Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mad Hen and Sad Maddie

Maddie came to me as a result of an advertisement that said: "free goat" (sometimes called a rescue) last year. She was of uncertain age, indeterminate color, and even more vague heritage. I was interested in her because the person who had her mentioned the "tons of hair" that she had shaved off of her.

When I first saw her, she was a diminutive little thing in a herd of huge brown Oberhausi dairy goats. She was low goat on the totem pole, whose only friend had been a chicken, who was now living elsewhere. She seemed frightened and depressed. She had had twins, one of whom was still with her, and was just bones and skin with little spiky clumps of hair left over from her close shave. She appeared to be at least part angora. Some people are distracted by shiny things; I am totally drawn to fuzzy stuff, so of course I took her home.

She didn't fatten up one bit, despite de-worming, lots of attention and plenty of good stuff to eat. She remained low goat in the pecking order, but continued to be friendly (in a shy sort of way) and unobtrusive. The more I observed her the more I realized that she has had a rough life. She has a rather stiff walk, throwing one hind leg out in a strange manner, as though it had been broken and never healed correctly. In addition, her jaw is lopsided, skewed to one side with the bottom jaw jutting forward.

This gives her a very strange grin all of the time.

It wasn't long before she started standing up for herself a little, and even chased some of the younger goats off from time to time. But the bigger goats in the flock would have nothing to do with her.

That was when she discovered the chicken.

Mad Hen is an ancient survivor. All of her contemporaries are long gone, mostly due to old age and overly-boisterous puppies. She used to be called Mamma Hen because n her youth she raised countless broods, often not even from her own eggs, but in her old age and decripitude she started getting very cranky. We thought perhaps some new roomies would help, but she managed to kill every single chicken that we put in with her. The last one was so terrified of MH that she starved to death because she was too afraid to come down from the perch. So there she sat, blind in one eye, muttering away to herself in an otherwise-empty chicken coop.

Last spring we decided to get a few new laying hens, which meant that MH had to go somewhere else. One dark evening I picked her up from her roost and took her into the goat pen, where I carefully deposited her on a perch. I tossed off a "Good luck, old girl," and thought no more about it. She would survive ... or not. She was there the next morning, and the next, and the next. During the day she puttered around among the goats, quite happy with her new lot in life. At night she perched on the old log where I had first put her.

MH thinks she's a goat.

At this same time one of my special Wensleydale ewes had suffered an incident when the ram blasted her into a fence post. Since she was pregnant, we didn't want to take any chances, so put her in a separate pen which became known as the Infirmary.

She was soon joined by a young lamb who needed meds, and eventually old MH.

Maddie seemed to suffer sort of a set-back, and took over Tank's igloo house, to spend hours and even days on end peering out at the world with her silly, sad grin.

Tank, in the meantime, just made himself at home in the great outside, despite some prying neighbors.

Daisy is the self-appointed guardian dog guardian.

One morning when I made rounds, Tank greeted me at the fence with a treasure -- a ground squirrel? "Good boy, Tank!" I went back to the house to get a bag for disposal and a treat to "buy back" the carcass. That was when I realized it wasn't a squirrel -- it was a very tiny, dead premature kid. One of a pair of twins, it turned out. I walked and walked the entire pen trying to figure out who the mother could have been, and was puzzled beyond belief when I remembered that face in the dog house. Sure enough, they had been Maddie's.

We were all sad, even though they were so little I know that they had never drawn a breath or touched the ground with their tiny, soft hooves. We eventually coaxed Maddie from her "cave" and gave her a bath and some warm dinner. But then ... where to put her so that she could recover?

The Infirmary, of course, where she is to this day, with her BFF, Mad Hen.

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