Vale BeeGee

The Vale posts are always hard to write but especially so this time. My wonderful BeeGee was euthanased on Monday morning. She had been making so much progress. We had got both the infections under control and in fact her ear infection was completely gone when the vet checked it Monday. But on Sunday she began to go backwards as far as progress. It became clear that the infection had spread to the one place we had no chance of fixing it, her brain.

For the past two weeks BeeGee was the center of our world. Looking after her took the number one place on our to-do list. We became masters of finding a solution to whatever problem was happening at that moment. The Other Half built a Raspberry Pi thing to do the camera stuff we needed, so we could have an eye on her without having to disturb her rest time. I made many bowls of chicken crumble mash, making them the right consistency for easy eating.

BeeGee has taught me so much about myself. I had no idea I was even capable of this level of chicken handling. While the outcome has not been what we wanted, I would not take back one minute of that precious time I got to spend with my BeeGee. Even cleaning up her poops has been a joy. I’m feeling a bit lost without her.

When she was a well chicken out in the flock, she loved all the treats but especially lactose free yoghurt and watermelon. She had gained a high position in the flock and was much loved by the other girls. She was never once mean to another chicken, even the Mean Girl Pekins who would have deserved it. She was a kind girl with loads of personality and a beautiful spirit.

As I always post when this happens – there are 7 other chickens in the yard for whom life continues. They live minute by minute, sucking the most joy out of each and every moment, whether it is a dirt bath, finding a bug, eating a treat from the humans.. all we can do is love them while they’re here, protect them the best we can from predators, know when it is time to let them go, and remember them when they are gone.

We will miss you, BeeGee. We loved our special moments with you. We will remember.

Thank you for being such a great chook. Thank you for fighting so hard to stay with us, you very nearly won your fight, and you won our hearts along the way. Now you are safe, warm, free from pain and hanging out with our loved girls at Rainbow Bridge, where I am sure they serve endless plates of lactose free yoghurt.

Vale Pets

The BeeGee

At what point does one decide their chicken is on the mend? Is it when you place your chicken on a towel on a chair while you run to grab something and when you return you discover your chicken has decided to take off, fly down, and run over to visit with their chicken friends who are on the other side of the shadecloth? They had a lovely chicken chat.

Is it when this chicken decides it will prefer to keep the large plant pot in between itself and yourself? When you have to chase her to pick her back up? Or does one want to keep from thinking this in case of jinxing her? I’m a bit superstitious like that.

In some ways all of this progress stuff is a very excellent sign. Sure, she is not anywhere near ready to rejoin her flock. When she walks she is still a little off balance. But this time last week she was not even able to stand. She does not seem to want to eat on her own but she will eat when we offer her food held at the precise location most convenient for pecking.

More than anything else, I want BeeGee to get back to living her optimal chicken life. Having said that, these moments I am getting to spend with her, where she is sitting on my lap eating chicken crumble mash out of a bowl.. these moments are very special for me.

The hours – quite literally – that she has spent sleeping on me after a feed while I gently trace the patterns in her feathers.. the way her gold feathers reflect the light in the evening, these are all memories I am storing in my memory banks and keeping.

For now, I’m just planning to enjoy these moments. I have a lot of hope that she will get back to her normal chicken life. It may take a bit longer than any of us would like. We’ve done everything possible for her and we will continue to do so. The rest of it is up to her.

I’m not going to bore you with too many updates – non-chicken posts for this next week on the blog are already scheduled. Until she is back with her flock you may get a quick Saturday post.

Chickens

Sick Chicken Update

This has been by my side pretty much everywhere I have gone since Friday last week. I do not know how we would do any of this without the video camera. It allows us to keep an eye on her without having to disturb her all the time. At night it is infra-red, so we can see her in the dark.

On Friday I spoke to the vet from Easter Sunday as well as the exotic animals vet, who wanted to see her at her next available appointment which was Saturday morning. I felt it was important to point out that the symptoms we were seeing on Thursday were quite different to what we saw on Sunday, where she just seemed unbalanced. Partly it is our fault for picking up on the chicken being unwell so quickly – the tell tale symptoms took more time to develop.

Saturday morning we took Beegee to the vet, who wanted to do some tests and an x-ray, she would call us in a couple of hours with any results. We returned home and energetically cleaned the delicate nirvana. I’m not good at waiting at the best of times.

The x-rays showed two different internal infections – one in the ear, and one in the last stage of the digestive tract. Either one of these on their own would be no big deal, but the two together means her chances of survival are around 30%. So we had a tough decision to make – euthanase or throw everything possible at her and see how she does.

This is never an easy decision to make. Beegee had shown me over the previous week that she is a fighter and we wanted to give her every chance, so the vet loaded her up with antibiotic injections – meaning we would not have to dose her for the next 24 hours therefore she could rest as much as possible.

Saturday evening we managed to get some good feeds into her, and she was eating beautifully. We’ve noticed she is more alert in the afternoon and evening which is not quite normal for a chicken, they usually sleep at night and you can’t really wake them up to the normal stage of chicken alert-ness.

On Sunday we focused on medication, food, and making her super comfortable. Sunday night we needed to get some good sleep, so I asked Sephyroth if he could help out by watching my chicken and letting me know if she tried to stand up AKA poop, or if anything weird happened. Above you see a screenshot I sent him so he could know what he was seeing on camera. He could message me if I needed to get up and check on her. That worked out great.

Monday we began to see some positive signs – her poops began to smell the way chicken poop should instead of OMG get that smelly thing out of here! She stood up and stayed standing up, then she took off across the room without falling over.

I spoke to the vet and gave her the link to the camera so she could see what I was seeing. She said that the standing meant we were having success on the infection in the digestive area. It did make life slightly harder for us, because we needed to find a way to best support her in sleeping and standing. An extra rolled up towel mostly did the trick.

Monday night around 11:30 we went in to check on her and she was looking a lot better suddenly. The ear infection was making her tilt her head and neck to the side – this straightened right up. When I checked on the camera feed about 2:30am, I was so freaked out by what I saw..

Beegee had decided she needed to be “up” on a roost. This was an incredibly good sign.

So we both got up and created her a roost with a piece of wood sitting underneath her, like she would be used to in the coop within the “nest” we had made her which was supporting her neck and head. We slept a lot better with the knowledge that if she did poop, she would not be sitting in it, which was the thing keeping me awake the most. Once a chicken is settled on the roost they usually stay there all night.

Tuesday has generally been a day of medication, feeding and trying to get her to stay in her special chicken roost bed. She is making progress. We are by no means out of the woods yet. The biggest concern is that the ear infection might spread into the brain, and that she would be unlikely to recover from.

We have hope, and for now that is enough. :) But just so you know, I am a bit sleep deprived and not around much, and I have a lot of unread posts in my feed reader. I will catch up eventually. :)

Chickens

In The Sick Tent

For 99% of their lives, our chickens have it pretty darn good. They are regularly spoiled with healthy treats that they love, everything from tuna to tomato to lactose free yoghurt to blueberries and watermelon and many other treats in between.

They have a large chicken pen where they can safely roam. They have a great chicken coop plus an indoor run where they can hang out if it rains, and an area underneath that which mostly remains dry where they can dust bathe even if it is raining. They have food and water inside the indoor run itself, plus several choices of water to drink from in the large chicken pen.

Most days they get to “free range” a grassed area, garden beds, and hidden away safely from most prying eyes, they have their own special leaf litter dustbathing extravaganza.

And if all of *that* wasn’t enough, they have two owners – Snoskred who loves to observe them and notes when one of them is Not Feeling Great, and The Other Half who grew up a country boy and is able to handle them very deftly when required, plus he is technically crafty and can create solutions when they need them. We have needed the latter this week and Snoskred has begun to learn more handling skills herself.

On Good Friday I began to notice something a bit off about BeeGee. She was not her usual speedy self, and seemed to be having some trouble with reaching the ground to peck. It almost seemed like her crop was swollen – the crop is the area all food goes into once it is swallowed. It is kind of a chicken fuel holding tank, before it moves into the stomach.

Most of the time when something goes wrong with a chicken the best thing is to observe. As long as they are eating and drinking and pooping and flocking, many issues do resolve of their own accord. It can be difficult as a chicken owner to know when to step in, especially when your girls are a bit flighty and catching them causes stress on its own.

The next morning – Saturday – the swelling had mostly gone down and she ate her food like a normal chicken. As the day went on, however, we began to notice that swelling again, and when I took them a treat of tomato in the afternoon she did not show a lot of interest. I figured some lactose free yoghurt might be a good idea, and she certainly did not miss out on any of that.

My general rule is, as long as they are eating, drinking and pooping, we observe and don’t intervene – and if we do have to examine the chicken more closely in that instance, we would do it at night time once all the girls get up on the roost and are less.. upset about humans because they are half asleep. So after the yoghurt, we’re back to observing her some more. There are some exceptions to this rule but this post is going to be long enough. Another time.

On Easter Sunday, she was not at all interested in the scratch mix, and I could see she was pretending to be a chicken – pecking at the scratch but not actually picking any of it up. That decided our next course of action – catch her, put her in a carrier and head to the vet.

Of course it had to be Easter Sunday, so this would be an Up Money vet visit. I’m firmly of the belief that you buy it, you bought it, you take care of it whatever it costs. We were not sure what the outcome would be or even if our well versed in chickens vet would be available – sadly she was not and the vet on duty admitted she knew a little but not a lot. As a chicken owner that can happen fairly often – many times we’ve done our research and we know more about what could be happening than the vet we were seeing.

Even if you do get lucky and have a vet with loads of chicken info, chances of getting a solid diagnosis are pretty slim. The vet did find a temperature variation with one leg, which could mean there is something going on in that leg. Chickens do a lot of jumping and they can sometimes injure themselves. But it could also be a host of other things, everything from ear mites to a stroke. She was off balance, that was for sure.

We came up with a plan of treat with anti-inflammatory, isolate, syringe feed if necessary, and see how she does. We also included in this plan to dose all the chickens with Ivomec which treats external and internal parasites aka worms, mite and lice. This is something we do from time to time, though it has been a while since we’ve done it.

We do have a zip up tent we can use for isolation. So on arrival home the tent was set up with a roost, a feeding and water station, and a cardboard base for easy cleaning.

I personally find isolating a chicken to be Tough Work, not for them, but for *me*. It is really difficult when a girl cannot be a part of the flock, out in the world living her best chicken life. If you isolate for too long they will lose their place in the flock and have to fight for it all over again, so you want them to be in the best shape possible before you re-introduce but it is difficult to know what shape they are really in when they have a small area to reside in.

BeeGee is an incredibly sweet girl though she has always been of the opinion that humans should stay a respectable distance away from her. Since becoming ill she has decided humans are not so bad, and is quite happy to sit on us and be given medication or food. During her sick tent time thus far, we have had many discussions – she talks in chicken which I can speak. Of course I have no idea what I am saying, but she does not seem to mind.

By Easter Monday we were able to get some fluids into her each time we gave her medication, and she was eating watermelon, tuna, sweet corn, and soft chicken crumble mash.

One minute you think things are going well and she is eating up a storm which is always a great sign, the next minute you are not so sure, the following minute you think something really terrible and unfixable is wrong with her due to a new symptom you spot or – warning tmi – a not so great poop. We think the medication is the cause of that.

On the Tuesday after Easter, we were starting to feel like she needed a bit more space to move around, so The Other Half looked for a large box while at work, and we set up Sick Chicken Palace. This box is huge!

First we laid in a plastic table cloth. Chickens can be messy- everything from spilling water to food to pooping – and we wanted to protect the base cardboard.

Really, there are only two things missing in here – a dustbathing box, and some turf, and you would have everything a chook needs in one convenient spot. And considering that she might be here long term, we may well add those things in.

Wednesday she was eating and drinking on her own. She was still not very steady on her feet, but she was now able to reach the ground and peck and eat.

In the afternoon I went out and sat her on my lap and offered her all manner of treats but the only thing she wanted was chicken crumble and water, and she ate a fair bit of that which made me very happy. After she finished eating I sat there with her for an hour, with her falling asleep and me supporting her head with my hand. I’m getting very attached to this chicken by now.

Update –

Things took a turn for the worse over the weekend but it is a bit of a long story, for another blog post. Right now on Sunday evening, Beegee is resting in a smaller box indoors and we are keeping a very close eye on her mostly by a video camera stream so we don’t have to bother her too often in between her regular feedings and waterings.

We do have a diagnosis – it is an ear infection, plus another infection internally. If it were just one of those, there would be a good potential outcome but the two together makes it less certain.

Not much sleep has been had in Snoskredland the last two nights, we’re both pretty exhausted. This chicken is a fighter and we will do everything we can to help her win. She is comfortable, she is receiving antibiotics and pain medication which is helping her and she has everything she needs close by plus two doting humans to attend to her every need.

Please keep a good thought for my lovely Beegee. :) I will update on Wednesday.

Chickens

The Day Of The Lizard

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Many days now if we are not planning to go somewhere, we put the cat door in the doorway first thing in the morning so the cats can experience the Delicate Nirvana anytime they feel like. The cat door usually stays in right until bedtime. One day there was a large lizard which was discovered by Happy. She chased it around the BBQ. Luckily I was sitting out there and was able to intervene fairly quickly.

That lizard was smart enough to find a new home. But Happy kept looking for it, for days and days. Not unlike Dudo and Moose over in Spain, who have an obsession with balcony birds.

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A couple of days later I ventured out into the Nirvana to discover Happy was obsessed with one corner of the Nirvana. I soon worked out why – a new lizard friend had arrived. I placed a shoe there hoping the lizard would crawl into it.. and that almost worked. But in the end any time I would approach the lizard would run back into the hole under the drain pipe.

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So then I thought, maybe if I fill the hole with paper towel, it will look for another exit – this hole has an exit on the other side of the nirvana as well, though it had a couple of leaves kinda sorta blocking it. This failed on every level – it failed to prevent Happy from being obsessed, and it failed to prevent the lizard from pushing the paper towel out. So after a while I gave up on that and just put the shoe back.

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This nearly worked again, because Happy had lost interest and moved to sleep on a chair. I went inside to empty and fill the dishwasher and I heard a scuffle so rushed back out to find this..

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The lizard is up on top of the drain pipe. Happy is waiting patiently and watching. Lucky for me, The Other Half arrived home soon after this, and talked the lizard into leaving.

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But Happy spent a few days watching the hole near the drainpipe, just in case. :)

Delicate Nirvana, kitties

Some Like It Hot

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Last weekend was super hot time in NSW. While the weather station claimed it was 35C outside – 25C inside.. (95F/77F)

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The small temperature unit in the delicate nirvana was telling a different story.. (41C/105.8F)

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The chooks were dustbathing in the shady garden and completely ignoring the fridge-cold water plus an icecube I had just placed in their enclosure. My chickens are strange that way. If you tip out their slightly dusty water they’ll beeline to drink it and ignore the freshly clean water you replace it with. If you give them cold water, they will drink the warm water sitting there while eyeing your cold water with great suspicion. Especially if there is an ice cube in it. They do not understand an ice cube.

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The kitties meanwhile were basking in the warmth of the nirvana. They LOVE it hot.

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But they also do not understand an ice cube.

kitties

Just Chilling

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The chooks got a large serving of summer fruit – this selection of cherries and watermelon cut into chook bite size pieces and blueberries was followed by some chopped up mango, too.

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This is the sedate version before the mango was given to them – they go a bit cray-cray for all these fruits but mango sends them into a clucking frenzy.

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Here is Happy who soon after this photo was taken found a lizard and chased it around the BBQ until I intervened. She is still looking for the lizard, who hopefully is finding a newer and safer home after climbing into one of my shoes until I could lock Happy away.

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Grumpy did not even stir during the lizard drama. She is far too happy sleeping here. Out of all of us I believe Grumpy most enjoys the delicate nirvana. She loves that it is mostly warm out here, that the sun warms her through the sun panels – but blocks most of the UV rays which is a very good thing considering how often she basks out here and she loves her large water container.

Snoskred Pets