’ rooster – but he sure did square up, and he was not cornered, which might have made it explicable.

This is simply unacceptable behavior towards a human being. We have an excellent rooster who is great with people and is vigilant, protecting and warning the rest of the flock from danger and treating the hens decently. We have zero reason to tolerate asshole roosters, and we have a zero-tolerance policy for roosters that are aggressive towards people. There are too many good ones to put up with a shitty one.

But I wanted a black frizzled bantam rooster, and I got a black frizzled bantam rooster, and it’s this little asshole I ended up with. And you can’t just pop down to the pet store in November and go pick up a new one. But I need a black frizzled bantam rooster. He might be a little shit, but unlike most roosters, he earns his keep merely by existing and being a chicken. I use his feathers to create charms, art, and implements for customers; they are ingredients in several of my formulas; and I use them in uncrossing and spiritual cleansing work for clients. I *need* Glenn (at least until I can replace his narrow little ass, if that ends up being necessary).

Now, I will give them a shot at redeeming themselves, and the first step is Rooster Needs a Hug. After a round of that, we see if they try that crap again or if they’re suitably chastened. Actually, that’s the only step, because I’ve never given a rooster a second chance if he ran at a person again after a first round of Rooster Needs a Hug. The one and only time I’ve had to do this before, we rehomed him before we had a chance to really assess a behavioral adaptation. (We just had too many roosters and it wasn’t fair to the roosters or the hens.)

So I’m not sure if Rooster Needs a Hug did any good or not. I kind of doubt it. Glenn is very, very full of himself and he seems to think he’s bulletproof. We’ve been very lucky; our roosters have been extraordinarily well-behaved. They’ve nearly all been home-hatched barnyard mutts, too. Glenn is the only storebought one we have :/ I understand there’s a widowed black bantam hen in Forestville, California, who would probably appreciate Glenn’s company lol… but in addition to that being on the opposite coast from me, practically, I don’t know if the humans involved would be so keen once they learned of Glenn’s appalling manners.

But I’m gonna threaten to put him on a train with a steamer trunk and send him to California every time he pisses me off now, I’m sure – at least until spring when I can shop for a new one and find him a new home if need be. I hope it’s not necessary. But I just had to get the one with “personality.” :/

Ok, time to go get the death glare from a very weak Hi Top šŸ˜¦

Thea Summer Deer and Wisdom of the Plant Devas, chicken poop, Ghost Pipe, Emily Dickinson

I don’t really have time for a real blog post, never mind a book review [*], but I wanted to make a quick recommendation for Thea Summer Deer’s blog and book, Wisdom of the Plant Devas. This is going to sound like some woo-woo stuff to some folks, and I freely admit to being one of those who was extremely skeptical about flower essences and homeopathy and such for a very long time. And despite my work with and interest in herbs, I don’t write about herbal medicine much because I’m not qualified to and I don’t want anybody taking my advice on anything when it comes to *consuming* herbs. You need to get that information from someone with formal qualifications whom you have vetted. Herbs can heal but they can also kill.

But I’ve taken the long way round to giving some of the more woo-woo-sounding stuff a second, slower look over recent years, and I’ve backed way, way up on my tendency to scoff and think “can’t be bothered” when I encounter it. And I recently stumbled across her blog, and from there her book, when looking for information on the very rare and very weird Ghost Pipe,[**] which my mother recently called to tell me she found growing on her property.

I also don’t have time to quote or really review the book right now, but I’ve never seen anything quite like it. While I regularly bristle at Westerners co-opting concepts like karma and devas and using them shallowly and irresponsibly, what emerges from her work as she’s talking about the spirits of the plants is authenticity, a hell of a lot of knowledge and experience, and a deep, deep respect. She talks about and works with these plants like an old-school rootworker who happens to be conversant in Chinese medicine. Don’t be turned off by the occasional New-Age-seeming imagery or mentions of contemporary Wicca-esque stuff. This book is a lot deeper than its cover. She cites her sources even on the blog like an actual scholar instead of a typical lazy blogger, though both are very readable and never stuffy or dry; the blog has lots of thought-provoking and free info; and the book itself is surprisingly affordable.

Definitely worth a look if you’re into this kind of thing at all.


[*] Still scrambling to deal with twingey back, hurricane recovery, communication backlog, order backlog, injured rooster (who hates people), sick hen (whose most visible symptom is extraordinarily stinky and runny poop, and the chicken hospital is inside our house, so I’m scrubbing in there multiple times a day), a partner who’s thrown *his* back out now, the usual everyday garden/land/home maintenance, my own trainwrecks of grief (please, loved ones, stop dying), and supplier issues (when pandemics, hurricanes and such happen, the stuff I need to make the things folks order doesn’t always show up when it’s supposed to, or at all in rare cases, and this is an aspect of my shipping/handling times, too).

Sorry there’s poop in the picture, but she did that after I stabilized the camera but before the photograph was actually saved on my phone. And it startled me, and I unstabilized the camera, hence the lousy photo quality. But Hi Top the Usually Genial, Now the Seriously Grumpy Mascot of Seraphin Station lives. Not exactly in splendor at the moment, but God willing, in gradually improving health. Really, really smelly gradually improving health.

[**] Also known as ghost plant, corpse plant, or Indian pipe, it seems like kind of a wildflower and kind of a fungus. In fact it’s technically a mycotrophic wildflower, which exists only in a three-way symbiotic relationship. It has no chlorophyll but gets nutrients from tree roots, but it does so indirectly via myccorhizal fungi growing near the roots. It’s ghost white, but if you pick it, it will turn black. Basically, it’s weird as hell and extremely cool. Read more about its medicinal uses at American Herbalists Guild. Emily Dickinson even wrote about it in an unpublished poem you can see at the Morgan Library and Museum’s website. Read a bit more at the blog Emily Dickinson’s Garden. For a scientific but very readable explanation of how the nutrient situation shapes up, see Tom Volk’s Fungus of the Month for October 2002.

(deep breath)

I am in the middle of two consultations that I should have delivered last night, along with posting a custom listing, finally getting the incredibly patient E. her light setting report, and making a big dent in the emails.

Since 8 p.m., I have had three hours of sleep, one unexpected visitor who stayed a while, one rooster with a bloody foot who is very human-averse and hard to catch and who I’ve so far only managed to hit with Blu-Kote from a distance, four (yes, 4) separate hawk sightings necessitating installation of new hawk deterrent measures over three acres, and a hen who is still acting weird on day 3 and who might be egg bound, which means she has to go to the vet *today.* (The condition is fatal if untreated, and this is Hi Top, the ISA Brown whose face greets you when you see a mailing list signup form. She’s not just any old hen.)

Hi Top as a teenager with her sisters Freddie and Starbuck in the background and some random chicken butt I can’t confidently identify from this angle

I’m freaking out a little. Both our vehicles are out of commission and we have access to a borrowed one, but it means only one of us can knock out errands and neither of us can go finish this painting job that the customer wanted finished last week. And my back is still pretty twingey.

And then two adults here need to vote today somewhere in all of this, and meanwhile murder hornets, civil unrest, and mutant crawfish in Europe who can reproduce by essentially cloning themselves. If this were a screenplay, nobody would buy it because it’s too unbelievable.

Meanwhile, I have a case of the ass about some shitty feedback on Etsy for shipping time from buyers who didn’t read the shop policies and/or didn’t think giving me a chance to respond should happen before shitty feedback. Now that kind of thing is going to happen when you do this – I should know, I used to sell on eBay – but my anxiety brain doesn’t care and wants me to go into “sky is falling” mode.

And the housemate we had to evict who turned nasty on us is heading over here right now to get the last of her things.

So a couple of things:

One, if you have a moment and grok how a chicken can be important to somebody, Hi Top could use some prayers.

Two, I pretty much reserve coupons/specials for mailing list subscribers only, but I’m making an exception today. If you’ve purchased from me this year and have NOT been AN ASS and left negative feedback about delivery times recently, esp. considering we’ve had THREE hurricanes and a death in the family in 6 weeks, I’m thanking you with a discount on your next purchase. If you haven’t made a purchase before, you’re welcome to use the code, too — as long as you read the TOS/shipping info and aren’t AN ASS about delivery times šŸ™‚ Coupon code is NOTANASS and it’s good at the Etsy shop and at the main shop through 11/30.

Three, I’m also going to give away at least one email reading/consultation this month. I’ll post details in a separate blog post. Staying busy and helping people is one of the best cures for panic and self-pity that I’ve found, so that’s gonna be my MO. That and breathing.