Saturday, August 05, 2006

Not-so-cute chicken post

Well, the “keeper’s wife” had her first visit to town, and I welcomed the “escape” for a few hours. Of course it’s 1912 and there are no WF/GTR household problems to deal with! Would you like to see a picture of my beautiful lighthouse home?

Alas. We are dealing with our first real chicken health crisis: a very unwell rooster. The only adult rooster, the one we’d hoped to keep a while. He can’t breathe. No other symptoms, other than going downhill now that he hasn’t been able to eat or drink or sleep, since all of his energy is going into breathing (big open beak on the exhale-??). I’m worried, of course, about the others, but so far, no one else shows signs (and there's likely been ample time to develop them).

We’re doing what we can, but of course nothing is simple. Trying to figure out exactly what it could be so we can treat him correctly. I’ve read entirely too many websites, called the extension service, posted on message boards, bugged a vet acquaintance at home (eeek) and called my few chicken-raising friends. No one really knows, either… we’d have do cultures, etc, to truly know, and I haven’t yet figured out how to get that done. And really, he’s a chicken, not even truly a pet chicken. Our latest thought is something fungal, not necessarily catching.

It’s times like this that I wonder if I’m really cut out for this “farming” life. We are such greenhorns and don’t have many mentors around to ask for help. I am a worry-wart, and WF tends toward “let it be and it will fix itself.” Neither is really the best approach in times of crisis.

And the whole idea of chicken health care… this critter is NOT a pet, doesn’t even have a name, but is “The Rooster”, a definite character. We’d like him to live, or at least help him somehow, so…WF’s been spoon feeding him for the past couple days, which helps the rooster stay alive, but it’s not fixing anything. This animal is just like one we ATE (and enjoyed eating) a few months ago, yet we’re trying heroics to nurse him. And then there’s the question of when to put him out of his misery: Is it too soon? Are we waiting too long? What do you do with the body after that ?!

So: Doubting ourselves, frustrated with the lack of answers, feeling powerless, yet with more power than we really want: ie the ability to end a bird’s life or fight to save it and the weight to decide which is the right answer.

Does chicken-raising have to cause this much turmoil???


clairesgarden said...

I think you have to look after a lot of animals for a long time to get to the stage where it 'doesnt matter', you are at home with a small flock and I think if you can save the rooster that would be a good thing, you could set yourself a time scale and a budget and if you reach both of them wihtout improvement then he has to go.
but I hope he'll be okay.

Liz said...

Even without names, we do get attached to the animals we husband. Otherwise we wouldn't be good animal-keepers.

I have a recurring "duck issue". One (or two... they look nearly identical) of them occasionally develops some kind of health problem. Once I thought it was botulism (and was able to treat it). More often it's a leg injury of unknown sorts. Most recently, the duck was severely hobbled to the point that her foot was hot and swollen and she couldn't walk.

I end up feeling that I'm not doing right by them, but the truth is they're animals and can't tell us what the problem is and why they're having it (nutritional deficiency? injury? genetic predisposition?). The best I can do is make them comfortable until they either get better or get worse, at which point we'll have to do the unthinkable.

We usually give a week to any situation... if there's no improvement (or a worsening) by the end of a week, you need to try something else. So far, they've surprised me and gotten better (I had my third round of problems just a month ago), and each time it happens I panic less. You only learn how to handle the crises by handling the crises.

I hope things get better.

cyndy said...

So sorry to hear about your roo...
Chickens are susceptible to so many different I read your post I sympathize with what you are going thru because we have lost a few to symptoms that never cleared up...and never knew what it was to begin with. Only you can decide when and if to end it, or let nature take it's course...(that is a tough call) for what to do with the body, see if the extension service can let you know if your county has any regulations in place....(most likely not, but you never know)..

gtr said...

Thanks, all.

I'm out of town for work and don't have alot of computer time.

WF tells me from home that things are actually looking up a bit. He did resort to some antibiotics, but now the question is how to continue on with the treatment now that rooster feels better and isn't too keen on hand-feeding?

Thanks for your thoughts: always a learning process!