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.