Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sick Chick and Hot Harvest

   It is hot! About 98 degrees on the shady side of the house. That is why I'm able to be inside jotting down all my blog thoughts...or at least one of them. I tend to write my best blogs while harvesting. Sitting on a bucket, plucking beans, the sun touching the horizon on the west, thinking...but, I rarely get a chance to sit and actually write it all down.
   This hot weather has created some changes for us here on the farm. We take our cues from the plants and animals. Three weeks of nary a drop of rain has forced us to begin watering. We hook up our large water tank to the tractor and fill it from the well or cistern. We began watering last Friday and will continue until we get enough rain to dampen the ground an inch or more. The little sprinkle yesterday didn't last and the ground and plants sucked it right up.

Marty filling buckets to take water to the animals.
   Our harvest schedule changes with the heat. We get up at about 5:30 and harvest until around 10:30 or 11 or whenever we get too hot. Then we come inside and work. The house doesn't have AC but, because it was built in 1902, it keeps the cool and stays about 80 degrees or so. Then at about 5:30 or 6pm we go back out and work until we can't see anything anymore. Or until we are too exhausted to continue. It is usually really pleasant out in the evenings and I enjoy working at that time the best.

   The animals also siesta in the afternoons. But, Dee wasn't just dozing. She wasn't feeling good. So, I thought I would answer some of the chicken questions we get. The main two - how do you know if a chicken is sick? and what do you do about it?
   This is Dee...

Notice the drooping comb, the nodding off, the pasty butt? Sick...or declining.
   Dee is my favorite chick. She is my buddy. But, when she started to decline, I got worried. She obviously wasn't feeling perky, not talking as much and not wanting to eat treats. Her comb was dry looking and drooping, her legs not as bright yellow, her eyes sleepy looking. She would perk up one day and then go back down the next. So, I got out my Chicken Health Handbook (I think that is actually the name of it). It tells of all the millions (okay hundreds) of problems a chick can have and what to do for it.
   I was up at 3am perusing the pics and reading the symptoms. It wasn't contagious as none of the other chix had problems. Dee's abdomen was hard, but part of that is age (the book said)...she's over 5 years old after all and not laying any more for the most part. I sat and chatted with her, a one-on-one doctor session...
See her eyes? Just not perky.
   She told me all about it...she just wasn't feeling good. I, on the other side, explained that I am NOT a chicken doctor, looked thru the book and have no idea what is wrong, and asked if it was okay if we did an autopsy after she was gone to maybe help save the others from something horrible. She, of course being a truly cool chick, said "whaaaat?".
   But, the book didn't help me much (on this occasion anyway). I was doing all it said, which included keeping the water clean, keeping her house clean, having her get fresh air and sunshine.
   I did all I knew...it was this...I made sure she had fresh water and enticed her with food, keeping the others away. I gave her blueberries and other treats. I couldn't bear to lock her up in a cage so let her go where she wanted and she usually chose to rest under the firewood cart. If I thought it was contagious I would've locked her down in an instant. But everyone else was acting fine...still are.
   I also gave her vitamins in the water and some diatamaceous earth (DE) with the food to help boost her immune and dispel worms. I did NOT notice any worm problems, but there again am not a chicken worm expert. For the most part her poop looked okay. It was not too runny, not greenish or weird colored, but had the firm part with the little white watery part like most chicks do. She was cleaning herself on good days...

But, then she quit...hence the pasty butt. She just wanted to sit and sleep. I consulted my book again. It had to be something I could fix. My determination was finally this...she got old. Yep. Chickens do that. As much as I love Dee, a truly fun chicken, and as much as I wanted her to be well, she just wasn't getting better.
   So, today we buried her. No...no autopsy per her request. But, as she never minded her picture taken, she provided an opportunity to teach others what to watch for if their chix are sick or declining. Sometimes you can fix the problem with some vitamins and DE and loving care, sometimes not. That is life. Farm life if you're a chicken.

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