Sunday, November 27, 2011

Molting hens, no green eggs and no longer being productive

Over the past few months the girls have been molting. Emma went first (and seems to have taken the longest)- she dropped 3/4 of her feathers, her beard and was pitiful. She quit laying when the big ugly molt set in and while she's all feathered over and fluffy now she hasn't resumed laying.

Harriet started losing her beard and muff weeks before anything else. It was almost as though she decided to hang onto her feathers, but one day we went out and there were feathers everywhere- except on Harriet. Once Harriet quit laying, in a show of solidarity, Lydia quit too. Lydia's molting started quick and she's feathered back over faster than Emma and Harriet. BUT THEY STILL AREN'T LAYING!

Now we see signs of the comets slacking off: 3 eggs, 1 egg, 2 eggs, 0 eggs.....repeat. So far other than their tail feathers looking ragged Elinor, Fanny and Kitty don't appear to be molting but the cooler weather and decreased hours of sunlight don't help. I even bought eggs (cage free, vegetarian fed) in case I ran out with the holiday baking (and supplying 7 dozen cookies for the boy to take back to school with him today).

I've been making sure they get lots of treats and keeping them entertained with hanging cauliflower, celery and the like. Every day I go out thinking this will be the day the green eggs reappear. One day I'll be right. It's made me think about the day when they get too old to produce eggs and how accustomed we've become to having fresh eggs from hens that are loved and cared for. I feel guilty eating eggs from hens I don't know. I worry about how they are treated (regardless of what the carton indicates). I also know we don't need to have a flock of hens who don't lay and a flock of hens who do- that's how you end up with 30 chickens and only 5 egg layers. Guess we'll deal with that when we must.

Ian has been home since Tuesday evening on Thanksgiving break. It's been so nice to have him around, even if it's just knowing that at some point he'll be coming in. My grandma has been with us since Friday and it breaks my heart to see her so old and feeble. She's been old for a while now but her body is tired and hurts, she can't hear and gets easily confused. And cold- she is always cold. I think she's burnt out my little space heater I keep for her.

My grandmother was only 39 when I was born and she has always loved me fiercely, as well as my brother and my mom (her only child). And her siblings, their children, get the picture. Eva Ruth was the youngest of 12. Her oldest sibling was 22 when she was born so many of her nieces and nephews were older. At 91 she has outlived all her siblings, their spouses and many of their children. Outliving her daughter was grandma's biggest fear and when that happened I really thought she'd just curl up and die herself (I'm pretty sure that's what she wanted, but she's too stubborn). The past 20 months have been hard on us all and there are times when I feel overwhelmed with all the stuff that has fallen to me with my mama not being here.

I've said several times that my mom owes me for leaving me with all this stuff that she should be taking care brother's health scares, trying to mediate between him and grandma, listening to them tell on each other, the relatives who hear only Ruth's side of the story and call me with their concerns. If my mom were alive I'd there helping her out, but she'd be the one dealing with everything on a day-to-day basis. Of course I don't really think she owes me, I just wish she was still here. If she was I'd be doing what ever she needed me to. But she would be here.....

It is hard watching my grandmother become someone who has to depend on others- it doesn't matter that she has people lined up to take her places, spend time with her, what ever she needs she is surrounded by family and friends. We are not who she wants and no matter how hard we try we never will be.

Not to compare my grandmother to a hen who no longer lays (and yet, here I go), but in her mind she has to be able to do for others to still be productive and valuable. So she cooks and pays for gas and lunches out- it makes her feel like she's doing her part. For all of us who have benefited from being loved by her she's done enough, been enough, is frustrating as it can be sometimes (and dear Lord it can be and often is).

She fell asleep yesterday mid-sentence, head thrown back and mouth wide open. Scared the hell out of me and I had to check and make sure she was breathing. I know she won't live forever but at times like that I realize that I'm not ready for there to be a world without her. You never know, those
Strouds are mighty stubborn......

Ian and his granny, Easter 2011