Saturday 18 February 2017

Then I'll Do It Myself (Said the Little Red Hen...)

...and she did!

As sick as a dog. Deefer on Thursday
Poor Deefer was not well. She was, literally, as sick as a dog. She did not have a good night on Wednesday, nor a particularly good day Thursday. I'm not 100% sure why. I suspect she reacted badly to a cooked roast-pork bone, a chunk of shoulder blade I gave her as a 'treat'. RAW pork bones are their absolute favourite food and have only good, positive effects but this may not be true of the cooked version. As we went to bed, I could tell she was not comfortable, restless, sometimes panting. By 5 o'clock she was 'telling me' she needed to go outside.

Oh Dear Oh Dear. Not happy. 
That walk round finding coat, wellies, dog-leads etc showed me that she had actually been up several times in the night and done an impressive collection of squitty poos and sicks. In 15 minutes or so outside she unloaded a bit more but then seemed brighter, so we all went back to bed. We repeated this at 6 and she continued to improve. She had a fairly 'moopy' day spending most of it just looking sad and sometimes shivering. She just wanted lots of cuddles and declined all food, treats and did not want the daily walk at midday, so I let her off. By evening she was almost back to normal, ate her supper (though not with the usual hoovering gusto) and we all got a nice long night's sleep.

A good haul of beer cans and food packaging
for an hour walking with my litter-picker.
There was even a dumped CD player. 
While I'm on dog walking, I will ask you to bear with me while I have a rare moan. Fly tipping and jettisoning rubbish from your car as you drive along. I was almost certainly deluded and naive when I was planning to move to Ireland, but in my head I had conflated the known respect the Irish have for children/parenting with the '40 shades of green' thing and calculated that the Irish must be much 'greener' and environmentally aware than are we Brits. Foolish Boy! I was quite disappointed when I arrived and started exploring and found that the locals are just as bad as the Brits for tossing beer cans, fag packets, dead CD players and food packaging out of cars as they drive along.

Back in the goose egg game.
There is no equivalent here of the council guy sent out to pick up litter with his Hi-Viz jacket and his neat little row of filled bags along the verge waiting for the lorry-crew to round them up. Tidying up here is all done by volunteers working with the appropriately named "Tidy Towns" group - the local equivalent of the "Village of the Year" thing we were part of in Kent. Tidy Towns do a brilliant and much appreciated job but they mainly do it around the village and they only do it (understandably) in Summer. If you want it doing out here in the 'sticks' and in Winter then you're on your own. I will do it myself, said the little red hen... and she did.

And I do. The locals may see me as a weirdo-eccentric (though a couple have stopped to chat, empathised with my annoyance at those who litter and complimented me) but I just decided one day that this would be one way of giving something back to the area and the environment. I usually wait till just after the verges are mowed so that I can see the stuff lying in the grass but this most recent time was because I was particularly aggrieved by a bigger-than normal dump of a dozen cans and a shopping bag containing glass bottles (broken by now, of course).

This goose may have been interrupted in her egg-making.
An egg and a bit?
I will draw a veil over the fact that these were cans of alcoholic drinks lobbed out of a moving car. Other piles have been of children's orange drink sachets with straws, so I would guess dumped by a family outing with parents present. Hey ho. At least for a short while you can now drive down our lane and admire the 40 shades of green verges and lack of shiny, colourful cans and Coke bottles.

A chicken having a re-think? 'Herme'
Finally and while I am still on red hens, we have a strange tale to tell of odd sexual happenings among the chooks. In short, one of our Buff Orpington hens seems to be having a re-think and turning into a rooster. Friends of the Blog will know that we recently offed our #1 rooster for being aggressive to humans and were left, we thought, with our newest Marans lad, Gandalf. So far so good though we believe, now looking back on it, that one of the buff hens has looked 'different' enough to have been described by us as "the one with the long neck" or the bright cape.

The ducklings discover the paddling pool. 
So this morning I noticed that this particular bird was chasing one of the paler girls about and this afternoon 'she' surprised Liz by jumping onto a hen and "treading" her like a rooster would. We are now seeing 'her' in a new light and can see that 'she' does indeed walk taller than a hen. She also has a bigger, brighter cape and a medium-big red 'face' (comb, wattles) but from thorax down 'she' is still a hen - little feet with no spurs, stumpy hen-tail, no big fluffy rooster 'pantaloons'.

So, what have we here? A very slow, late developer? She was hatched in spring 2016. Her clutch-mates and brothers have long since matured/differentiated into roosters and gone down that route (culled by me or killed by the fox). Google and 'book-learning' give you three possible other explanations which are rare enough to have me shying away from 'claiming' them - proper 'hermaphroditism' where the sexual differentiation gets muddled and the bird is neither one thing nor another, 'gynandromorhism' where the bird is 50/50, sometimes 'sided', where the left half of the bird is fully male and the right side female (these are usually sterile) or, thirdly showing "spontaneous sexual reversal (SSR)". In SSR, the left ovary gets damaged and stops producing oestrogen, so the bird changes sex. So far so rare and so weird.

Our 'weirdo' has been named 'Herme' by Liz because he/she may be hermaphrodite and we'll just keep an eye on him/her. If he/she turns into a full active rooster, then all well and good as long as he stays off the human-aggression malarkey. If the preferred route is to stay 'Little Red Hen' then we can do that too. Watch this space.


Anne Wilson said...

Your third option is the most likely, I seen it happen many times, it's not rare.

Matt Care said...

Ha ha. Not 'rare' in your terms, Anne but the figures say 1/10,000. With your history in birds and eggs, you will have seen more than one '10,000' of birds. My total all up so far is still only in the "up to 100" area, so I'd be wary of claiming a rare ailment..... but if you say so then I'll go with that - Spontaneous Sex Reversal it will be. Go 'Herme'