Monday 31 March 2014

Lonely Roads.

"Lonely Roads" on day 1
Today a bitter-sweet tale, a bit more tragic than we are used to and one in which we have been unable to help in an animal welfare story to the degree we would have liked. Sometimes, that's the way it goes. Unusually, I am not going to name any of the parties involved, only because I do not know some of them and I only have word-of-mouth summary of events. Also we do not know the sex of the chick involved, so 'he' is just going to be assumed male for convenience. We think he is Rhode Island Red (hence his name) but he is almost certainly in-bred.

This poor little mite came to us at less than 6 hours old (hatched) having already had a rather bizarre, eventful and traumatic life, 3 'owners' and 2 homes. There had been a big incubator into which Owner 1 had 'set' 40 goose eggs and, finding he had spare space had sneaked in 7 chicken eggs. Owner 2, as we understand it had objected to this and gone to retrieve them but had managed to miss 2 and leave them behind to run the full course of incubation. I am not sure how this is possible; I do not know the design of the incubator, but we are told that immediately on hatching and while still with wet feathers, this chick was grabbed from the incubator and passed to Owner 2 as 'your problem'. These people are not set up for chicken rearing and have no brooder-box, Infra-red lamps etc and this is all happening at the crack of dawn on Saturday.

Day 3. Note the right leg held in an odd position
Owner 2 panics and phones the only chicken-person she knows and this is a good friend of ours, Owner 3. Owner 3 has a bad cold and has gone to bed with a good dose of sleepy-making "Night-Nurse" (or similar medicine) and takes the call while groggy with sleep, cold and soporifics. She only half understands but thinks she is getting some chicken-meat because owner 2 "cannot hand prepare" it, so she accepts the delivery and even asks Owner 2 at the front door whether it is breast meat or leg meat (!). The poor baby by now is still wet from the egg and stone cold, limp. Owner 3 rushes to find a hot water bottle and towel (to wrap around it) and probably saves the poor thing's life.

Goldie, hopefully now pregnant.
Wide awake now, Owner 3 realises that she is also not set up for rearing chickens having come out of chickens last year and dispersed all her equipment, so she nips round to the next 'chicken' people on the list, and that is us. We have never reared baby chicks; we always let 'Broody Betty' handle that but, hey, we have an IR lamp and a crate, what could possibly go wrong? In for a penny, as they say. One thing working in our favour is that chicks hatch having just absorbed into their abdomen the remaining yolk-sac, so they do not need to eat for 48 hours or so.

We have you surrounded? Ivy almost rings the hawthorn.
Sadly here, the story now takes another down-turn but don't give up on us yet. Lonely Roads is a spirited trier and, now warm and dry, he survives the night, seems to like being handled and cheeps loudly with excitement at regular intervals. Unfortunately he is not good on his legs. A chick at 24 hours hatched should be sprinting about like a little clockwork toy. Roads is all alert and holds his head upright but is flopping about and squirming along the deck, seemingly only able to use his left leg. His right leg juts out at an odd angle and he puts no weight on it and is unable to open the foot flat. He puts his weight on the heel joint (at the top of the un-feathered bit of''leg') or rolls it onto the side of the crunched up but limp and floppy toes. By day 3 he is up on his one good leg but can only balance if standing still. This is not good. A one-foot chicken has no real future, if only because he would not be able to scratch for worms and grubs. Things are not looking promising.

Tea cosy by special request.
My in-breeding comment earlier is due to the fact that his feet also have extra toes and we know that, especially in Ireland (where we have first hand experience with in-bred geese) the gene pools can get very 'narrow' in these named variety birds. This may be the cause of Roads's bad leg, or possibly there might have been rough handling or damage done by the chilling. We, of course, have no idea. Well, the hard-nosed breeders would probably have been calling 'cull him out, don't waste your time' by now but we decided to give him a week and hope for a repair job.

Primroses along our East boundary.
This, however, is not the end of the tale, as the little lad may be full of shout and beans but he is refusing to eat anything. He has pecked at the tiniest crumbs of hard boiled egg, 'chewed' very half-heartedly on about a quarter cc of cod liver oil and maybe shipped some water. This is now day 3, so he should have used up his yolk stores by now and be ravenous, piling into offered food and fighting off brothers and sisters in the competition to eat. If this goes on he may be making the decision for us as he will fade very quickly if his problems include an inability to learn to recognise food, peck it, eat and swallow. So, Friday is his D-Day. I will let you know. Wish him well but don't get your hopes too high.

Meanwhile, in a previous post I noted that we had been improving the pasture. We seem to have also improved the boundary hedges and flora too. All around the East Field we had badly overgrown hedges with overhanging ash and hawthorn, and great thickets of bramble arching out 8-10 feet into the field and self-layering. We had to cut all this back in order to install the new sheep fence and have since had sheep on it (and then horses) nibbling away at the re-growth, so that we have let a lot more light into the hedge-base. This year we have been rewarded with an impressive flowering of primroses, plants presumably hidden and repressed by the shading tangle of brambles. In some cases these primroses are, themselves, well out into the field, maybe 3-4 feet inside the field.

1 comment:

Mr Silverwood said...

I was waiting to read about this to find out the story, hope he makes it, but in fairness it doesn't look to good