Bird Flu

Every time I have taken the tenacious little terrier out for a walk since last week Saturday, every German that I know who has seen me has stopped me and asked me if I voted. Then they have expressed their effusive relief that “democracy prevailed” (although, I have to admit, I don’t quite share their optimism that the saga is yet over).

This morning, the car that stopped so that its driver could chat with me turned out to contain the woman from the next settlement over that I met once while walking the dog during the social restrictions of spring that had so many people stuck at home instead of going in to work at their job. She was surprised that she hadn’t run into me again since then and was happy to see I was still around. And then, yes, she asked if I had voted and then expressed very emotionally what a relief it was and then wanted to know just what was wrong with the orange guy, behaving like such a little kid. At his age!

The only other people I encountered on this morning’s walk were two German soldiers, in neatly pressed camouflage uniforms and face masks as they drove down the farm road (the one that goes from nowhere (our settlement) to nowhere (a settlement of just a couple of houses), so that was odd) in their official Germany army jeep. It was so unusual and out of place, ones thoughts immediately wander to the zombie apocalypse. Then there was a crow hopping from the crown of one tree to another along the farm road, cawing, and the dog does not like that sound (he also hates the honking of geese and the blooblebleble that turkeys make). It makes him incredibly nervous. So he stopped immediately, turned around, and started making tracks for home, trying to drag me along after him like I was on rollerskates and he was a sled dog. It was just the crow, right? That was making him nervous??

Anyway, I turned him back forwards again and carried on and didn’t run into any zombies, so I seem to have made the right call.

Maybe the soldiers were here because of the bird flu? Because 2020 hasn’t been fun enough already, as with 2014 and 2015 (I think it was; I’m not sure because it was before we had chickens), birds migrating from points northeast of here (like Siberia) are bringing a bird flu with them. Starting about a week ago, dead birds stared washing up on the North Sea beaches of Schleswig-Holstein. That’s only about 60 miles from here and the numbers of dead birds is already reaching into the tens of thousands, so it was only a matter of time before they called for a bird lockdown here, to avoid the economic catastrophe of it making its way into the commercial poultry flocks.

And, sure enough, day before yesterday Spouse came home saying he’d heard on the radio that no one is allowed to keep their poultry outside anymore, or at least under open air. But at least we have a patio that he built for them after seeing the misery of his parents’ chickens who had to spend four or five months of winter locked inside a cramped and horrid coop and so put off his mother, that she gave up keeping chickens (something they’d been doing there at that house (which was the house she was born in, possibly literally) since way before she was born (I think it was her grandfather, maybe, who had the house built).

Anyway, after lunch today, I fed the hens their second daily meal, the one that I mix all their minerals up into, because for some reason our chickens have to be tricked into eating their grit, and then, since it wasn’t raining yet, decided a few more cubic meters of leaves needed to be raked out of the garden (the major downside to having something like 100 trees). I had only just started out front when I noticed that a little baby sparrow had wobbled its way over to the wheel of the wheelbarrow, as if it was trying to shelter against it. Between that, and its lack of concern for me, I realized that this was not a healthy little sparrow.

In fact, when I bent over to have a closer look (from a safe distance), I could see that one eye was swollen shut and the poor little bird had major balance issues. Not knowing what else to do, I kept an eye on it while I raked and within 15 minutes, its condition had deteriorated to the point where it was fluttering in pathetic little circles and shaking. I put the closest cage like thing over it I had at hand (an iron basket to have a fire in to sit around on chilly summer evenings) and phoned Spouse, who had gone to the home improvement supply store, to tell him to buy chicken wire because the sparrows are small enough to squeeze through the wires of the fencing he used on the chicken patio and, clearly, there was at least one sick sparrow on our property. Who knew if it was the bird flu, but better safe than sorry.

By the time I came out, the little sparrow was dead. I picked it up with a hand broom and dust pan and dumped it into the organic waste trash can (it won’t be picked up for two more weeks, which should give any viruses time to die before the truck comes to collect it). Then I washed the hell out of my hands with soap and super hot water because, although they say this strain of bird flu, in the unlikely event that it jumps to humans, is unlikely to be severe, who wants to be patient zero?

But, yeah, there are a lot of unhappy poultry out there right now. Or not out there. On our walk this morning, the dog and I went past the house that normally has a flock of angry geese, a bunch of chickens, several humongous turkeys, and a number of quail and ducks wandering around on their lawn, but aside from the sound of angry honking coming from one of the barn buildings, there were no birds in evidence at all. And our next door neighbors are having to build a little aviary for Gaston and Florence (the replacement duck for Rose), who are currently unhappily sequestered in a doghouse. And, flu season being what it is, the poultry lockdown is unlikely to be lifted before March, April, or May.

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