Sunday, May 07, 2017

When You Have A Wonky Neck Spring Rock Is The Place To Be

George with just a slight case of Wry Neck
It's been a while since I've posted a story and I'm sorry to have neglected my documenting of Spring Rock happenings.  I've just been busy with other things for a while. You mustn't imagine that in the time I've been silent the menagerie has finally decided to behave itself. That just never happens.  Our latest addition is a case in point.

Isis, our little brown duck started it all when she hatched two eggs and left a third egg with the duckling inside, making a little hole in the shell and then stopping because the egg was left to go cold.  I helped him out of the shell and while he was alive, there wasn't much to go before he wasn't.  I did what I usually do with cold, limp, baby poultry - I popped him down my bra and carried on with my day.  

This system of reviving almost dead or very weak chickens and ducklings is tried and true in my case. When Justin was in high school one of his Agriculture assignments was to incubate and raise a clutch of eggs.  He came home with two dozen eggs and a school incubator and set to work, documenting each day in a diary.  For a long while entries were very boring - Monday - turned eggs, checked temperature. Tuesday -  turned eggs, checked temperature.  Wednesday -  turned eggs, checked temperature and so on.  Then one day things got interesting as the chickens began to make their way out of the shells and scrambled to the heat lamp set up for their enjoyment.  In the end all the eggs hatched and 24 chickens could be seen basking under the lamp when not eating their little heads off. One little late comer was weaker than the rest and kept being pushed out from under the heat into the cold, dark badlands of the brooding box.  I was in charge of chicken care while Justin was at school and I kept popping the chicken back under the heat, while giving the rest of the brood a good talking to about kindness to weaker siblings.  Then Justin brought the little, limp scrap to me and said he though he was going to have one failure in his brood. I took the ball of limp fluff and scrabbled around inside my shirt for a little while until I had the fluff ball firmly ensconced in my bra cup.  Justin gave me a shocked look and said, "Well I'm not writing that up in my diary!"  How he explained the survival of the fluff ball I don't know but survive it did and after two days of inhabiting my bra was ready to go back to less crowded accommodation with its siblings.  We won't even go into the problems that occurred when most of the brood turned out to be roosters and the school blithely told Justin they were his now.

Anyway back to the ducklings - quickly so I don't dwell on trying to re-home 20 roosters who all hated each other.  I tried re-introducing The Scrap as I named the duckling to its mother but she vowed and declared that she only hatched two ducklings and no-one was going to foist a third responsibility on her thank you very much. She was a first time mother and people should be hustling around to support her and nurture her, not foisting questionable ducklings on her and upsetting the order of things just as she was getting the hang of this mothering business.  So I had a duckling.  A lonely duckling.  I put out the call to Justin, who is now married to a beautiful young woman named Savannah.  Justin and/or Savannah seem to be able to source lots of weird and wonderful things when I need them.  This time Savannah's mum came to my aid with two little Silkie chickens.  She had a backyard full of chickens at the time due to lots of broody hens and great hiding places for clutches of eggs. I belong to a poultry Facebook group where someone had mentioned the wing method of sexing very young chickens.  if you are interested in the process. I sent Justin the same link and left him to identify two girls for me.

Two chickens arrived just before our big family camping trip.  All three of our children, their spouses, our eight grandchildren and Graeme and I went away for a weekend camping trip. I camp in a caravan with an en-suite, but I still call it camping despite what my more rugged children call it.  Of course the duckling and chickens had to come along as well because who was going to look after their needs if they stayed home.  We packed baby poultry, cat litter for the bottom of their box, their heat lamp and enough food to last them a month and set off.  Graeme and I drove to the camping site with the sounds of little peeps coming from the back seat.  The little group was a resounding success with all my grandchildren and the children camping in a spot near us.  First thing in the morning or at various times during the day when we were in camp, one or other of my grandchildren would wander in to the caravan to say good morning, or ostensibly to pass the time of day with me.  Said grandchild pretended it was to visit with me but after the greeting his or her eyes would start to wander around the van.  I'd point towards the en-suite and say, "They're down there."  And that was the last I saw of that grandchild for a while, unless I too headed for the en-suite.

The Gang of Three as I named them ended up being named by my four granddaughters - my three older grandsons arrived too late to have a say in the matter and Elliott being two wasn't sure what naming chickens and duckling was all about.  They ended up Cupcake, Georgina (known as George) and Daisy (the duckling).  George had an out of control top knot of feathers and my daughter in law Frances said that she looked like she was wearing an ushanka, (one of those Russian fur hats) and wanted to name her Kiev, but I vetoed that very quickly.  I wasn't having any chicken of mine named after a tasty chicken dish.  I mentioned the fact that we didn't know if the duckling was a girl, and if it was a boy the drake would have to live with the embarrassment of being named Daisy.  The girls didn't care so Daisy it had to be.  I think the Gang of Three enjoyed the camping trip as much as all the family.  It was declared a big success and everyone wanted to repeat the event sometime soon in the future.  I pointed out that I couldn't guarantee any livestock on the next trip and while there were moans of disappointment from those under the age of 15 it was decided we'd still camp together again.

Sadly Daisy didn't make it.  Once we got home she started to fail and no amount of tender care worked.  George and Cupcake kept on thriving, enjoying the heat from the desk lamp, learning to fly out of their box and sit on my bed (well flap madly while they climbed the side of the box anyway - they weren't very aerodynamic).  We kept them in the bedroom away from the cats you see.  I'd go into the room to check their feed or water or whatever only to find them wandering around the top of our bed, trying to peck the design off the top.  Steps were taken to reduce their free range time and life went on.  

One morning Cupcake's head began to head south.  At first she just had a quizzical look with her head slightly listing to the right.  As each day passed her head moved further and further down until her neck was bent and an unbelievable angle.  I tried massaging her neck, but the slightest thing seemed to panic her and make the spasms worse.  It was obvious she was suffering and the only thing I could think of was that she had a brain tumour.  I asked Graeme to dispatch her (because I'm a coward and can't do those sorts of deeds myself).  

Two days after Graeme accomplished the terrible deed George's head started to list to the right.  I decided that two brain tumours within a couple of days was very unlikely and did what I should have done in the first place.  I Googled the problem.  The answer came back emphatically.  George had Wry Neck Syndrome.  Wry Neck results in the poor little chicken's neck twisting around until its head is upside down, almost between its legs.  It's caused by one of her parents having a Vitamin E deficiency and despite the fact that the chicken pellets I was giving them was supposed to supply all the vitamins and minerals the chickens need it seemed George lacked this one important vitamin.  The recommendation was to dose her with Selenium and Vitamin E three times daily.   It took a bit more research to find out the actual doses of each but once we had those we got to work.  The Selenium helps the chicken absorb the maximum amount of the Vitamin E in case you were wondering.

George, by the way, was now an only chicken.  We've been here before haven't we? Thankfully Savannah's mum came to the rescue once again with three Silkie cross chickens this time.  Justin performed the wing check once again but the chickens were slightly older and it's harder to tell as they age.  We ended up with two hens and a ring in rooster (making five roosters in residence at the moment!).

Back to where we left George and her wonky neck.  I was just about to go to hospital for an overnight stay to have my toe operated on.  It was then two weeks of keeping my foot up, walking on it as little as possible and three weeks on crutches (not to mention three months so far in a walking cast, but that's just me grizzling here).  So for a few days Graeme was in charge of getting George's neck straight up and where it belonged.  Hand feeding and watering were also involved because George couldn't manage to feed herself with her head upside down. I was a bit worried because as I've mentioned in previous posts, Graeme is not an animal person.  I imagine neck rubs were few and far between but George and Graeme soldiered on.  Graeme struggled through and actually bonded with George during these early days of medicating her while I was laid up.  

We dosed George up as per internet instructions and after nearly three weeks of twice daily dribbles of Vitamin E oil down her little beak and the addition of B1 once I found a few articles recommending that as well, she came good.  I was once again able to pick on her top knot and make such comments as she looked like she was wearing a pom pom up there without feeling like I was picking on a poor defenceless, sick little chicken.   

According to all recorded data that I can find George should have gone on to have a neck in the upright and controllable position from then on, but George hasn't read the data.  If she doesn't get her daily dose of Vitamin E (one capsule worth of oil these days thankfully) and a neck rub, her neck begins to head in a southerly direction.  

George in the full trows of Wry Neck

Graeme is aghast at the thought of a chook that will need to be given Vitamin E every day for possibly the rest of her life, but in his usual stoic manner has accepted that being married to me means owning and caring for weird pets.  I've tried feeding George the food types that are rich in Vitamin E, and while she enjoys her treats of spinach, avocado and sunflower seeds (the health food ones - her beak is too little to deal with the outer husk of bird seed quality), hand-ground-by-me almonds and such, she still needs the capsule or we're back to having to turn our own heads upside down to talk to her.  Thankfully she's very tame and sits on my lap during the medicating and enjoys a neck rub afterwards.  I have a photo taken a while back when she was slightly smaller.  She fell asleep on my lap during the neck rub and I was stuck sitting on the lounge chair until she work up.  George would raise her head for a second, look around groggily and then go back to sleep, just to get my hopes up that I'd be able to get up and go about my business.  I know I could have got up at any stage, but she looked so comfortable and soft and fluffy lying there dreaming chooky dreams.  I couldn't disturb her could I?

One thing's for sure, George has made sure she's secured a place in any future camping expeditions, along with a large supply of Vitamin E capsules. 

George taking a little nap after a neck rub.