Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Introducing...Madeleine Albright, the chicken


Stay tuned throughout the month to meet the new crop of Apifera hens. Strong gals in their own right, they are each named after strong women I know or admire.

May I introduce you to....cluck, cluck, cluck, scratch, scratch....Madeleine Albright, the chicken, not the woman. This year I am naming the new hens after 'strong women', and there's a very good reason I chose to honor Ms. Albright by naming this chicken after her. I'm sure if she reads this, she'll agree.

At an early age, maybe around one month, this hen showed signs of a crooked beak, where the top beak was crossing over the bottom, also referred to as 'scissor beak". As she matured more, the malformity seemed to get worse. Even at birth, she had a funny looking nostril area. As her beak kept growing, her top bill was unable to close, making her foraging and eating techniques difficult. She must use her beak as a scoop. Fortunately, her tongue [chickens tongues are like snakes, they are very long and come out to catch things on the fly] worked well. At about 2 months, after hours of research, I determined we should snip the top beak, hoping it would allow her mouth to shut better. The research was sort of 50/50 on this, and many chicken breeders opt to butcher any scissor beaked hen, as they will not be good layers. So we clipped her beak, but we made the mistake of taking that final clip a bit too deep. Blood poured out like we'd cut her leg off. I dabbed it in flour and it eventually stopped. She took it in stride.

The clipping of the beak only helped a bit, but her mouth still doesn't close, and if you open her beak wide, she can't shut it.

The only thing I fear is that she will suffocate some day. Because Maddie can't peck properly, she must scoop. Her lower and upper beak are like little shovels, since they are deformed, and can't be worn down through use like a normal beak. Every few days I clean out her beaks, as I assume bacteria will form, or she'll choke. I've actually seen the other hens 'clean out' her beak, gently, so they might take care of it for me. I've spent hours watching her when she does go out to forage, and she'll smash her beak into a raw zucchini, and then use her tongue to lap up what manages to stay in her mouth. She is about 20% smaller than the others. but no one picks on her.

A special needs chicken she is, as I will always have to provide extra crumble for her. While the other hens spend most of the day foraging on the farm, Maddie stays close to home, where her beloved food dish is close by. She is the first up in the morning to get to her dish, and again at night, she waits for e in her dish. She gets enough food for 3 hens, but since she wastes a lot of it, she hasn't grown as rapidly as the others.

So, we have named her after a strong woman who has over come much in her life, including running with the male political wolves. And Ms. Albright the person is a wonderful example of a woman not considered beautiful by Vogue Magazine. Her glamour is her ability to survive and prosper through her own actions. She can feed herself, thank you very much. Nor should a society consider 'culling' the likes of Ms. Albright for her nose size.

A hen is born with a set number of eggs in her body. They can't lay any less than that number, nor can they lay any more. I told Maddie even if the books are right, and her eggs are small or scattered, it makes no difference to me.

9 comments:

giftsofthejourney said...

I love this story and how you've given her a chance and see her value. I particularly like how you've chosen to name her after a strong woman.

chook said...

i too have a special chicken who was left almost blind after a raccoon attack. it took a lot of retraining to help her learn to eat and navigate, but she lays every day.

Cathy said...

She's a beautiful girl - what gorgeous feathers!

Floridagirl said...

You go girl! I'm always puliing for the underdog...er...umm...underchicken.

farmlady said...

This is very sweet Katherine. You are so compassionate with your animals. It must be hard for you to be a farmer sometimes.
Madelyn is a very lucky hen. Thank you for being such a kind person to these animals.

Mare said...

She's a sweet girl...and the favor you gave her will always be returned one way or another...

Sharon said...

I believe you have a very big heart Katherine Dunn and indeed you will one day reap what you sow...till then, Maddie will reap what you sow...

Farmgirl_dk: said...

So...do you have more than one hen like Maddie (same breed)? If not, she's your blue egg layer (from your 8/17 post). :-)

Apifera Farm said...

Hi everyone! Well leave it to a chicken to get everyone happy and writing, yes? So nice to hear from you all, andI know many of you are chicken-crazy-mamas too.

I forgot to mention, and Farmgirl_dk [love you pictures at your blog!!!!]reminded me, that yes, Maddie is an Aracauna. I have 4 of them, all so beautifully individual in markings and temperment. Then I have 3 your Buff Orpingtons, and three Barred Rock's [loves of my life]. My older hens are a mix of banties, and three larger girls of Aracuana/Buff cross. I can't wait to introduce you to all of them...

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Thank you for reading! The farm and my art/writing keep me hopping, so might not respond immediately. Thank you for understanding. ~Katherine & Apifera ~