Cobb chicks, Poppy’s Octet, and a scare from Katie

November 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

Well it’s been quite a weekend. First, an update on Poppy’s bubs.

First out of the egg by mid Friday afternoon (23/11/12) was DK5 – I think a little girl. Not far behind was TL3 (yep, the irony is palpable. And peeps!), and by Friday evening we also had DK1 out and dry. RR2, CL1 and DK3 were pipping.

By Saturday morning (24/11/12) CR1 was out and dry, as were DK3 and RR2. Unfortunately CL2 had died in the process of pipping. There’s no easy way to put it: egg and chick had gotten squashed. Not nice to think about, and very unlike Poppy to be clumsy on the nest. (Manic, yes. Clumsy? not previously.) By early afternoon, DK2 and RR1 were pipping. RR1 was out by 5 pm, and DK2 by 8 pm. The earlier chicks were bopping away, investigating everything and being taught to eat the chick crumbs by their mum. A couple had even worked out what the drinker was, which is always comforting to see.

Poppy stayed on the nest (other than an enforced – and somewhat overdue – poo break) until early afternoon yesterday, but there were no signs of anything happening with the other eggs. DK4 I had thought looked wrong at the second candling, so that doesn’t surprise me, but it’s a pity about the other two RIRs. We haven’t broken them open to see how far they got – will update if we do.

So that’s the state of things at the moment. Eight chicks from 16 eggs isn’t great (or from 12, if you take it back to the number left after first candling), but is still way better than our hatching last year. So we’re happy. I think in future we will limit Poppy’s clutch sizes to 12 eggs. (The only reason we went higher this year was Adelaide suddenly changing her mind and un-broodying herself the day we were due to set the eggs.) I’ll put up photos as soon as I get access to the various camera-to-computer cables again (EQC repairs still) – the little Langshan is especially gorgeous, with a black velvet face and little feathery legs!

The Cobb chicks also arrived Friday (and yes, there are photos to come – see above excuse), and were installed in their brooder box. They’re 24 to 60 hours older than Poppy’s bubs so the comparisons won’t be quite so easy to make at this early stage, but even now you can see the differences between them and ‘normal’ chicks. They’re very broad across the chest – like little bulldogs. I suspect that’s something that will continue to be a point of difference. They don’t like it getting dark at night, so we gave them a dim LED night-light for the first couple of nights, just to keep them feeling comfortable in their new surroundings. You forget how utterly chicks fall asleep. They sit down,and everything just tips forward until they’re sprawled across the floor. So cute! The brooder has a big perspex front door, so we can just sit there and watch them. Who needs television?!

They do produce a formidable amount of poo though. We kept them on chick mats for the first couple of days, but switched them on to litter yesterday. Of course, they spent the first few hours trying to eat it, but they seem to have survived and are back to (mostly) just eating the chick crumbs.

We’re going to try and weight them every day to begin with, then probably every couple of days. for those who are interested, the initial weights (as at 1 pm 23/11/12) ranged from 38 g to 46 g. Yesterday (so 48 hours or so later) they’d gone to a range of 62 g to 84 g, with the top and bottom chicks maintaining their relative positions. We’ll give you a chart to look at in a week or so’s time.

And now on to the unpleasant drama. We thought Katie was going to die yesterday. It was about 10.30, 11 am or so. It was a hot day, and we were working in the veggie patch. We went across to the orchard gate for some reason, and while I was there Katie walked very slowly across to the gate panel, sat down very very slowly, and sat there looking incredibly distressed. Mouth breathing, eyes closed (or blinking slowly with the third eyelid visibly moving across), just everything screaming something catastrophically wrong. We ditched everything else and spent the next two hours just sitting with her in the shade, trying to work out what on earth was happening and what we could do. There were a couple of occasions when I was sure she was about to start cheyne-stokes breathing and die, just like Frida. It really did look that bad. We gave her water, and she drank a little. We wondered if it might be heat stress, because Katie does completely abandon herself to the pleasure of sunning, and her dark feathers make her susceptible to overheating. But her comb and wattles were rich red, rather than pale, and she didn’t seem dehydrated. There were no wounds or injuries that we could detect. Her abdomen felt soft and a little swollen, but well within the normal range. While she was mouth breathing, she wasn’t gasping or wheezing or giving any indications of breathing difficulties. Her poo was mostly urates, but bright white and again, within the normal range.

The only thing we could think to do was try and get some antibiotic into her. We both thought we were likely too late, but we couldn’t not try. So we ground up a half synermox, mixed it with 50 mL water, and crop tubed her. We sat with her and stroked her, and I gave her a bit of gentle crop massage to get the antibiotic moving into her system. About an hour after that we mixed up some electrolyte (1 tbsp honey for energy, 1/4 tsp each of salt and bicarb of soda, dissolved in 250Ml water) and tubed her with that too, just in case it was electrolyte or hydration related. She wasn’t getting any worse, so we decided to put her in the cat cage and cover her with a towel, to keep her away from the others (not so much in case it was infectious, but to stop anyone picking on her) and leave her to either get better or not, with the intention of repeating the antibiotic dose at bed time (if she was still alive), and taking her in to see Pauline the next day (ditto).

I had stuff I needed to do in the garage, so we put her in the woodshed (which is a lean-to on the end of the garage) and I sang to her as I worked, just to let her know she hadn’t been abandoned. We both checked on her from time to time, and nothing seemed to have changed. Then about 5 pm I finished what I was doing and went out to see her. She still looked distressed, and was mouth breathing. I squatted down in front of her and opened the cage up so she could stand if she wanted to, and offered her a piece of chickweed as a distraction. She ate a bit, which was the first sign of any interest in food that we’d seen. Then I noticed that she seemed to be worried about the tarp that was attached to the end of the woodshed – it was flapping a little – so I moved her away from it and under the roof proper. I sat there talking to her and offering her more chickweed, and you could see something gradually coming back. She stopped mouth-breathing, and her blinking was back to normal. I offered her some pellets, and she took a moment to think about things, but did start to eat them. Then was eating with gusto. She wolfed down all the handful of wheat that I offered, and started talking to me. Something definitely had changed. I left her alone again, this time with a handful of pellets. An hour or so later we took her out to the lawn and sat her down in a patch of clover. Which she liked very much! She was back to her usual tail-high posture, and although she was moving a little more slowly than usual, she was definitely a lot better. If you didn’t know Katie, or didn’t know that she had been sick, I don’t think anyone would have noticed anything at all wrong with her.

After some more umming and ahhing we decided to return her to the flock, and I sat with them all in the orchard for half an hour or so. (Claire is a bit prone to using anyone being away for even a short while – and we’re only talking twenty minutes or so – as an excuse to reassert her authority when they return.) Katie stayed reasonably near me for a while, but was happy to scritch in the pit and forage in the undergrowth. Again, not her usual level of activity and quickness, but given that she’d seemed at death’s door barely five hours earlier, quite understandably not.

That was yesterday. This morning she seems pretty much herself – a bit quiet perhaps, but not at all unhappy. Her overnight poo was normal, and she seems fine. Bright eyes, tail high: Katie. We’ve given her another dose of antibiotic, and will talk to Pauline tonight. It may be some sort of enteritis, or some sort of infection. Can’t really take both her and Lily in at once, so we’ll arrange a second visit if Pauline wants to see her for herself. Too soon by a long stretch to say that we’re out of the woods, and we still have no idea what it was (or is) that’s caused it. (Barnevelders are apparently a breed that is somewhat delicate, or at least less resistant to disease than many others. Hard not to remember Zsa Zsa dropping dead with no warning.) But as things stand, right this moment, we are so relieved. We’ll keep fingers and everything else crossed.


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