Friday, June 22, 2012

Botulism Poisoning in Waterfowl

I have been accused of being too attentive to the animals entrusted to my care. I will admit that I am not one of those people that acquire animals just to corral them behind a fence and forget about them, letting them fend for themselves. You can learn a lot about animals if you take the time to observe them on a continuous basis. You can even learn their "language". For instance I know when there is something threatening in the yard by the noise my little 1 1/2 pound bantam rooster makes. Certain noises from him send me to the window or out the door to check.  It is the reason I have him. He may be small but he does all the rooster things that the big boys do including defending the girls.see story here I know when one of the hens has been cornered by one or both of the ganders after trespassing on their territory by the kind of racket the geese make. It is different from the other vocalizations they make and I have had to rescue more than one chicken who has had the misfortune of getting on their bad side. Ducks on the other hand don't have as many vocalizations as geese and chickens so I have to depend on knowing visually if something is amiss. This I have learned the hard way.

This year I decided to increased my duck flock so that I could meet the demand for duck eggs. After raising 9 ducklings and  finding homes for 4 drakes I have ended up with a total of 8 ducks. Three of them are my original girls that I got last year and the other five are new and about 3 months old. Starting about 10 days ago my young ducks started getting sick one at a time. The first time, I had stuck my head out the door to check up on everyone which always brings them running. One of my Rouen ducks was missing and he was never separated from the flock so I went looking. I found him floating on the pond barely able to move and just minutes from drowning. He was unable to lift his head out of the water and he was paddling feebly with one foot. I quickly grabbed a leaf rake and placing it under him pulled him to the edge of the pond where I could lift him out. (I was ready to go in after him if it had been necessary.)  Since I had already been through this last year  I was pretty sure I knew what was wrong with him. So into the house grabbing the "pet" towels as I went, I placed him on the kitchen island and started giving him Epsom salts water with an eye dropper. (2 Tbs. dissolved in a cup of water). You wont use all of it but this is a good amount to make. By early next morning he was recovered and ready to go out with his friends.

Now about this time you are probably wondering how I have so much time to baby sit my birds. I probably wouldn't have noticed this ducks absence if it hadn't been for an incident a few days earlier. A coyote had crept onto our property and after attempting to snatch one chicken and getting only a mouthful of feathers it successfully snagged another one on its way out. Lucy the WBG
Lucy,WBG (like Phd. for dogs)
(wanna be guardian) dog was in the house and barking like crazy and since it was one of those rare times that I decided to attempt taking a power nap it took me about 30 seconds to get up and see what she was going nuts about.  By the time I made it out the door all we found were two piles of two different colored feathers, a slightly injured and terrified chicken hiding in a bush and a dying flapping chicken at the edge of the woods where the coyote had dropped it. I didn't see the coyote but a predatory bird does not try to snatch two chickens at the same time. I am really glad Lucy wasn't outside.  I really didn't need her tangling with a wild dog. But then again maybe it wouldn't have happened if she had been there. So yes, when I found the duck I was being especially attentive to what was going on in my yard.

Botulism poisoning seems to be fast acting. Especially if you don't recognize the early signs. Often by the time you notice something is amiss it is too late to save them and if your duck or goose happens to be swimming when symptoms begin they will drown. The earlier you get to them the better your chances of saving them. That said here is a list of symptoms listed in order.

The bird starts moving slower and starts separating itself from the rest of the flock. You will question weather or not you are seeing something off in your bird.
They seem to not be able to see you when you approach them.
They will take a few steps then sit down.
They become unable to walk or walk like they are drunk.
When they sit you will notice their head starting to waver around like they are drunk. This gets much more pronounced as symptoms progress.
Eventually they are unable to raise their head progressing to laying flat with legs out behind.
Twitching and convulsing.
Inability to swallow.
Convulsing duck throws its head around. 

I have become quite expert at seeing the early symptoms because in the last week I have had 5 ducks affected and lost one. The last time I had two ducks showing symptoms at the same time and it is because I was working out in the yard that I noticed something just a little off. The sooner you get to them the faster they recover and it is much easier to get them to take the Epsom salts water. In fact they seem to actually want it and will drink out of a bowl if you find them at the very early stage. However you will need to direct their bills into the water because they don't seem to be able to see it. My last two ducks took two hours for the one that was only showing signs of blindness to 8 hours for the other one that
was beginning to stagger.

Paralyzed  flat duck

I have no idea what it is in my yard that is causing this but for now my ducks are going to stay locked up in their pasture with only an occasional supervised walk to go play in the pond. Botulism poisoning is usually caused by ingesting rotting or spoiled things such as dead animals or produce. I don't have either on my property but I have noticed an abundance of mushrooms and toadstools lately. Probably brought on by the rain we are having. The duck that got sick last year got sick at the same time almost to the day as these and it only seems to be the young ducks that are affected. Maybe they don't know enough to not eat the mushrooms. So far this week we have had no sick ducks for about 4 days and counting. Either they have learned not to eat the bad stuff or locking them in is keeping them safe. It is sad to watch them stand at the fence gazing longingly at the pond. Especially since the geese and the older ducks get to go play in it. I will let them out again when I feel comfortable doing so. I will also be watching them like a hawk.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Junuary (No This is Not a Misprint)

Once again I wake up to the sound of rain. I ask myself why I live here on days like this. It's June and the beginning of strawberry season and I was hoping to be able to pick a few flats at a local farm to put by for the winter. Every year it rains on the strawberries and every year it seems you hear a story or two about strawberry farmers worried about their crops rotting before they can harvest.  I put my rain coat on and grudgingly pull the hood up as I trudge out the door to do morning animal chores. Lucy, my golden retriever and Want a Be guardian dog, faithfully follows in my footsteps until we clear the porch then runs along the property line of my farm yard barking and searching for the interlopers that she is sure are lurking in the bushes around the perimeter of her kingdom. Most of the chickens are huddled outside their coop under the small roof covering one corner of their fenced run, the ducks happily play in the slick combination of mud and pools of water covering the rest of the run.  I am always happy that I had the fore thought to provide the chickens with that dry corner on days like today and always kick myself for not making it larger. I enter the coop and turn on the overhead light for the hens to help make up for the dreary day and open the door to the other half of the coop giving the girls access to more nesting boxes and dry room to roam among the stored feed and equipment. Outside again I empty and refill water containers in the adjoining fenced pasture and prepare to let the ducks out of the chicken run where I had tucked them in the night before to sleep in relative safety. Standing there in the quiet of the morning it occurs to me that the rain sounds like a river or creek tumbling over the leaves of the trees like a stream rushing over smooth rocks. I look up into the dripping canopy of green surrounding our property and marvel at the different shades of green mother nature has provided on this small acreage. This is the norm for this time of year in this part of the country. I look across the property to the garden fenced with the best fencing the man could get to keep the deer out and I fret about the fact that I don't have the beans planted yet. It's still a little cool and I don't want them to just rot in the ground. The bean patch has been weeded and tilled for two weeks waiting for the soil to warm.  Perhaps I will install the bean trellises today in anticipation of a warming trend. Pumpkins and cucumbers also need to be planted and in this area that means buying started plants from a nursery. We have talked about building a green house and weighed the pros and cons of the expense. I guess the $10 or $20 that I spend on started plants every year always out weighs the green house expense but oh how wonderful it would be to spend a rainy afternoon tucked away in the warmth potting up seeds and cuttings and maybe fussing with a few tomato plants. We don't intend to stay on this property so putting in a green house means leaving it for the next owner. The house will be too big when the girls go off to school and we want to build something smaller and more efficient. The  man loves to fuss with technical stuff and wants to install solar and wind power on

our fantasy property. He dreams of finding a piece of property with a stream or small river so he can build a small hydroelectric plant. Property that includes a river or stream can be expensive so that may just be part of the dream that we have to give up. Standing in the rain and watching the seasonal stream running through our property, a ditch really, I imagine a picturesque  farm with a mill wheel turning in a pond with cool dark pools of water deep enough to hide huge trout.  It's a far cry from what I am looking at but the sound of the rain helps with the fantasy.

I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest and I know there is no place more beautiful. Summers here are warm but not agonizingly so.  We are surrounded by snow capped mountains painted against a backdrop of  azure blue sky and accented with mounds of cottony white clouds and the sea is but a short walk or ride away. Winters are mild and what snow we get doesn't usually last

long. Spring is filled with blooming fruit trees accented with tulips and daffodils....and rain. My favorite season is fall. I love the harvest and the leaves turning brilliant colors against a backdrop of sky and low slung sun. Everything has a golden glow and a peace that only comes at the end of a hectic summer.
Chores finished I turn my steps and thoughts to the house.Waiting for me inside is a hot cup of coffee, the first of the day. I will make a list of things to do inside today. Bake bread, clean the forever dirty "mud room" do a load or two of laundry. All the things families need on an ongoing basis. Today I will also expand on a homesteading skill or learn a new one.

After all. Rain was invented so gardeners could do house work.

Friday, June 8, 2012

My Buddy, My Pal.

I have had one or two pictures of one of my best buddies on this blog but never really introduced her. This is Lucy. I got her when she was just a pup and she is now 10 this spring. Some times she is a royal pain but for the most part she is one of the best dogs, friend, and helper I have ever had. She wasn't always that way and in fact when she was about a year old I was seriously thinking of getting rid of her. She chased the chickens, chased the kids and nipped them, harassed the goats, peed on the carpet and would take off to see her "boy friend" Booker or her other human friend, Felix, down the road when I let her out the front door. I would get the phone call that she was visiting and they would bring her back in an hour or so. Today she is a watch dog that lets me know when someone has driven on the property, or when there is a bird fight or fright in the yard. She chases the hawks and breaks up squabbles between the geese and the chickens and keeps a watch on the whole yard. In case you didn't notice Lucy is getting a little white around the eyes and muzzle.

She is 10 years old this spring and I can't help but wonder what I am going to do without her someday. In fact thinking about it is something I can't do for very long. I have thought about getting another dog so she would have a buddy or maybe teach it to do what she does but I just can't go there. She is the princess and that's all there is to it.

I will end this post with a stranger than fiction item. Name this thing. I told the kids it was a chicken ovary.