Then, when I let the chickens out on Sunday it became apparent very quickly that dear Mr Dorking was very, very poorly. He had been unwell on Boxing Day - just under the weather, lethargic with a bit of a cough. So he had a day down in the back garden being fed up with goodies to bolster him & then I treated the whole flock with Respite (a herbal remedy medication that I absolutely swear by if any of the birds get a simple cough or cold). He had appeared to rally quickly & be over his illness & even in the icy weather had been out & about & eating well, seemingly. It was such a shock, therefore, to find the poor fellow full of cold & so weak on his feet he could barely stay upright. I quickly gathered him into my arms & took him indoors into the warm for a better examination. As he breathed I could hear a bubbling sound & he had a clear discharge coming from his nostrils. He was sneezing & spluttering. I checked him all over to make sure his crop was OK & that he didn't have any parasites on him, but it appeared that it was just that his cold had returned with a vengeance. I filled a large box with sawdust & popped him into it & he sank down looking very feeble & ill. I carried him down to our en-suite bathroom which is dismantled at the moment after our leak. I knew he'd be peaceful & safe from the dogs & cats there. My eyes filled with tears. I knew he was in trouble. What to do first? Fluid it seemed would be more important than food at this moment in time so I fetched a pot of warm water, dosed it with Respite & thankfully he took a good drink from it. I listened to him snuffling & felt so wretched. How had I not noticed this coming on? I had felt sure he had recovered pretty well from his previous spell of illness. I gently stroked his feathers & told him that I was going to make him better & that he'd better not even think about dying on me because I wasn't going to let it happen. My tears spilled onto his feathers as I gently kissed him. I went out & filled a bowl with chick crumbs for him to see if he would eat, but couldn't persuade him to take even a morsel. His eyes were drooping, so I decided to let him sleep a while. I telephoned around to see if I could find a local vet, reachable in the snow, who would let me pick up some antibiotics for him, but being a Sunday it was hopeless. Not knowing what else to do for him I charged a rose quartz crystal for healing & asked angels to watch over him.
My thoughts turned to Andy, the friend who had hand reared him. What should I do? Should I let him know what was happening? Would it be worse for him to know & worry from afar, not being able to do anything? Would it be best not to say anything & hope I wouldn't have to break the news of a death later? My heart told me that it would be best to gently tell him, but just to make sure I contacted his partner David to check that I was doing the right thing. Andy telephoned straight away. It was so reassuring to talk to him. We went through Mr Dorking's symptoms together & double checked that I was doing everything he would do in the same situation. His words were those of kind reassurance & faith in my ability to do the best for Mr Dorking. He agreed with me it was likely that the cold weather had got to him & being weakened already he had just got a bad cold & not an infectious nasty as none of the other hens were showing any signs of illness. He gave me the name of the poultry antibiotic his vet usually gave him so that I would be armed with knowledge when speaking to my own vet. Kindest of all he gently told me that if Mr Dorking did die, although he would be very sad about it, it would not be my fault. He knows only too well how quickly a bird can go down hill & lose the will to live.
When I checked back on Mr Dorking it seemed that the drink & the sleep in the warm had done him some good & he was on his feet. I swept him into my arms & cuddled him to me as if I could somehow pour healing energy into him & will him better. Popping him back down I got him to take another good drink & this time he was interested in the chick crumbs, which are usually a good tempter if you have a poorly chicken. Pasta is a favourite treat of his, so I cooked him some spaghetti, coated it in a little vegetable oil & chopped it up for him. My did he tuck into it! I was delighted! I couldn't help but giggle at him & suggest that what he was suffering from was a case of 'man flu'. Although he was hardly out of the woods I was so relieved to see him appear more with it & I texted Andy to let him have the good news.
The rest of the day Mr Dorking spent mostly sleeping, although he did take more fluid & food, but at least he was sleeping properly on his feet with his head tucked under his wing & not slumped to the ground. It was all I could have asked of such a poorly chap. In the evening I popped a lamp on for him so that he could continue to eat & drink if he wanted to & then at bed time I made him a hot water bottle so that he wouldn't chill when the central heating went off. I just knew that if he made it through to the morning he would stand half a chance. But also steeled myself for the possibility that he wouldn't make it as he was still so weak & I could still hear the bubbling as he breathed.
The night was long, but every now & then I could the poor little fellow coughing & knew he was still with us. Morning eventually arrived..... I peeped in at him in trepidation. His dear sweet face was peering up at me. Hurray! Oh, he did look brighter! And he wanted out of his box. Yes! Yes! Yes! I knew this was a turning point. He was going to make it surely to goodness!
Although another centimeter or so of fresh snow had fallen overnight things had thawed enough during Sunday to make getting out in my car a possibility. Hubby's car was still stranded & not going anywhere being a rear wheel drive useless heap on our snowy & icy country lane. The morning then just vanished in a stressful whirl of checking for school closures, getting washed & dressed, getting the rest of the birds fed & watered, walking the dogs & sorting out a plan of action for getting the lads to school & me to work. Once Middle son was safely bound for exams at school on the school bus I had time to quickly make Mr Dorking comfortable for the day before hubby chauffeured Youngest son & me off to our destinations. I popped towels down on the en-suite floor & lifted him out of his box. After a cuddle & a good pep talk I popped him down to see how he'd manage on his feet. He was fine. I sorted him some more Respite dosed water which he took a good drink of & left him with a bowl of chick crumbs, layer pellets & some torn lettuce. I hated leaving him, but knew hubby would be around for a large part of the day to keep an eye on him. By the way, don't you think he's just wonderful to put up with having rescued ducklings, death wish chicklets & now a sickly rooster in the house? He does love them you see, even if sometimes he pretends otherwise. I telephoned my Vet Practice from work & on the way home was able to pick up 5 ready prepared syringes of antibiotics to add to his water for 5 days. Hubby told me Mr D had been up on his feet when he last checked on him & had clucked at him, but that he had made a right mess in the en-suite!
Indeed he had! He had chucked a lot of his feed about the place & of course he had answered Nature's call & pooped quite a bit, nice healthy poop though I was pleased to see. He had definitely eaten quite a bit of food as well as spilling lots. What was a right mess to hubby was good news to me! I was so happy to see him looking so much better & he seemed to be very pleased to see me. I gave him such a hug! I noticed the bubbling with his breathing had stopped & although he was still coughing/ sneezing it wasn't nearly so often. Big hug over, his antibiotics went straight into his water to get him properly on the mend. I went to make him a warm rice & carrot mash to help build his strength up. Here's how he tucked into it:
I think you will agree he is looking a lot less like a rooster at death's door & more like a boy who is going to pull through. So tonight I will fill Milly Bear the hot water bottle up for him again & for the next four days he will have to stay indoors while he completes his course of antibiotics & is pampered rotten.
Look at his darling face. I do love him so! Do please pray that he'll make a full recovery.