Compassion in World Farming

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Back to normal I hope

OK, so after a bit of a manic time things looked like they were settling down. Mulder cockerel had settled in well with his brothers & new lady friends, the new Pekin trio had settled in with the chicklets plus Florence & Clover, George & Mildred turkey had won every one's hearts with their comical ways & all chicken sickness seemed to have been banished! All was peaceful bliss in our happy world of poultry. Also the work to finish the repairs to our house after our water leak had finally been scheduled to begin after months of waiting.

Then I noticed Cassie chicklet seemed a bit under the weather. Nothing really specific but when you have a close relationship with your birds you just know when some thing's not right. So I was keeping a watchful eye on her. Then a couple of mornings later I found my little sweetheart huddled in the corner of the bantam shed. Her head was all bloodied where feathers had been pulled from her head & she was very depressed & frightened. Poor Cassie chicklet! She's been through a lot in her short life to date, having already survived two near death experiences. I gently gathered her up into my arms & she cuddled against me. Chickens can be so mean to one another! I brought her indoors, popped her into a box with some food & water & treated her poor sore head with Violet Septi Cleanse spray. She seemed to have a bit of a snuffle but she was quite perky & tucked into the chick crumbs I'd given her with gusto. For such a little chicklet who has been through a lot she shows an amazing will to live! Polands are prone to hypothermia due to their unusual head feathers & thin skulls so I knew she wouldn't be able to go back outside with a poor bald bonce & wondered what I could do. What I needed was an egg cosy or something similar to use as a little hat for her. So when I got a chance I popped onto Twitter & asked the lovely people of the Twitterverse if anyone had a spare cosy they could send me! A lovely Twitter friend & fellow lover of critters (@seren9 if you want to find her on Twitter) immediately offered me 2 little hats she'd saved from Innocent Smoothie bottles when they had been running their Help the Aged campaign - perfect! How very kind people can be! There are lots of people on Twitter who love hens & they are just the loveliest of people to chat away to & don't think you're at all weird to hug your chooks or have them in the house when they are poorly - yes, there are others as nuts as me out there, really there are!!

So little Cassie chicklet was in our bedroom in her box, with a poor bald violet dyed head & being treated with Colloidal silver which is a natural antiseptic / antibiotic treatment - I thoroughly recommend it. She was down in the dumps but well enough to perch on the edge of her box when it was sleep time so I hoped to be able to get her back outside as soon as possible when her little hats came. Then this happened.....

Four to five inches of snow fell very rapidly! Brrrr! It created a beautiful Winter Wonderland but meant we were snowed in again. Hubby was on his way back from a business meeting in Brussells & I was really worried about him driving home in the treacherous conditions, but he ignored my suggestion of staying overnight in a hotel near to Gatwick & insisted on making the journey home. It was lovely that he wanted to be home but I did worry about him! Anyway, he got to within a mile of our house & had to abandon his car, which being a rear wheel drive is just hopeless in snow & ice. I tried picking him up in my little car but got it stuck in our drive way! What a pickle! But at least hubby was home safely. After a day or two enough of the snow had melted to enable us to get my car out & about. I was glad it didn't hang about this time. It just makes conditions so hard for the birds when it lies on the ground for any length of time

There was no way Cassie chicklet could go outside in the snowy conditions, especially as she wouldn't wear the darling little hats that arrived in the post, so she remained indoors being pampered & enjoying lots of cuddles. Her sniffles got a little worse but she remained quite lively & I wasn't concerned about her. I felt a little under the weather myself & despite having been so well for so long I recognised the signs of a fibromyalgia / cfs flare up on it's way. Normally I would just have taken to my bed for a day & fended it off, but the workmen then arrived to start the repairs to our house. This meant our bedroom was out of bounds & doors to the house being left open in the chilly weather as workmen busily cut tiles & carried paint, tools & equipment in & out. By Monday morning I felt really poorly & could do nothing but lock myself away in our living room & try to rest as best as possible. What bad timing!

Anyway, these things are sent to try us but in the scheme of things they are minor inconveniences really, aren't they? Cassie chicklet soon perked up & fortunately her head feathers grew back extremely quickly so after a brief spell hopping about our utility room during her recuperation she was strong enough to go back outside. I was a little worried about how her reintroduction would go but darling Big Bird, who has grown up into such a handsome & lovely natured chap, took to protecting her during her first couple of days back with the bantams & all went well.

The workmen took 4 days to repair & redecorate the house & then I was finally able to get the proper rest I needed to get better.

So here we are. Let's hope this time that it really is back to business as usual!

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Light & dark

Crumbs - it's been ages since I posted on my poor neglected blog & so much has happened! Some sorrow, some joy & lots of blessings.

Now I hope I get this in the right order of events:

First of all we had a new arrival. Sadly for my friend Andy, Mulder, the cockerel he was desperately hoping to keep, started crowing very loudly at all hours of the day, sadly not acceptable where he lives, so I offered him a home with his 'brothers'. Mulder is a special bird, not just because of the touching relationship he formed with Andy, but because of the unusual way that he grew. You can read about it on Andy's blog. It doesn't matter one jot to me - he's just a much-loved member of my wonderful chicken family. He's certainly a character, that I can tell you! When Andy & his partner David brought Mulder down to us it was also time to say goodbye to two of the Silkie chicklet girls as I had promised them by way of a thank you for the gorgeous cockerels. This affected more than I expected it to. So, although it was just fantastic to meet up with Andy & David again & for Andy to see how well his other boys were doing & where they were living, it was a bitter sweet day for both of us - Andy being parted from his beloved Mulder & me waving goodbye to my babies.

Because of the exceptional, close & cosseted relationship Mulder had with Andy I knew that winning him over would be a challenge, as I thought reintroducing him to his 'brothers' after such a long parting would be. This first point I was correct about, but after a week or two of constant attention, praise & admittedly bribery with all manner of good things to eat, Mulder decided that, although I wasn't Andy, I'd do! The second point I needn't have worried about one jot, because amazingly Snapdragon, Spicy & Merlin seemed to remember Mulder! It was really moving to see this in cockerels, who can be quite fearsome when introducing a new male to a flock. They showed no aggression to him whatsoever & I was able to integrate Mulder from day one.

So, after Mr Dorking's recovery from illness & the successful introduction of Mulder, I was in heaven watching the boys grow more & more handsome each day. Then, suddenly & unexpectedly, 3 weeks after Mr Dorking's illness Merlin fell sick with the same symptoms. I wasn't too concerned as I had caught him while he was still relatively strong, eating & drinking & on his feet, but I brought him indoors in the warm & gave him the same TLC as I had Mr D. He fell sick on a Sunday, but I felt sure he would be fine until I could get him some antibiotics from the vet the next day. The only thing I didn't do, as he seemed a lot less sick than Mr Dorking had been, was leave our central heating on for him overnight. It was, therefore, an awful shock when I found him dead the next morning! I was devastated! I cradled him in my arms as though I could warm his body & bring him back to me, but he was long gone. I cannot tell you how sad I am that his life was so short. He was the first of Andy's cockerels to befriend me & he was such a vibrant, zesty character that it does not seem fair that he's no longer crowing his heart out or busily run around our little field. I miss him terribly.

At the same time, poor Andy had hen troubles of his own with an egg-bound girl & a girl with a nasty abscess . He was quite exhausted with nursing them, so I just felt that I couldn't break the bad news to him at the time. It wouldn't have been fair.

Now, in the meanwhile, young Katherine chicklet dismayed me by crowing! So Katherine was quickly renamed Alfie, but it became apparent that we had a chicklet problem with 6 roosters & only 5 pullets. My original intention in hatching the chicklet eggs was to sell any excess roosters & then buy in unrelated hens so that I could begin to sell my own hatching eggs. So after much agonising I made the sensible decision to part with one of my Silkie roosters, Alfie & one of my Poland roosters. To soften the blow of parting with them I successfully bid on a gorgeous trio of Crele Pekin bantams in an online poultry auction that I could also sell hatching eggs from. Everything was planned. It all made sense. But I should have listened more carefully to my heart. The tears I shed over parting with my 2 Silkie chicklets even though they were going to a wonderful home with Andy should have told me this was never going to work in practice. One afternoon, hubby found me sitting with my chicklets with tears in my eyes & gently said to me that he thought it would be a shame to part with any of the birds we had hand reared. He suggested we could section off an area of our little field for them. He is also fond of the chicklets you see, but more than that he knows how much they mean to me and he's a wonderful hubby.

I put a message out on Twitter explaining that I needed more hens to keep my chicklet boys happy & lovely blogger Jess very kindly offered me 3 Silkie x girls! How lucky was I? That's so very sweet of her. I also discovered a local chicken breeder with bantams for sale so on the following Saturday we went & picked up 3 new bantam girls to begin to even out the boy:girl ratio. They are Minnie, a Barnevelder, Clover, a Buff Orpington & Florence a black Pekin with a pretty gold 'necklace'. The new girls are adorable & settled in straight away.

It was then that Merlin's illness hit & the excitement of having the new girls quickly turned to sorrow at losing him. I think having the new girls to watch over was certainly some comfort in the days after his death. Seeing Mr Dorking starting to blossom again was also good medicine. When the time came to tell Andy of Merlin's death because his hens were thankfully well on the road to recovery he was, of course, very sad. But he was very kind to me & this was also a great comfort.

I watched Mulder & my other chickens like a hawk for any signs of illness in the days to follow. After Merlin's death I had telephoned my Vet for advice as I wondered if I should give all my birds a course of antibiotics. She strongly advised against this course of action as none of the other birds were showing any symptoms. Fortunately Mulder remained healthy & strong over the next few days & I allowed myself a sigh of relief. In fact, all of the birds looked incredibly healthy despite the awful weather & the extremely late moult of some of my hens.

Something exciting then happened - I found some turkeys for sale very cheaply at a farm quite close to us. Hubby & I have always wanted turkeys & in a very weak moment I put us down for one! And, of course, there was still the Crele Pekin trio to collect (although after deciding to keep all the chicklets this clearly had not been a very good purchase after all!). Then Eldest son asked to come home from Uni for the weekend, so we travelled up to Leicester to collect the Pekins, down to Birmingham to pick up eldest son & then homeward with a detour to collect the turkey. Now I had been mithering as to whether it was fair to keep just one turkey, even with ducks for company & a telephone conversation with their breeder confirmed that it would be better to have a pair. Fortunately hubby was in agreement so 1 son, 3 Pekins & 2 turkeys came home with us! It was a wonderful weekend.

Typing all this out I realise how mad it all was! And how understanding my hubby is! And that maybe I have a poultry addiction! Hmmmmmmm.

Anyway, to bring everything up to date, we now have 4 cockerels and 22 hens up in our little field with the ducks & geese. We have George & Mildred the Bronze turkeys in with Daisy & Seymour, who seem quite taken with their new companions. And last, but by no means least, we have an assortment of 17 chicklets & bantams in the back garden. All are doing just fine and dandy. That's going to be it now for a while. Oh, except that we still need to increase our hen numbers in the back garden to keep the little roosters happy ;-)