March 28, 2021

A Mother Keeping Quail, Sons and Daughters During a Pandemic

kids with eggs
Submitted By:
Shannon Milliman
Location: Portland, OR, USA
Story Date: September 30, 2020

Affiliated Tradition:
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Full Story: View the full story

The quail have bumble foot; their claws look like paws and remind me of the dogs which are closer to the actual family. Their puffy blisters remind me of their humanity but they are not human but humanity is still there. I feel like humanity should be a different word. Or maybe I am learning that animals are beloved and like us, only a chromosome or two apart from us. Our zoo is overflowing. We got 7 quail to busy us, to infuse stewardship and self-reliance during this global quarantined pandemic. They laid eggs. We put 7 eggs from the quail under our Broody Silky hen. She hatched four. One died and three lived. We took them because she was too big to manage them but she still wanted to be a mommy. She wanted to fulfill the measure of her creation. So we got her three, four day old Buff Orpington baby chicks. There was risk she would not accept them. At first she pecked at them and then Moses, my son, shoved them under her warm bottom and she accepted them like a warm, firm embrace they were hers. And the quail babies are growing. 4 days old now. Their parents have bumble foot. An infection/foot disease that if not treated can lead to death. With research we learn our best way to treat them; daily we soak their feet in Epsom salts for 15 minutes and then take one at a time out and hold them tight even though the protest. They want the free air and want not to be clutched in Moses’ clutches while I spray hydrogen peroxide on them. His nimble hands rub the cleaner in and we size up the blister and swollen feet….

kids with eggs

Remote learning for these kids has been going on for two days. On the first day, Moses sat at his desk piled with old license plates, hooks, sinkers, copper coils, feathers, snips and snails and puppy dog tails. And three, four day old quail. During Business class, he tied three lines he will use for catching Surf Perch this weekend at Lincoln City. Should I feign disapproval that he is not listening in class or omit satisfaction that he is finding industry in the means that match his soul? We put antibiotic cream on the blister or the open wound and wrap it with bandage tape. Then the next foot. Then we put them back in their clean coop. Man they poop a lot. While Moses is working- his work is raking the earth and combing the feathers. He is 16 and a man. And I feel something sacred about carving out the delicate paw-feet of these birds. I know I only have a little more time to tend the animals and find waxy plugs and expel them with the hope that my invasive action will have a positive healing result tomorrow. And I already feel a melancholy knowing that he won’t be with me tomorrow. And hoping that whoever he is with will see how precious this kid is. I pick up the tweezers, peroxide, paper towels, towel, bandage snips and manage them. In the trash, cleaning, flushing with clean water and disinfecting soap and this time I tuck all the items in the same drawer so we can find them easy tomorrow. All of this exists on the eve of the week where our air was stifled, western wildfires 14 in Oregon ravaged the timber and rural towns. Eating them the way the political machine is eating them and the world and its people and its life feeling the ashes and the wounds of them being consumed. Today we breathe, deeply, without thinking about breathing, the very best kind of breath. Since the air is fresh I go check on the momma Silky hen and her three chicks she loves. One peeks out, curious who has arrived. One on her back and the other one not visible. Momma hen reminds me of me. The missing chick is like Moses, busy. Maybe pulling the rainbow glass corn stalks and sorting some for the quail habitat and some for the chicken coop. Where there are developed corn nugget gems, Moses saves them for his sister, Rainbow, who will appreciate their beauty far more than the primitive poultry. Rainbow cares for the chickens, too. Sort of. I pick up the slack since I wake up in the morning earlier than them. I do the bare minimum, what I can do today. I am less concerned about the future. For the now I add more water to their murky water tin. At least I dilute the mud. And I release them from the safety of their coop.