My Life With Gracie…About Healing

About Healing

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. I will do my best to get back to my routine of posting each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday now that Blanche is doing so much better. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

About Healing

My Life With Gracie…Just One Friend

Just One Friend

Saturday Blanche did not seem like herself. She was sluggish, less active, more solitary. She was not displaying enough of the symptoms I’ve read about for various chicken health problems to be able to identify anything specifically. If she wasn’t just a little over a year and a half old, I would say it was just old age, sort of like with me on some days.

Sunday morning, she struggled to come down the chicken ladder. In the evening, she couldn’t make her way back up. So I held her for a while, but not so long as to make her uncomfortable since she never has been one to need much human contact, just food. Then I placed her inside the coop. She made it up onto the crate that is a kind of “step-up” to the top of the nesting box where she and Pearl sleep. But that was as far as she got.

Maybe she just wasn’t able. Maybe she just wanted some solitude without Pearl to get her strength back. It was difficult to know.

Monday she came down by herself, had more of an appetite, went up by herself, and even got up onto their regular sleeping spot. Pearl was noticeably relieved.

Tuesday she was much the same, but she didn’t make it up on top of the nesting box for the night. It may have been Blanche and Pearl were waiting for me to get home, but their good light was gone by the time they had given up. (Lately I’ve been able to make it back while there was still some daylight, and they get bedtime treats.)

Pearl has been…I’m really not sure if there is a word to fit how Pearl has been. She just knows Blanche has not been feeling well. Blanche has never shown any helplessness through this, but Pearl certainly has.

Pearl has been like a worried little chick all over again.

Pearl has tried to entertain Blanche and get her attention off of her condition much like we would try to cheer up a sad or sick friend. It only seems right she would do those things as they are best friends.

The most telling thing of all comes in the mornings. Pearl will let Blanche have first choice of the items in their breakfast salad and mealworms. Pearl will stand back while Blanche picks through and eats her favorites and seems satisfied. Then and only then will Pearl have anything to eat.

At times, Pearl will look at Blanche and then at me, wanting me to make Blanche better.

I know how helpless Pearl feels because I feel the same. I just can’t show it because I don’t want to cause any greater alarm. Surely Pearl has been thinking, “Why don’t you do something?” (But haven’t we all thought the same at least once when difficulties come our way and when we must face circumstances which are beyond our ability to fix?)

Blanche will stand facing into the corner of the run with her side to the sun. Maybe the warmth helps her, and the corner gives her some privacy and a feeling of protection. Maybe she feels like she can concentrate on getting better like that, even though it makes Pearl more worried.

In the evenings I can tell how Blanche’s day had been by how Pearl coos, either happily or sadly.

Blanche has not fully recovered, and we have more cold weather headed our way which may make things only worse for her.

Blanche has her physical distress. Pearl has her emotional distress. I’m unsure which is worse, but knowing Pearl as I do, I have a feeling this is weighing heavily on her. She will be lost without Blanche, her best friend.

To be honest, it is not always easy to believe a couple of chickens matter, particularly when I look up into the deep and awesome enormity of the night sky…or at the suffering of my neighbors around the world. Yet Blanche and Pearl and the others do matter, and so we say our evening prayers. We are grateful for each day, for lovingkindness, and for friendship.

My Life With Gracie helped me understand the power of just one friend.

This post has been delayed because of Blanche’s condition. I didn’t want to post until I felt she was recovering or at least stable. Usually I share more pleasant and happy stories, and somethimes extremely imaginative stories. This one is none of those things, but sometimes life just goes that way. I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

Just One Friend

My Life With Gracie…Sheltering One Another

Sheltering One Another

January and February are our coldest months here in coastal Virginia. Fortunately I knew ahead of time this current cold spell was coming and had prepared by adding extra insulation and wind-blocks, extra straw and bedding. Everyone had a special spot to hunker down out of the wind.

Still it was difficult for me to settle down to sleep with the nighttime temperatures dropping rather dramatically for my chickens. I reminded myself about how chickens are naturally designed to protect themselves: higher body temperature than people, fluffed out feathers to act like insulation, heads tucked conveniently under a wing. I ran through all of the biological facts, but that was not enough.

Then I remembered perhaps their greatest advantage: how they huddle together for warmth and protection.

Before they all figured out how to use their ladder to go up to their new coop for the chilly spring nights, my first young chicks would huddle down in a protected corner underneath.

The smallest would always be on the inside closest to the wood base, always in the most protected spot. The largest and strongest young chicks would always be on the outside of the huddle, holding just their heads above the others to watch for danger. They were prepared to defend each other while everyone was being sheltered by someone else.

Sometimes they would just huddle together like this to rest after a busy playtime together! Everyone seemed to have someone else’s head resting peacefully on their own neck or back while napping.

As the sun began to set, they would sing soft little bedtime songs to one another. Partly because it was soothing, and partly because it let everyone know they weren’t alone, just a close huddle of precious little lives, all sheltering one another.

Now they are grown and although they may squabble about who gets the biggest piece of melon or the largest share of the mealworms, when it comes to keeping each other safe, they put all of their differences aside, and they huddle as one true flock so everyone will make it safely through the night.

Emily, the littlest of all and most easily intimidated when there is a tasty treat up for grabs, is so well-protected, you wouldn’t know she was there between Gracie and Bessie.

When I think of them and the harsh weather, I can’t help but remember the little chicks they once were, climbing the ladder to their coop for the first time and still learning how to shelter each other in their new home. Somehow they figured it all out.

If only people could shelter each other more often like this. We can, you know…when we learn we are all just one flock and then say to one another, “Let me be your shelter.”

My Life With Gracie reminded me there are times when we must be shelter for one another.

I will do my best to post each Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

Sheltering One Another