Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Testosterone in the Chicken Yard

Peeps is in big trouble. Actually, he is in our house at the moment, crammed into a cage that is almost too small, placed on the bench in front of the wood stove, drying off, recovering from his wounds, and freaking out the cat. If you don't remember, Peeps is our hand-raised rooster that, until this spring, was one of two roosters in the chicken yard, a marginal situation at best.

But, now we have three roosters in the chicken yard because Johnny, of Frankie and Johnny, turned out like Peeps not to be the hoped-for hen but an unnecessary male. Problem is - Peeps and Johnny were both hand raised by Annie with a start in the kitchen. Rudy II, the older and dominant rooster in the yard, was never hand-raised but inherited the job of protecting the flock when his father, Rudy (you guessed it), died fighting off a raccoon.

Greg has suggested we solve our over abundance of roosters by eating one. I say, if they have names, they are not meant for the dinner table. But something will need to be done sooner than later. Peeps cannot live indoors with us and we obviously can't have three roosters!

As if it isn't enough I am dealing with a sad, injured chicken in the house, our tom turkey has taken to challenging me in the chicken yard. At this point, he stays a boot kick away because I can't have some big bird fly at me whenever he likes. Seems we may have picked the wrong turkey to eat for Christmas dinner last year.

It is slightly alarming to have a large bird, that comes up to my waist, following me around my chores in the yard, gobbling and puffing out his feathers. At first I thought he didn't like the white bucket I use to dispense feed, since he knocked it out of my hand with a swat from his wings, but he is indiscriminate these days whether I have the bucket or not. I wish I knew what his problem was. It isn't as if the female is sitting on a nest and he is guarding it. He just seems to have a problem with something larger than himself.

I did find a solution of sorts just this past weekend. Our 4-year old niece entered the chicken yard to collect eggs carrying her Eeyore umbrella and the tom gave us both a wide berth. Guess he decided a big, blue and white turkey was scarier than a crazed woman flapping her arms.

We obviously have some problems as we approach springtime, with longer days, meaner animals, itchy sheep, and grass that is greener on the outside of the fence. The newest problem, of my own making, rousted me from a deep sleep this morning at about 5:30 a.m. What do they say, "If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound"? Well how about, "If you put a rooster in the house, will it still crow at 5:30 a.m."? The answer: it sure does and it won't shut up until you throw it in the mud room,close all the doors between it and the bedroom, crawl back into bed with cold feet, and try to fall back to sleep with a thumping heart from running down the stairs in the first place. Peeps goes back into the chicken yard tonight!

Top photo: Peeps and Cisco share the warmth of the fireplace for some R & R
Bottom photo: Hopie and her Eeyore umbrella face off with our tom turkey

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2008 Scottie Jones
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Monday, February 11, 2008

The Reluctant Vet

The reluctant vet would be me. I don't remember having a discussion before we moved to the farm about who would give shots, clean dirty wounds, or bandage large, hairy animals. I should have had an inkling our very first week here when the dog tore off a sheep's ear.

The short story is that our dogs, unfamiliar with livestock other than cats, couldn't believe their good fortune at landing on a farm. Within 24 hours, the rooster had lost most of his long, gorgeous tail feathers in a scrape with one of them. Within a week both dogs became a pack, chasing the sheep and cornering one in a waters of the Honey Grove. "Look, it's white and it's running. Must go faster. Must jump on it. Must grab something to hang onto. Got an ear. Oh, no, it's heading for the creek. Brrr, cold water. Must hang on. Must hang on."

By the time we could catch up, since our yelling did no good, Cisco was on top of the ewe in the middle of the creek while Patches was on the banks barking. The sheep was dazed and soggy, neck high in water, backed up to the bank. I've told this story before, so to get to the end quickly, Annie became the singing nurse and I became the reluctant vet. I kept the wound treated with antiseptic until it healed, watched for flies and sprayed repellent, gave a round of antibiotic shots, and ended up with a ewe that was deaf, a sad reminder of our beginning foray into farm life.

Some years have passed since that horrifying first week. I don't call the vet to tend our sheep. The ewes will fetch $50 at the auction and a vet call starts at $125. I keep my Betadine antiseptic, my sterile gloves, and my Raising Sheep book in places I can find them easily and fast. Luckily sheep don't often have wounds (you know about anyway) through all that wool and mostly they are alive or dead and not much in between. I can deal with hoof rot and worming, but have been less successful with fly strike which I have only had to deal with twice. The reality is, it would probably be more humane to shoot the animal than deal with maggots eating at their flesh because, while I cured one, the other died right as I asked Greg to get the gun.

The chickens, the turkeys, the geese, and the peacock don't see the vet either. The first time the chickens started molting in the winter I thought they had some dread disease and started asking questions of my neighbors. Once it became apparent this "disease" was seasonal and the feathers grew back, I relaxed. I just thought it odd the birds would lose all their feathers at the coldest period of the year.

The dogs and cats are almost never under my care, unless it is to give medicine or check for fleas. There is something about allowing animals to sit on your lap or sleep on the bed (cats only...dogs only sneak on the couch) that makes it difficult to then hold them down for a shot. I even leave trimming of toe nails to our daughters since I don't want to be known as that "lady who quicked me and made my toes bleed". I also don't want to get bitten. I hold the head and jaws; the girls trim as quickly as they can.

The horses aren't quite so lucky in terms of shots, although talk about a reluctant vet. The needle used for a horse looks way too big even for an animal of that size. How could it not hurt? But, I am learning to give shots when necessary...and my friends aren't available to do it for me... because it is what people do in the country. Damn! I have had lessons from the vet and I have had lessons from my neighbors, but each time it's like a whole new experience. My solution: I buy an orange and practice on it until the syringe is filled with orange juice! Hold the needle like this, press this hard, oops too hard, oops not hard enough, try again, now you have it.

Tater, our bulky Quarterhorse, did look at me the other day when I had to administer an ungodly amount of antibiotics, as if he felt something. Did he? Did I do the injection correctly? Hopefully he will forget the experience just as I forget in between times. In this case, amnesia is a blessing.

Oh, yeah, and the orange? I used it in a dinner recipe that night.

Photo: Tater sleeping in the orchard last summer after a hard day of shots that day!

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2008 Scottie Jones
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