Wry Neck in Adult Chickens

If you know me, you know I love my chickens. Yes, they’re a farm animal and don’t have quite the same status as my dog, but they’re so personable and funny that I can’t help but adore them. When one of the ladies isn’t doing well, I do what I can to help her. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and I lose a hen. Other times, I can nurse them back to good health.

The key to any illness in chickens is catching it early. As a prey animal, they will hide any weakness as long as they can. I spend some time every day observing the behavior of each of my fourteen hens so I notice when one isn’t acting quite right.

This poor girl (an Easter Egger mix about 5 years old) had a really hard molt this fall. Her feathers are growing in under her tail and on her chest, but you can see her neck is still pretty bare. For a while, I was calling her my naked chicken. It was funny, until I saw the other girls picking on her excessively.

My oldest Easter Egger hen

At first, I thought the other hens were picking on her because she was practically featherless. I put her in the dog crate in the coop for some R&R. That’s when I noticed she had an odd behavior. She would be going about her normal chicken activities when suddenly she would put her head down and back up a few steps. It was obviously involuntary. Concerned she had developed a neurological disorder, I scoured the internet.

34 second video that shows her displaying the odd behavior.

In the video, you will notice she backs up three times. The first time is normal chicken behavior. She’s stepping back to get a better look at something or change positions. The other times are not normal.

The information I found pointed to a condition called Wry Neck. It’s typically found in chicks, but older birds can develop it as it’s a vitamin deficiency. My hen is not a severe case because I caught it early. If she has Wry Neck and it wasn’t treated, it could get to where she’d be unable to hold her head up properly to eat. Now, I’m not a vet so I’m not sure this is her diagnosis, but the symptoms match up.

The treatment includes separation from the flock and vitamin supplements. Wry Neck can be treated with Vitamins B, D, and E and Selenium. Chickens need Selenium in order to absorb Vitamin E. Did I mention I noticed her behavior only a day or two before I would be out of town for the weekend? I separated her right away, and put electrolytes in her water. After using the magic of the internet to come up with a treatment plan, I gave her scrambled eggs and tuna as well as her regular feed. The eggs give her Vitamins B and D, and the tuna gives her more Vitamin B and Selenium. I was still missing Vitamin E. The electrolytes provide some Vitamin E, but not enough for treatment.

Since I was leaving town, and we live in the country, I knew it would be a few more days until I could get Vitamin E for her. I left the household and my poor hen in my husband’s capable hands, and hoped for the best.

Now this yellow Easter Egger is getting scrambled eggs for breakfast with 25 mg Selenium tablet crushed and mixed in and a Vitamin E capsule squirted on top. She wasn’t really eating the tuna, so I wasn’t going to waste it. Then when she’s finished with that, I fill her little bowl with her regular feed and sprinkle a little grit on top. In the early afternoon, all the hens get a treat and I make sure this one gets one with protein. She’s still trying to grow her winter feathers, after all.

One word of caution that I found on the myriad sites I looked at: too much Vitamin E can be toxic to chickens. It’s recommended to supplement with vitamins for a week after symptoms resolve, no longer.

I am hopeful I can come back in a week or so and show you all a healthy chicken!

Thanks to Cath Andrews at Raising Happy Chickens for providing dosage information. All the other sites just said to give the vitamins but didn’t say how much.

When to Quit

There’s a lot of hype surrounding committing and not quitting, being dedicated to your work, and general over-busyness. But there are also times to consider quitting. Resigning is not giving up. It’s taking back your time and energy and using it for better purposes.

We all get frustrated or worn out, even doing things we usually enjoy. Work, volunteer opportunities, hobbies, and even family commitments can sometimes leave us questioning our dedication. The peace and joy you desire in your life should be a top priority. How do you know when something is no longer worth your time? Here are my top five signs that it’s time to quit. 

You feel frustrated more than fulfilled. 

I see this more in volunteer work than anything else, but it can happen at our day jobs, during hobbies, or at other times. Volunteering for church, at your child’s school, the food bank, or anywhere else can start feeling very satisfying and joyful. Somewhere, and for a myriad of reasons, that shifts. Feelings of anger and disappointment when it comes time to do the work are indications it’s time to quit. 

You regret the time spent on the work or project.

You agreed to undertake a specific task or activity, but wish you were doing so many other things instead of that task. This is a sure sign you need to look at what brings you joy and if this activity is still worth your time or not. Regretting the time spent doing something can cause subpar work. 

You put off doing the thing until the last minute.

Some of us are born procrastinators and perform better under pressure. (I looked in the mirror when I wrote that.) Even if you’re one of them, sometimes delaying a responsibility can be a sign that, deep down, you don’t want to do it anymore. To discern between personality procrastination and lack of desire to participate, examine other feelings surrounding the project. A pro/con list can help.

You feel tired, disappointed, or even angry just thinking about it.

While you could have any of these negative emotions around a particular incident, it’s when they become commonplace that you have to take a hard look at your role. Is it worth continuing to volunteer as the parent-teacher organization president when even considering attending the meeting exhausts you? Nope. Time to move on, friend.

Your work is not as polished as it used to be.

You may do the bare minimum or even less than required. Things aren’t as clean or complete as they could be, and you feel apathetic about them. When we are happy to volunteer, work, or do a hobby, we want to do it well. If you’re barely getting by, it’s time to consider quitting.  

How do you know quitting is the solution you need? Temporary annoyance or disappointment can happen anytime, so it’s essential to recognize what it feels like when you make the right choice. 

If you decide to quit before you do, take stock of your feelings. Feeling relieved, excited, free, calm, peaceful, or excited for the future is a sign you should quit. However, if you feel anxious or worried, examine the situation again and give yourself more time to decide before acting. 

Some things we quit will only affect us. Discouraged almost every time you sew? Maybe sewing isn’t your thing, and it’s time to move on to a different hobby. Hate running? Find another cardio activity that you enjoy. There’s no point in sticking with activities that make us unhappy; life’s too short. 

Other things we quit will affect others around us, such as our job, volunteer work, or family commitments. Does that mean you shouldn’t ever quit? No, but the decision will require more thought. Perhaps you can train your replacement at work before quitting or starting a new job. Maybe you can continue to volunteer in a minor role. Instead of cooking a big family meal every Sunday, cut it back to every other week or even once a month. This might be considered soft quitting, which differs from quiet quitting. It’s limiting the energy you can expand towards that responsibility. And it’s okay to do so. There will almost always be someone else who can do the job just as well as you and be happy. Another option is to decline the invitation to work when it is next presented.

It’s difficult to think of ourselves as replaceable. Sometimes, we aren’t. I’m the only mom my kids will ever have, for example. But I’m not the only person who can be the treasurer for the HOA. Someone else can step-up to run the senior grad night party. Sometimes I’m sad I’m not part of things as I used to be, but then I look at what fills the time that brings me joy and excitement. And then I’m happy I’m allowing someone else the opportunity and experience to be in the roles I used to enjoy. 

It’s okay to quit. 

Sharing the Interview of Teresa Crowe

Sharing this wonderful interview of Author Teresa Crowe by Heather L. Barksdale about Death Space. I love the insights into the work and Teresa’s passion for advocating the deaf community. I’m also particularly thrilled that Teresa is working on a fiction book. I’m hopeful it will cross my desk for editing soon.

My Best Friend

Over the years, I’ve watched my friends’ relationships with their spouses. They tell me they married their best friend, and I wonder how they can be so “attached at the hip.” They do almost everything together, from shopping to attending interest clubs to watching TV. They like the same shows, the same music, and have the same friends. Some of them even share a Facebook account. They always say they married their best friend. I find it a bit odd and sometimes even disturbing. It wasn’t how my marriage was, and I don’t think it will ever be that way.

My husband and I love each other deeply. But we don’t like the same music and have a hard time finding a movie we both will enjoy. We don’t have the same friends except for one or two other couples, and we definitely don’t have many similar interests. We actually enjoy spending time apart doing our own things, although our time together is also lovely. My husband and I have discussed it at length and decided while we are married and in love, we are each our own person and prefer it that way. I always considered my best friend to be one of my female friends I spend a lot of time with.

Recently, though, I’ve experienced some realizations that some of the people I call friends aren’t really my friends. There are various reasons and situations that I won’t go into here, but they caused me to realize something else. I also married my best friend. 

One day, I was upset when a “friend” did something that hurt me. I didn’t really want to talk about it because I knew voicing the pain would make me cry. My husband gently told me, “You can talk to me about anything.” I told him what happened, and he told me he never saw this person as my friend, and if she truly was a friend, she wouldn’t treat me that way. That moment began a shift in my perspective. 

While he likes Country music and 80s Rock and I like Alternative and Pop music, he respects me. I love reading, and he avoids it unless absolutely necessary, but he’s always supported my goals and dreams. He wants to stay home, and I want to travel and see the world, but we manage to have a good time when we’re together. I feel safe when I’m with him. 

What is the definition of a best friend, anyway? I think the meaning changes based on the person. I’ve always defined a best friend as someone I can talk to without reservation, like spending time with, who will help me if I need it, and who will have my back when things get rough. The only person who has done this consistently in my life for the last twenty years is my husband. And it has taken me this long to discover it. 

Going on a long weekend away to Las Vegas cemented my new conviction. A band I adore, Third Eye Blind, was playing, and he went with me despite not knowing who they or the opening acts—who I also like—were. I wanted to see all the sights while we were there, and he wanted to nap by the pool. We got some pool time in but spent most of our days wandering the city. He consented to everything I wanted to do, sometimes with a few mild complaints. He was incredibly considerate of my food allergies when we chose restaurants, opened all the doors for me, and held my hand the whole time. We laughed a lot. Love like this is epic. 

I don’t think we’re suddenly going to be doing everything together, and I’m certainly not going to start listening to Country music when I’m not riding in his truck, but I feel less of a need to seek new friendships or try to repair the ones I have that are torn. To my real friends, and you know who you are, you’re still cherished, and I know you’ll be happy about my discovery.

Books for a Hangover

Friends know I read a lot and they frequently ask me for book recommendations. Well, no one asked this time, but I’m going to share all the books over the last year that gave me a book hangover. What is a book hangover? Readers typically describe it as the inability to start a new book because the one you just read was so intense. These books are ones that elicited strong emotional reactions and deep thoughts. I try to read a variety of genres, so I hope some of these interest you.

When Women Were Dragons, an urban fantasy without the gratuitous sex that includes revelations about the patriarchy. Takes place in the 1950s.

The Knife of Never Letting Go, a dystopian-type that takes place in the future on another planet.

Book 2 is The Ask and the Answer, and Book 3 is Monsters of Men.

The movie Chaos Walking is based on the first book, but don’t bother watching it. As is typical of book adaptations, they left out pertinent information, which leaves the viewer confused.

The Starless Sea is a literary fiction fantasy. It was super popular for a while, and one person I recommended it to loved it while another didn’t understand it. It’s definitely a little different, but sooo good if you can stick with it.

City of Girls is a literary historical fiction set in the 1940s. It’s a bit slow, but I loved the characters and the life lessons. I picked this one up on a whim at a bookstore and happened to get a signed copy.

Project Hail Mary, a sci-fi, is a fairly quick read but full of revelations about humanity. This one is definitely outside my usual genre and I’m so glad I picked it up.

The Every, a dystopian, is the sequel to The Circle, which I read a few years ago. You don’t have to read it before you read The Every. The Circle is also a movie, but once again, the movie leaves out a lot of vital information and isn’t worth your time. I think I saw there was a movie in the works for The Every. I’ll probably give it a shot. Each time I read either of these, I’m off social media for a while. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re heading right for this world.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t add Death Space to this list. While I may be a little biased since I was blessed to be the editor, this true crime delves deep into the human psyche. Teresa includes an interview with the killer, something that is rare in true crimes. In fact, one author had his book pulled from publication because he claimed to interview the killer but really didn’t.

What books gave you a book hangover? I’m looking for my next one.

Reading Outside Your Comfort Level

When children learn to read, they choose books based on their interests. Dinosaurs, super heroes, ocean life, fairies, and adventure stories are all fair game. As they grow, they develop a preference for certain story types. We know them as genres.

Adults usually discover two or three genres they enjoy reading and tend to stick to them. The story flow becomes familiar, and readers expect certain things. Fantasy readers will expect magic and adventure; readers of mystery, crime, or thrillers will expect a sense of suspense and danger; sci-fi fans know there will be futuristic worlds and inventions. Reading becomes comfortable.

What happens, though, if you branch out and read outside of your comfort level?

I’ve experienced this several times in the last few years, and it’s pleasantly surprising. The top three genres I gravitate towards are, in no particular order, fantasy, contemporary fiction, and speculative fiction. Of course, there are sub-genres, but this gives you an overview of my preferred novels.

Over the last few years, I’ve pushed myself to read books I usually wouldn’t pick up. So far, there’s only one I haven’t enjoyed. The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix was not for me. I read it after an excellent review by a friend, but there were too many aspects that made me cringe. Some books I appreciated and even recommended to others are:

The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz — This is a memoir about escaping from a Soviet labor camp in 1941. The escapees spent months in the freezing cold of Siberia, and this book recounts their trek. I read it for a book club and would never choose it for myself. But the impression it left on me is powerful.

The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness — I mentioned this in my last newsletter and have since finished the entire series. This is a young adult science fiction novel that takes place on an alien world where men’s thoughts are visible or heard by everyone around them. I had a book hangover for days.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown — I picked this book up at a local bookstore as a “blind date” book, and wasn’t sure about it when I began reading. It started a bit slow for me, but I discovered some thought-provoking scenes as the story progressed. Three adult sisters move back home, secrets are revealed, and relationships are changed.

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult — A mystery novel is not high on my TBR list, and I never heard of this author before but have since explored several other of her novels. A daughter searches for her mother, who disappeared years earlier, and discovers more than she bargained for.

The Lost Queen by Signe Pike — I usually find historical fiction heavy and hard to follow, especially if I’m not particularly familiar with the time period, but this one was very well done. In a time of druids and blooming Christianity, the fate of one girl is also the destiny of her people. The explanations of current events to the modern reader were subtle and just enough to get the point across, so it did not lose me in the details.

The result of reading each of these books was the same. I discovered a story that was engaging and fulfilling. As I continue working through my huge TBR list, I plan to add books from genres or authors outside of my top three genres. I challenge you to do the same. Who knows? You may discover a new favorite author or genre, but at the very least, you will broaden your horizons.

What genres do you like? Comment below and I will try to recommend some books outside of your comfort zone.

Writing Should Be Fun

An author friend and I recently created our own writing retreat. Neither one of us has had much time to work on our novels recently, so we spent the night at a local bed-and-breakfast and stayed up late drinking wine and writing. We both feel we got a significant amount of work done during this time. 

At one point, we were taking a break and discussing where we were in our plots. I mentioned a scene I was leading into, and my friend said, “That’s great! There can be comic relief with some odd characters.” (Sorry, no spoilers.) I sort of laughed, agreed, then asked about her story. I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to do what she suggested, and my original idea was much more serious. In fact, my entire novel’s premise is based on a deep emotional wound.

However, after letting it sit in the back of my mind for a bit, I thought, “Why not?” After all, I enjoy reading books that have funny moments even though the overall storyline is about danger or high emotions. Plus, writing should be fun,[added comma] or why am I even bothering with it as a career aside from editing? 

I think this moment shifted my writing style. For fiction, I’ve always written meaningful stories that plod along with intention. They’re solid and thoughtful, and nothing’s wrong with that. But I have a wry sense of humor that rarely comes out in my writing. With this revelation comes advice I have for authors, new or otherwise. 

Voice

When I edit someone’s manuscript, I get a feel for their writing voice. This is important because the author’s voice needs to be consistent throughout the manuscript, especially if it’s nonfiction. Part of my job is to ensure that consistency. I also get a feel for the author’s personality. Are they sarcastic, imaginative, or adaptable? Do they have a sense of humor? These things will all come out in their writing voice, regardless of genre. 

Connection To Readers

With voice and personality revelations comes a connection to the reader. It’s a subtle thing, but it’s there. The reader will enjoy your writing more if they associate it with something they already like. Allow your nature to shine through your writing and you will gain a loyal readership following, which will result in those readers recommending your books to their friends.

Writing Should Be Fun

Okay, sure, some writers do it because their job requires it. Authors of technical manuals and medical or court transcriptionists come to mind, yet even those people must like some aspect of it, or they wouldn’t continue in that field. But for those of us who choose this as a career or a side-hustle, it should be fun. It should make our blood sing with energy and fill our souls. Otherwise, what’s the point?

I may not shift my writing voice right away, as solemnity has been part of it for years now. But you can count on me to show more of my quirky personality, including silly or off-beat moments in an otherwise deep and somber story.

Avoiding Burn Out

I am an advocate for self-care. I don’t mean only bubble baths and special snacks. I’m talking about true self-care. Putting yourself first is something most people don’t do. We have families, jobs, church, volunteer obligations, goals… the list goes on and on. But what happens if you are constantly going and do not take time to care for yourself? 

Burn out. 

Total and utter burn out, and not just the “I need a nap” or “I am going to watch a movie and not move for two hours” type of burn out. We’re looking at the physical and mental inability to accomplish anything beyond the most important tasks. Most of us have been there at one point or another, and it can take weeks to years to recover from it. 

The only way I know to avoid a complete shut-down is to make your self-care the top priority, even above church, family, and work. 

When I tell my friends this, I get some resistance, usually in the form of “God will pick me up.” Listen, I get it. Faith is a powerful thing. But God, the Universe, Spirit, whatever you believe in will only help you if you’re helping yourself. 

What constitutes true self-care? 

Let’s start by making a list. What fills you up? What makes you feel recharged and able to take on challenges? For me, it’s yoga, walking, reading, writing, crocheting, spinning yarn, and coffee dates with friends. 

The formula for true self-care is simple. Do one thing every day from that list. It doesn’t have to be an all-day event. I know you’re busy. I’m busy. If I gave you a glimpse of my to-do list and calendar, you would wonder why I advocate making time to read or crochet every day. My secret? I set a timer. 

Today is a perfect example. Yoga class started at 8:30 AM, so I went to that. When I got home, I had a mess to clean up from the cat who got into the pantry and broke a glass bottle of salad dressing. Then I set a timer and worked outside for one hour, came in, and set another timer and read for thirty minutes. Once my timer goes off, I’m done and I move to the next thing. 

Even fifteen minutes a day will be enough to keep you from losing your shit when the boss asks you to stay late or your kid remembers a book report due tomorrow and needs help. That “one more thing and I’ll break” feeling will not be there. Think of how wonderful it will be to go through your day knowing you have self-care scheduled. 

The next step: schedule it. I know if it’s not on my list or calendar, it won’t get done. After a while, it will become a habit. But for now, get it on the list as a daily task. 

Finally, learn to say no. We’re a society that prides itself on being busy. The more work we do, the more accomplished we feel. But do we actually feel more accomplished? Or are we tired and worn out? 

One of my wise friends said to me she practices the prayerful no. She tells the person asking that she’s booked and thanks them for offering her a chance to help. Even if she’s booked with herself for self-care, she’s still busy during that time. The other person doesn’t need to know that from 4 to 5 PM is your scheduled time to sit in the hammock and nap. And guess what? The world doesn’t fall apart. The thing still gets done by someone else. We are not as indispensable as we like to think. 

Another way to learn to say no to things that might be too much is to look at it and ask yourself if it is something that will fill you or drain you. The answer should be obvious. Using the fill/drain method as a guide will assist you in saying yes to things that truly matter and letting the rest go. 

The only way to avoid burn out is to care for yourself before it gets to that point. I promise you that your kids won’t burn the house down in the fifteen minutes you’re reading a book, and the neighbor’s grass will still get mowed if you say no.

Books vs. Movies

Ask any avid reader, and they will give you at least five instances where they think the book was better than the movie. I tend to agree. There are very few movies that did the book justice.

Typically, people complain the movie didn’t show a certain scene that the reader felt was pivotal to the plot. They bemoan the looks of characters that are described differently in the book. Or they compare the medium of film directly to the medium of the written word, when in fact the two are very different.

In writing, the author has to create an entire world, cast of characters, and story using descriptions, dialogue, and subtext. They have to describe the scene well enough that it creates a picture in the readers’ minds. As a result, two people can read the same book simultaneously and have very different ideas regarding the appearances of people and places.

In films, the director takes his or her vision of what they imagine the characters and locations to be and translates it to visual images. The world-building is still there, but they incorporate it into the background. A well-done movie adaptation will contain the main elements of the book and follow the plot as closely as possible. However, since it is a different media, some things do not translate well.

As readers and viewers, we need to give credit to the attempts made to “due the book justice,” so to speak. That does not excuse poorly executed movies, however. Chaos Walking is one example of a movie that needed to be more. Eragon is another. In both cases, crucial information was withheld from the viewer, which made the movie simply confusing if you hadn’t read the book.

Some movies are extremely well-done, despite varying from the book. In my opinion, Hunger Games and Harry Potter are examples of excellent movie adaptations. There are many differences, but overall these two movies managed to keep the essence of the books.

I think there are some subtleties in films that still require us to pay attention to the details. While we may not have to envision the entire setting on our own, we still have to use intellect to determine what intricacies exist in the film and how they play upon each other.

McFarlane seems to agree as he states, “Each of these three categories of film’s narrational arsenal has numerous subdivisions, and a full response to the film will ask the viewer, at various levels of consciousness, to take them all into account, sometimes separately, more often in concert.”

He makes another point later on that really hit home for me. He stated that a colleague was trained to recognize subtleties in literature but not film, and she therefore failed to see how the film was complex as well. I love this because sometimes I’ve read a book then watched the adaptation film and decided that the book had more details or was more intricate than the film. After watching the film a couple more times, I begin to see some of the deeper aspects that I missed the first time around. Hunger Games is actually a perfect example of this for me.

I can (and probably will) write a whole blog post on Hunger Games movie vs. book, but for now, I want to open this up for discussion.

What do you think of books vs. movies? What are your favorite and least-favorite adaptations, and why?