How the Hen House Turns: Routine Equals a Cure-all

How the Hen House Turns: Routine Equals a Cure-all
Column by Carolyn A. (Cary) Neeper, Ph. D.

How do you restore a hen lost in what seems like depression—not eating, not getting enough calcium to lay an egg, not returning to the pen with the others for the afternoon treat?

Expensive mealy worms were not working. I tried melon rind laced with crushed calcium pills and sprinkled onto fresh corn husks.

No worries. There seems to be relief in routine—the magic required when caring for domestic animals. Americia becomes her old self when the time comes to forage outside the pen.

Anticipating the daily excursion  to explore the half acre, the birds call to me when I appear at the back door, rarely refuse to leave the Hen House pen, then spend the day scratching for goodies with endless optimism, while the dogs keep watch.

“There’s got to be goodies of some kind under every bush or over here where the Trigo de SaRiyo grows.”

(It’s the lovely short bush with very fine branches and tiny flowers that turns magenta in the fall. My friend Bianca collects it to make tea that relieves her asthma. I’ve got to try it next summer.)

There also must be some kind of security in routine. When the sun begins to set and the Ponderosa shadows grow long, no matter the time, the birds go back to the pen whether I’ve shown up with the treat bucket or not.

When the temperature drops, as it has lately, the birds know that they are all to sleep in the 40 degree Hen House together. I open the gate for Kiebler and Ms. Ritz, the miniature mallards, and they hurry around the corner to go sleep with their surrogate mother, the goose Lucy. Even the top bird of the Hen House gang, Lucy’s adopted daughter Bobbi, tolerates the little ducks.

The two larger Khaki Campbell ducks also pile in with the geese. Long before dusk, Americia and the turkey Little Bear have settled down on the roost in the Hen House. No frozen combs for them in winter. And the warm house is there for them during the day when the snow piles up.