After a week of not being quite herself, Blanche had been holding on and maintaining as best she could. We had been celebrating every little improvement.
Friday evening was the toughest. I got home when it was close to being dark. Blanche had not made it up the ladder and into the coop like on previous evenings. When I got home, she was nestled into a sheltered corner under the coop.
My first thought was she had decided to find a protected spot in which to close her eyes for the last time. My real hope was she and Pearl had waited for me to come home until it was too dark for her to make her way up the ladder without stumbling.
When she saw my flashlight, she moved out towards me, but she appeared not to have the strength to make it much further. She was walking stiffly, but she let me pick her up without any painful protests.
Coming to me for help was quite unlike Blanche because she and Pearl had always been a bit skittish around people, even me. Their temperament is different from the others who enjoy interacting with me. In the summer while the others would gather and sit at my feet, Blanche and Pearl would just ignore me and continue scratching around for food. Much of this has to do with their breed.
I held Blanche close, spoke sweetly to her, and found she needed a bit of cleaning up around her vent area. (This is what you call “back there” for chickens. It’s the single opening where both eggs and waste leave.)
So I took her inside the house, put some warm water in the kitchen sink dishpan and slowly lowered her into the water. She didn’t protest, and I think it helped that I had turned most of the lights off to make the kitchen less bright and more like the low light still left outside.
She slowly sat down in the warm water and rested her head on the side of the dishpan. She seemed comfortable and not stressed at all about this new experience. I left her there while I changed from my office clothes to my “chicken clothes.” Surprisingly she didn’t try to get up or out, and so I felt she knew this was good for her.
I draped a dish towel over her back so she wouldn’t get unnecessarily wet while alternating between washing and making sure she was clean and comfortable.
After her bath, I wrapped her up in an old T-shirt to help dry her off and then held her close while we watched some of the local weather report in the living room.
I checked her feet to make sure there were no cuts or places for infection to grow. (There is something called “bumblefoot” which is very serious.)
When Blanche started to gradually doze off, I felt more comfortable about her condition. Then when I took her outside and placed her gently inside the coop, she stepped up onto her little crate and settled in for the night without any difficulty. Pearl cooed thankfully.
On Saturday, Blanche spent most of the day nestled down in soft straw looking out at the world from the safety of their run. Pearl stayed beside her most of the day. The physical touch seemed to be soothing to both of them, just for different reasons.
Sunday was a much better day and also warmer. Blanche moved and explored more, and when I brought them their evening melon treat, she looked up directly into my eyes and stretched out her neck to get the first bites. This was the Blanche I know so well. She was definitely feeling better.
Blanche was able to make her way up their chicken ladder into the coop both Saturday and Sunday evening, but she didn’t make it to top of the nesting box either night. I know Pearl missed having her up there, but we both knew she was doing what felt best for her.
And then Monday evening, she did it! When I checked on them one last time, Blanche and Pearl were both looking at me from their favorite sleeping perch like it was no big deal…such big independent grown-up girls!
Friday evening was a turning point for Blanche, I believe. She felt cared for and protected when she was at her lowest. Isn’t this what we all need? Maybe too, in her heart, she realized she was more than just another chicken. Isn’t this what we all need as well? To know we are more than just another person?
My Life With Gracie (and especially Blanche) taught me healing begins in the heart.
Later this week, I hope to write more about Blanche and what I believe has been going on with her. Thanks to everyone who has kept Blanche in their thoughts and prayers. You have been such great encouragers.
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