Sickness, Sadness and Stress

As I write this my attention wanders to a running mass of fur and teeth. A new puppy has entered the household. Before I go on, I’ll review the past week or two, which will clearly explain the title.

1 month ago A girl who lives a couple doors down in my sister’s dorm buys a little pug puppy, Boris, to keep her company. A Therapy Pug of sorts.

Three Weeks Ago She decides that managing a crazy puppy and school work isn’t possible. She meets my mother, an extreme lover of pugs, and sees how much she adores the puppy.

Two and a Half Weeks Ago… My sister texts my mother, asking if it would be okay to adopt the puppy into our home. My mother, against her better judgement, agrees.

Two Weeks Ago Wendell, our nine year old pug, gets sick. When I’m home alone, he leaps off of where he was sleeping on me, and runs in circles. He is clearly in pain, his tail is down, and he’s so very exhausted. I panic, and my neighbor brings Wendell and I to the animal hospital, where they decided that Wendell might have a slipped disc in his neck. They give him intense pain pills, and he is completely disoriented. A sadness hangs over our house, and dread creeps in as we remember we agreed to get another dog.

Two Days After Wendell visits his regular vet, who says it might be an inner ear infection. He gets antibiotics and continues to improve

That Thursday My mother and I drive three hours to my sister’s college to pick up Boris and my sister. He sleeps on the way home. Wendell and Boris meet outside our house in the dark. Both of them seemed submissive, and they hesitantly sniff each other’s butts, tails wagging all the while. When they go inside, chaos ensues, and Boris proceeds to complete several laps around the house. Wendell isn’t very pleased, and lets Boris know it by snapping at him when he overstepped his limits.

Thursday Night… The whole house awakens to mournful howling from Boris in his crate. This continues for all the nights following.

Wednesday I walk outside to my chickens and notice Mary has a strange bubbly discharge coming from an eye. Her breathing is rattling, and she sneezes several times as I watch in horror. Respiratory problems can sometimes be a death sentence for entire flocks. I grab Mary from where she sleeps that night and put her in a warm dog crate in the basement. I feed her bits of scrambled eggs. Meanwhile Wendell throws up a new antibiotic he was taking, and appears to be in pain. I feel so stressed that I might have a mental breakdown. Sadness once again covers the house

Thursday NightMy dad buys Duramycin 10, an antibiotic that goes in the chicken waterer for respiratory diseases in poultry. I make sure Mary drinks some. Yesterday was her first full day on it- No improvements yet.

So far I haven’t noticed any symptoms in my flock, but it is extremely likely that they will come down with the same illness.

The sickness Mary has is probably a form of a virus, in which case antibiotics will not help. What the Duramycin 10 does, is attempt to prevent any infections that might stem from the virus, which would be a very serious problem.

This Morning.. My mother woke me up, in tears, saying Wendell was not doing well. I went downstairs and he was lying down next to the fire, shaking with every breath in and out. He’s at the vet as I write this, and I can only hope and pray that he will have a few more happy, healthy years with us.

The relationships I have with my animals are strong. It might seem strange, but I look at Wendell like a sibling. He’s been around for much of my life, we have so many memories together. But when my animals get sick, my whole world seems to turn sour. Everything seems to darken, and I desperately want to be happy again. I cling to whatever shred of joy I have, I laugh too loudly at things I wouldn’t normally find funny. But the dread and terror of living without that sick animal is still within the pit of my stomach. Its like I’m sick as well. When Mary got sick, I regretted getting chickens for the first time. I asked myself, “How did you think you could do this? Can’t you see you’re doing a horrible job?” And I have no answers. Am I doing a horrible job? If you look at what has happened since May, the answer is yes. Two of my chicks died within a week, two turned out to be roosters. Mary swallowed my hair tie, Mabel ran away, Edith nearly ripped off Mary’s ear lobe, and now Mary is sick.

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Happy Halloween!

Today, after getting ready for a dreary day at school, I trudged outside in the freezing cold air (at 7:00 AM) to let out my chickens. I lowered the ramp, and out rolled Edith. And a little brown egg.

That’s right. Today, I got my first egg!!!! Unfortunately she didn’t lay it in the nest box, so when it fell, it sort of cracked. Meaning I couldn’t eat it 😦 . But I was so happy! I gasped, and ignored Edith’s aggressive noises as he tried to attack me (he’s always grumpy in the mornings). Words can’t describe how happy I was. I immediately snapped a picture, and then ran into the house. I cracked it open inside a bowl to have a look at the yolk.

Photo Oct 31, 7 09 04 AMPhoto Oct 31, 7 09 17 AMPhoto Oct 31, 7 10 11 AM

When I got home from school later today, I looked in the nest box, and a smashed yolk was mixed in with the shavings. There was no trace of any egg shells or anything. Sometimes when young hens lay their first few eggs, they are a little poor in quality. Shell less eggs are, unfortunately, common among inexperienced hens. It did make a terrible mess though. I added oyster shells into a separate feeder so that they can have enough calcium to make egg shells. Oh well, I’m just grateful to have eggs! It makes me excited for tomorrow and the next day. And I have either Mary, or Cora to thank! Now I just have to find out which one….

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A latte and croissant

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What I found when I came home from school :/

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All’s Well That Ends Well… Sort of…

The first part of today was spent walking through crowded streets underneath colorful leaves, looking at crafts and food. A festival of sorts. We dined on Apple Pie with cheese, fried dough with maple cream, indian pudding, and all sorts of food that we probably shouldn’t have eaten. It was a beautiful, sunny, crisp fall morning and afternoon. A perfect way to spend a Fall day!

But my mind would not stop wandering to my little hen (if I can even call her “mine”) all alone out in the wilderness, with no protection. Therefore, when we got home, the first place I went was the chicken coop. Edith, Mary, and Cora (the Rhode Island Red’s new name) were pecking around as usual. Whenever Cora looked at Mary the wrong way, she got a pecking to the neck/back, followed by a loud squawk.

I figured that I may as well let Edith and Mary out to see if they draw out The Escapee. So I locked Cora in the bottom of the coop (I don’t want her escaping and banding with her friend), and opened up the run. They pecked around for a bit, nonchalantly strolling through the grass while I hid behind the coop with a bag of scratch. However, when they heard the rustling of the bag of cracked corn and mealworms they came bolting over, giving away my position. This went on for a good forty minutes or so, with still no sign of The Escapee. I hadn’t seen her since Saturday morning. Finally I gave up and put them back in the run, letting Cora out as well. I began to go inside when out of no where a little white chicken came bouncing down the line of trees towards the run.

She just trotted right up, than spotted me, and disappeared into the trees immediately. But then I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could let Mary out and have her encourage The Escapee to come forth from the shrubbery. I locked Cora and Edith in the bottom of the  coop, swung open the fencing once more, and sat back on the steps about a hundred feet away. Sure enough, a white blob with fluffy cheeks came bounding through the grass. She headed straight into the little run, and when she got to the back, I sprinted as fast as my feet could carry me towards the run, slamming it shut right before The former Escapee’s eyes. Mary looked at me with confusion from the ear of corn she was pecking in the corner of the yard.

Grinning with relief, I sat in the grass. A heavy weight that was pressing on my shoulders was immediately released. I was grateful. After ten minutes of sitting there, I saw Edith lunge at Mary’s neck, just out of nowhere. Mary screeched, and lunged at Cora’s neck. It was bizarre, like a literal version of the pecking order. A few more minutes passed, I left and came back, only to see that Mary’s face was covered in blood, and part of her waddle or earlobe was split and hanging. Swearing, I frantically ran into the enclosure and grabbed her in my arms. She cooed, not struggling at all, while I placed her in a fenced in space next to the run. A few texts were sent to my neighbor/chicken supplier/boss, who promptly responded with advice.

Close to tears, I clumsily tried to wipe off her feathers with a wet sterile pad. Suddenly my mother appeared, and kindly prepared some antiseptic and gauze. She cleaned out the wound with ease and gentleness while Mary snuggled against me in my lap. After putting on some antibacterial, I put her back in the separate enclosure, and went inside to prepare my dog’s crate for chicken habitation.

My neighbor/chicken supplier/boss also appeared at the driveway, and inspected the wound. Than she applied something called Blue Kote, which makes the wound appear blue instead of red. This is useful because it discourages pecking, which can quickly turn cannibalistic when dealing with chickens.

Poor baby :(

Poor baby 😦

She seemed to think that it was perfectly fine, and not a big deal. Which leads me to think that the worst is yet to come :(.

Currently, Mary is snoozing in the basement in pine shavings with access to food, water, and grit. I’ll reintegrate her into the flock tomorrow (meaning I will put her back). Hopefully it won’t confuse the pecking order even further.

A word of caution. None of this is professional advice for wound care. In fact, quite the opposite. I really have no idea what I am doing. I’m just a girl who wants a taste of farming, who convinced her parents to let her buy a couple of chickens. Yes, I researched (and still am researching) a lot of chicken stuff beforehand, and yes I came across “words of caution” just like this one. Did I listen? Nope.

What I am trying to say, is that raising chickens isn’t all sunshine, baby chicks, cuddling birds, and colorful eggs. In the 23 weeks I have had these chickens, I have probably dealt with more stress, heartbreak, and fear in my entire life. Two baby chicks have died in my hands, I have been attacked by a cockerel I raised from  three days old, I have had to sell that bird to a man who I do not even know (with the only other solution being sell the bird to the slaughter-house), I have expected my favorite hen to die right before my eyes as she downed a stray hair-tie that I had inadvertently given her, I have searched and worried for three days straight about a chicken that I accidentally let escape, and I have watched them attack each other relentlessly over the small issue of who is dominant and who is not.

Have I regretted getting Mary and Edith? Not once. I can say without a doubt that this experience is making me a better person, and whatever comes my way I will handle. Because I have to. This responsibility is very real. And I’m loving every single minute of it.

Tired Feet

Today was my first day on my first job. Well, I wasn’t paid for today, and won’t be for tomorrow or the next day because I’m training, but it was essentially what I’ll be doing when I do get paid. Anyways, I stayed there for four hours following around the girl who was training me. Lots of destroyed ice cream cones, and minutes, later I was finally released from the constant cacophony of humming refrigerators. I limped home in my old flats, and lay on the couch. I think wearing poorly supported flats when I knew I was going to be standing four hours straight on concrete was a bad choice. 

Oh, I’m such a lazy teenager. You’re probably rolling your eyes at me right now. Don’t feel bad. So are my lower back and feet arches. 

An hour ago I gave the chickens their favorite part of the day. Free range time! I let them run/fly/strut while I kept an eye out for the many hawks and house cats that frequent my yard. I even saw a huge bald eagle yesterday, swooping over the house. It was a beautiful, menacing sight. 

I’ve really thought about my dilemma from my last post, about where to get my new chickens. I think I’m going to go with the local chickens, and hope for the best. I love Easter Eggers (she said they were Ameracaunas, but I think she means Easter Eggers. Ameracaunas are a very rare, expensive breed that lays blue eggs, whereas Easter Eggers are a cross between Ameracaunas and something else, and thus are for more common and less expensive). It doesn’t matter, anyways. The fact is, traveling two hours with chickens when I can travel five minutes is just impractical. Or, at least that’s what I’ve convinced myself.

 

Tomorrow is Day 2 of training. I’ll get to the farm at 7 and help another worker with the feeding/cleaning. I’m hoping it will go okay… Its hard not to feel nervous, as silly as it sounds. 

I’ll let you know how it went tomorrow! 

The Things I Do For Chickens

Yesterday I decided to let my chickens out. I’m talking, OUT OUT. As in, opening up their gate and letting them roam, out. Of course, being the worry-wort I am, I only gave them fourty-ish minutes of supervised time. I simply swung open their wire fence, clipped it back, and sat in the grass. They stared at me with incredulous eyes, peering around the corner. Then, all at once, they sprinted towards me, their little chickie legs moving back forth in a hilarious strut. Then, I sat back and enjoyed the chicken TV. I had brought some cracked corn and dried mealworms with me in a little bag to see if I could get them to come when I called, so after thirty minutes or so I took that out and began my “training’.

I must have looked positively ridiculous to my neighbors, who live right next to us. I held out the plastic baggie, tapping the side rapidly, and called

“Heeeeeeeere chook chook chook chook chook!”, followed by a whistle, and a “Mary! Edith!”. Mary was much more willing to greet me, showing her eagerness by breaking into a fast sprint across the lawn. She skidded to a halt in front of my gardening boots and tried to snatch the bag from my hands. I immediately rewarded her with a handful of corn. Edith was far less interested, so when he wandered off into the adjacent yard in pursuit of an unfortunate moth, I had to snatch him and carry him off. I suppose I should find a treat that he absolutely loves, like Mary loves corn. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know! 

On a different topic, I think I’m adding more chickens to my tiny little flock. A woman I met on BackyardChickens.com (an awesome forum full of chicken-adicts and helpful advice givers) contacted me offering a few of her Faverolles pullets, which are now 18 weeks old. This is tremendously exciting! But there are some problems. Well, a lot of problems. One of them being the fact that she lives two hours away. Driving two hours with a car full of chickens does not sound that great, at least for me anyways. The second, more pressing, issue is that I have absolutely nowhere to perform a quarantine. The big coop isn’t finished (and won’t be for a while), and the A-Frame is the only chicken shelter I have on hand. So I’ll have to take my chances, and pray that no diseases are brought into the flock. But the good part is-

1. I’ll have more chickens (always a plus)

2. They might be laying when I get them!!!!!!

3. I love the look of Faverolles- they’re so cute!

4. Mary will have some female friends, and they’ll divert Edith’s attention from her

So hopefully all will go well, and I’ll have a happy, healthy flock. I think luck is a big part in animal raising and gardening. Well, I’m going to let my chickens out again and see what happens!

 

Disaster Strikes!

Yesterday I strolled into the run, feeling extraordinarily sullen about the recent rooster events. I wanted to hug a chicken. After I got my chicken therapy, I noticed that I had dropped my hair tie on the ground. I went to pick it up, but Edith got there first and began sprinting around with it, the other two in hot pursuit. Then Sybil grabbed it, tug of war ensued, and then Sybil ran away with it. Then it went to Mary. They weaved around the coop, running up the ramps, dodging my legs until I finally grabbed it. Then they congregated around my legs, clucking, begging for it to be returned. Maybe it was their cute little chicken clucks, maybe it was my need to be happy, or maybe it was simple, sheer stupidity. I gave it back to them. After all, how could they swallow a hair tie?! 

My laughter was immediately stopped when I saw Mary with it in the corner. The other two were watching. I saw her tip her head up. I shouted “NO!!” and lunged for her, reaching her just as it slipped down her throat. I snatch her beak, prying it open, and peering inside. She starts squawking in alarm, and Edith flies at my face, protecting his hen. 

And now I wait. I wait to see if I just killed my favorite chicken. Its been 24 hours, and she’s been acting fine. My fingers are crossed. 

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