November 17, 2014 – I woke up in the middle of the night to a soft shuffling sound next to my nest box. I had dozed off earlier after reading one of my science magazines and ended up staying put rather than scramble up to the roost with the rest of the flock. It’s a good thing I was where I was! When I poked my head around the divider, I found Betty in the nest next to me smearing her body from comb to toes in petroleum jelly.
“Betty!” I whispered. “What are you doing?!”
She didn’t answer. I could tell by her trance-like movements that she was sleepwalking. I recently read an article about this very subject. The author said never to forcibly wake someone in this state. Let her come to consciousness naturally. So, I waited a few minutes and simply watched Betty shamble about, globbing increasing amounts of Vaseline over herself while she mumbled something about putting on her makeup. At one point, she turned to a mirror and to her shadowed reflection, demanded that someone turn up the heat because her “laptop keeps freezing”. That made me laugh.
Finally, Betty shifted and saw me looking at her with an amused expression on my face.
“Happy,” she said in a surprising tone. “What are you doing up this late? Are you sleepwalking?”
Ah, Betty was back.
I explained to her what had happened. She spun to see herself in the mirror and let out a desperate gasp.
“Great balls of banjo biscuits!” she exclaimed in horror. “What is this goop that’s all over my feathers?!”
“It’s petroleum jelly. Maybe you were dreaming about frostbite and wanted to take precautions.”
“By lubing myself in a vat of Vaseline? How will I ever get all of these pine shavings off of me? I’m a mess!”
Then she started to cry. I felt terrible. I pulled her into my nest, turned on my reading lamp, and immediately set about the task of washing her up. It was no easy chore, but perseverance paid off. Thankfully, I keep a small supply of cleaning dirt in a glass jar for situations when being outside is impossible. It took a good hour, but in the end, Betty was in much better spirits and her feathers fluffed freely in a lovely luster.
I helped her settle into the nest box next to mine and within minutes, I could hear the rhythmic breaths that come with sleep. Since I was already awake, I made myself a snack. I nice cup of chamomile tea and a raspberry scone that Sawyer had baked yesterday. A tasty reward for a job well done.
Today, I’ve given myself the job of refilling the dirt jar before the ground freezes. Maybe I should set up a few more this winter just in case. With this crew, I have a feeling we’re going to need them.