Wednesday, May 19, 2010
It's always something, really, always something.
I once had a farmer friend tell me "if you have livestock, at some point you're gonna have dead stock". While I accept the obvious truth to this statement, and live it far too often for my tastes, I really do try my best to avoid it as much as possible. A few weeks back I blogged about my doe kids battle with clostrida, which had a happy ending. This week it's been a chicken and a duckling on top of the baby bunny disaster. I noticed an 8 month old Buff Orpington hen was acting odd, not very active and her comb and waddle were faded and pale. Upon closer inspection I found she was limping quite badly. Her left foot and ankle was very swollen and hot. GAH! So up we go to the house where I used a large bore needle to remove as much infection as possible and then I injected it with some long acting penicillin. I fixed up an isolation pen for her with food and water, so the other birds wouldn't pick on her, and crossed my fingers. Fast forward a few days and the swelling is down, her color is back and she's eating well. I think she's ready to return to the coop. Yay! I have no idea what caused the abscess, perhaps a sliver of some sort, but it appears to have been conquered. Moving along to baby ducks, they have been hatching for about 10 days now. In checking the the date on an unhatched egg, I saw that other from that date had already hatched. In holding the egg to my ear, I could hear activity, but there was no sign of a pipped shell. To meddle or not, that is the question. You already know the answer. For those who aren't aware of how an egg develops, the last thing that happens is the yolk is drawn into the abdomen and the body wall closes. The yolk acts as food for the hatchling in it's first days of life. In cracking the shell too soon, that process may not be complete causing death. I cautiously cracked the shell on the end containing the air sac and found that the duckling inside had a deformed beak that was keeping it from breaking the shell with it's 'egg tooth'. Instead of the upper and lower beak overlapping, the lower jaw was twisted at nearly a 90 degree angle. So the next big decision is to chuck the whole thing in the freezer and end it there or come up with a plan. The duckling would not be able to eat or drink in its current condition, but how can it be helped? Considering how malleable a newborn is I grabbed a twist tie and secured the lower jaw to the upper in proper alignment, being careful not to cover the nostrils. I left the bulk of the body in the shell and returned the patient to the incubator. About 6 hours later I removed the tie to see that the jaw had improved! Taking advantage of the built in food supply I re-tied the beak into place and left it in the incubator over night. By morning the duckling had escaped from the remaining shell and I was happy to see that there were no other obvious physical issues and the head and eyes were otherwise in good shape. Upon removing the tie the jaw did slowly displace, but not as much as before. I offered some water and left the jaw untied for a while. Later I put the duckling in with the other hatchlings and have begun the process of tieing the beak for about 4 hours then removing the tie for an hour or two and tieing again for 4 hours during the day and leaving it untied at night. There is still some offset, but even if there is no additional improvement the little guy can still eat and drink comfortably. Isn't this a lot of work for a duck? Maybe, but not much. The babies are on the front porch and I would check them regularly during the day, it only takes a few extra seconds to attach or remove the twist tie. I also have the satisfaction of knowing I gave it the best chance possible for a happy life. I'm strange like that.