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When Illness and Injury Visits the Farm

We have been blessed until last week. We went 15 months without anything big happening requiring veterinary help. We had a duck that was limping, and I had to pull a thorn out of her foot. We had a rooster that had a feather that was bleeding. I had a scare with one of our goats with possible Coccidiosis. All of these issues I was able to handle on my own with my first aid kit for my animals. When you have a farm you always have to have items on hand for these situations. You never know when something is going to happen, and you want to have what you need on hand.

Our first issue was Rebecca ten days ago. It just happened to be exactly a week from the day we lost our first hen in or flock. I went out to feed everyone on my way to work and she was lethargic and didn’t come to eat. That isn’t like her, so I swept her up and into the house she went. I gave her electrolytes by a syringe to hydrate her and put out a call to the chicken doc. Our first thought was she was egg bound. With that possibility she had to soak in an Epsom Salt bath for 20 minutes while rubbing her abdomen. While we waited for the doc to make his house call, we waited for her to lay an egg. She hadn’t laid an egg for two days now that I know for sure. The doc came and looked her over, checked her temperature and listened to her chest. He heard a slight murmur but wasn’t too concerned. After checking her vent, the diagnosis was Salpingitis. Salpingitis is an inflammation of the oviduct caused by an infection. Salpingitis is the most common cause of death in laying hens. She is being treated with antibiotic injections. Hopefully we caught it in time, and she recovers from it and goes on to life a happy life with us.

While we were going through the scare with Rebecca one of our 12-week old chicks almost hung herself. I was out doing my morning feeding and chores I heard heavy fluttering and chirping coming from the rabbit pen I was working on. I ran to see what happened and my poor little chick had its neck and feet tangled in the netting above the chicken run and she was fading fast. She wanted to be with the big girls so much she tried to fly into their run. I have the netting over their run to keep hawks from being able to swoop down and grab them. I frantically tried to free her. I was choking her even more trying to get her neck out of the netting. What seemed forever but was probably only minutes I begged her to hold on. Finally, I got her limp body free of the netting and rushed her inside. I called my son to come help me as the gate I was working on was down and the goats were in the rabbit pen by this point and the rabbits were going to get out. We gave her electrolytes by the syringe and loved on her while we made sure she could breathe and would be okay to put in the bathroom with the other chicken in my makeshift hospital. When I returned outside, I noticed her sister frantically running up and down the run on the fence looking for her. I knew she was stressed and that wasn’t good for her either. That’s when I made the decision to take her to her sister and hopefully, they would both do better. Now I have three chickens in my guest bathroom in need of some kind of medical help.

Now our new miniature horse arrives, and he and our miniature horse have to do their dance. Our girl Sugar is letting him know this is her place and she was here first. They sniffed, neighed, kicked and chased each other for a good bit. At some point they ran to the back of the property where all my ducks and geese were out playing. I think the chickens were out as well. As we were watching them get to know each other they bolted back towards the front of the property. In doing so they ran right past one of my ducks sitting in the grass under the tree enjoying her day. The horses startled her, and she tried to fly off to safety and that’s when the horse stepped on her wing and broke it. My son swooped her up and checked her out. She was lucky to be alive. This is the third bird down in six days! Our Farrier had delivered our new horse and was staying with us until the horses were settled. She had some vet tape and gave it to me as I didn’t have that in my first aid kit, and she needed to be wrapped up immediately and we are 35-45 minutes from town. We taped her wing up to her body and into the bathroom hospital she went.

By now the two littles were ready to leave the bathroom and go back into the run. I decided they would go into the small coop with the month-old chicks and turkeys for now. I can’t risk her getting hurt again. While all of this is happening, Texas decides to turn the heater on and cook everything. Not a drop of rain is in sight. The pond is evaporating, the animals are my top priority now. Keeping everyone alive and well is a daunting task. Every morning I fill up water buckets with electrolytes and baking soda. I put frozen water bottles in their water buckets. I fill up the baby pool for the birds to get into and cool off, even the chickens. I have a mister and swamp cooler in the chicken pen blowing constantly. Every pen is covered with some kind of natural or man-made shade. The equines only get to graze at night, so they are not out baking in the sun. The goats spend most of their day in their house. The rabbits go underground into their carefully dug out tunnels to get out of the heat and don’t come out until the sun goes down. So far everyone is doing well and hopefully they stay that way. In two days of the record June temperatures, I heard of 42 chicken deaths from the heat alone from our chicken doc.

Now we have two more weeks of Rachael in the bathroom and three with the duck. Then they can go back outside to be with their flock. Hopefully they will be welcomed back without a lot of pecking order rituals. It has been a long six days and we have many more to struggle through. Hopefully we will not have anymore emergencies or health issues for a while. I will be glad when I can close the bathroom hospital. I now see when we build our barn, I will have to have a hospital room for future patients. It’s just comes with farming. I guess our luck had to run out at some point. I just didn’t expect a death, an illness, a hanging and a broken wing in the span of 12 days. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Being a farmer is hard work and keeping livestock alive is a fulltime job. You are always worried about predators getting them. And when you do everything to keep them safe illness or accidents happen. So now I watch all my babies on my security cameras constantly. Always making sure everyone is okay. Praying this heat wave runs its course and we get some rain. Rain not a hurricane which is what I fully expect to happen as we haven’t had one in a while. That’s all I don’t need!

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