Sunday, June 28, 2015

Animals amaze me

This morning I hadn't even finished my first cup of coffee when I heard, faintly, a hen cackling.  Now, it's never a good thing when you hear a chicken cackling before daylight.  Especially since we've had so many problems with varmints lately.  The hen and chicks have their own little house, and I secure them every night, shutting the door.  However, I have gotten lax lately, not wiring the door securely at the top.  This was the day to pay the piper.  

I went running out to the little chicken house and saw Mama Hen frantically running around the pen cackling, with her chicks peeping around her like crazy.  There were feathers scattered around the pen, and one dead, headless chick.

At first only six chicks came out with Mama Hen, and I thought that was what I had left.  Later I got to thinking that if there were only six chicks left, there would have been three corpses, not just one.  So I went back to the little house and peeked into the corners and found two more live chicks, petrified with fear, and shooed them out.

I went on to do the cattle chores, and Mama Hen was still in the driveway cackling when I was done.  She was obviously traumatized, and was still cackling for over an hour after it all happened.  

Finally she acknowledged her babies and foraged around in the yard and garden all day.  Cliff and I had plans to lock the hen and chicks into her little house/pen securely tonight, and then put our varmint trap right in front of that house, baited with the headless chick that was killed last night.  

When we went out at dusk, I heard the chicks peeping loudly and the mom clucking, but they weren't in their little house.  The noises were coming from the big hen house.  Mama Hen was sitting on a nest in there, as it turns out, and the babies were trying, one by one, to fly up and join her.  

I was amazed.  I was speechless, and honestly, almost had tears in my eyes.  Chickens are among the dumbest animals God ever created, but that mommy thing is stronger than any weak mind, and the hen had no intention of letting her babies be killed.  She had moved out of that death-trap of a house.

I shut the chicken house door, knowing no chickens would die tonight.  We did put the trap in front of the now-uninhabited brooder house.  I doubt we catch anything.  But Mama Hen has it under control, and no chickens will die tonight.

There are still eight chicks left, and they know Mommy isn't going to desert them.

God bless mothers everywhere.

Psalm 91:4  He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day

Not all news is good around the farm

I recently blogged about Blackie, a calf belonging to Cliff's brother that I was trying to save.  I had theories about what was ailing him, but was on uncharted territory.  I honestly didn't expect him to live, but he was such a fighter, and developed such a good appetite, that I just couldn't give up on him.  

Yesterday when I got him up to give him a bottle, I noticed a swelling about the size of an orange at his naval.  I felt it, and it was as hard as a rock.  While I've never had experience with naval ill, I had a feeling that's what we were dealing with, so I consulted Dr. Google.  What I found explained everything that had happened with that calf:  Turns out naval ill, if not treated, turns into joint ill.  The disease settles in the joints, causing pain and difficulty walking.  You can read about it HERE.  It can also go to the eyes, liver, heart, and other organs.  I was briefly worried when I read it could be contagious, since we had Blackie in with three of my calves for several days.  Further reading told me that it's only contagious to calves in their first week of life.

Had I paid attention to the calf's naval when Phil first brought him over, he could have been saved.  Cliff and I had noticed his naval looked damp all the time, but we assumed it was because he was laying on damp ground all the time.  Rule number one when dealing with livestock or children:  Never assume.

If you go to the link I shared above, you will see that once naval ill has turned into joint ill, unless you have a very valuable animal and can afford to spend lots of money for an offhand chance you might save the calf, it's time to cut your losses.  

That's what we did.  Cliff called his brother to tell him what was happening, and then he humanely put Blackie down.