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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Daily Dose of Ducks & Chickens

We have had quite a bit of poultry drama lately! First, poor Dean the duck has a really nasty eye infection. That's him in the front - I'm not sure how well you can tell with a photo of this size, but his eye is really messed up.

We went to the vet on Tuesday and got some ointment to put on his eyes three times a day (only one is messed up right now; hopefully it stays that way). Dean has been surprisingly good about being caught and medicated; what a sweet boy. The vet said that it could be an infection he caught from the chickens, and that it would be a good idea to house them separately. I had already been considering this, since the ducks and the chickens fight occasionally, and I want them to feel safe and relaxed when they are penned up for the night... so we are going to add on to our poultry compound, with a separate enclosure for the ducks to stay in at night. I just hope his eye gets better; there's still a chance the eye might not make it. Matt was making jokes about tiny eye patches - I feel too sorry for the poor little guy to joke much, but it does make for a pretty silly mental image.

On to the chickens... Not to be outdone by those silly little ducks, Greta the chicken (aka No Toes) has decided to add some stress and confusion to our lives as well. This is the fifth day in a row that she has disappeared all day, and she even spent one full night out as well. I guess that means she has a nest somewhere. Our yard is totally fenced, but part is open lawn and part is pretty heavily wooded... I guess she went into the woods somewhere and made a nest.

The 'don't breed or buy while homeless animals die' philosophy is near and dear to my heart, and I really don't care to have a bunch of baby chicks because (a) I don't want to have to find homes for them; I'm too particular and probably nobody would be good enough so we'd end up having to keep them all, (b) we don't have room for that many more chickens, and (c) even if we did, I feel like we should use that space for already-existing birds, not bring new ones into the world.

That being said, I feel surprisingly guilty and conflicted about trying to keep Greta from incubating her eggs (by penning her up at night) - she is such a loner, and she doesn't seem bonded to any of the other chickens. When they all head out for the day in their little pack, she just goes off by herself and does her own thing. The other three hens have lived together for a long time, and maybe they see Greta as an interloper, or maybe they shun her because of her lack of toes, or maybe she's just an independent gal. Whatever the reason, she seems lonely and isolated, and I have this perception that she's determined to sit on her nest come hell or high water because she wants to build her own little family. And that's sweet. And sad.

I know it's the right thing to do to keep her in at night, both for her own safety and to prevent unwanted chickie babies, but it makes me feel like a big meanie head. Of course, if she just refuses to come back again, like she did the other night, then I suppose it's out of our hands... I wonder how much time the eggs can spend not being sat on and still incubate?

1 comment:

Vegan Girl said...

Goodness so much going on there. "Can't we all just get along" is what comes to mind. I feel sorry for the loner hen. She would probably be the one I spoiled the most. But how do you spoil a chicken? We kind of have similar things going on here, one of my cats and one of my dogs are always at each others throats.