Sunday, 12 September 2010

Sick sheep and hens that swop eggs

The babes are doing well out in the sheep's paddock, but mum is not. Last night she was tottery on her legs, after being a tad on the mopey side all day. Not sure if she is missing her chums who were out in the field across the lane as per normal, or whether she is having the equivalent of 'baby blues'. Oh these steep steep learning curves re the animals!

And the interaction between her and me changes as well. For the first day it was as if her and me were pulling together to get her twins moving in life. Then she detached from me, and became a ewe with her young. Last night she was forlorn, her eyes saying 'I'm not feeling too good'. So I gave her a rub on her head to say I was here and would do all I could, meanwhile the two lambs frolicked about at her feet. Crikey but this smallholding lark can be hard on the emotions!

In the Land of the Chicken Hut, all is well. Apart from the fact that in the middle of the hut two speckled hens have decided to make themselves two nests side by side. Into those nests they have laid eggs, plus being donated four others from Sarah down the lane's chickens. Not sure whose eggs are whose though, as every time I check the nests, when the hens are off having a quick feed, the nests do not have the same numbers of eggs in, although the total always remains seven. It would seem that they swop eggs with each other. Bless. They sit in the same position for at least twenty three hours fifty five minutes of each day, all fluffed up, not moving, just keeping those eggs warm. 

Meanwhile the White Cockerel is doing his job as king of his girls, looking after them, mounting them when necessary, telling all in the neighbourhood that this is his patch. He is a grand little cockerel. But the Black Cockerel is now getting bigger, although not being a trouble. I thought that these first arrivals (three black chickens, one bare necked chicken) were going to be trouble, and they are. They refuse to go to bed at night, sitting in the fig tree until I hassle them with my mop. They eat the pot plants, which none of the others do. They remain aloof from us, not interacting with me and Hubs, nor Bools and Gus. It as if they are in their own world, a world that we are excluded from. 

This is not so with the others. For instance, last night I was sitting out front, enjoying the late afternoon sun, and swinging round the corner came White Cockerel and some of his harem, looking to see what I was up to. At least one of them is always keeping an eye on us. This makes us feel that they are interactive with our world. The same as the sheep keep an eye on us, watching our movements whether they are out in their field, or in the Paddock. The same for the pigs. But not those two black Gascon chickens and the Transylvanian bareneck (the fourth Gascon was a cockerel so had to be recycled.) We wait to see how the remaining Gascon cockerel gets on with White Cockerel. I noticed today that he was shepherding the Transylvanian away from the main flock, so perhaps he is the one preventing the other two from being in with rest. Perhaps that is why he doesn't want to roost inside the Hut at night. Tough! In he goes, always the last, normally with my mop up his bum! A thought: perhaps that's why he isn't fussed about me either!

Just checked the new mum, and she is still lying down but chewing the cud, at least that's what I think you call their digestive system's need to push the food through the mouth a second time. The two lambs have what look like dangly bits hanging from their abdomens, therefore they are males. This means that they will have to be recyled next year.  Felt like I wanted to go into her sectioned-off part of the barn and give her a hug to say 'Keep going'. But can't. Nature must take its course, the same as the recycling of the grown lambs also has to take its course next year. 

Off into my day now. Hubs has just started the tractor up, probably waking up all the neighbours as well. It makes a fearful din, this new tractor of ours, but we feel blessed that we have it here. I think we are shifting more hay bales. Hey ho! And I must go and check on yet another pot of figs, cooking gently away in the kitchen. Then its off to pick up more apple drops along the lane, and a couple of more bags of acorns, but that is after I go do hay bale work. 

30 minutes later: had a look in at our mum and my instincts said 'Not good'. Phonecall to Sarah down the lane (at La Maison de Chameaux) and up she came, still in her PJ's, for a recce. Said lambs were looking dehydrated, although still prancy, said she thought her teats looked too full and that they shouldn't be if the milk was flowing through to the lambs OK. She thought mastitus. 

Phonecall to the vet, and out he came fifteen minutes later. Mastitus it was. Off with the vet Sarah (by now in day-gear) went, to get the bottles and teats. We have the milk formula left here by the vet. Meanwhile, Lester managed to get five more bales of hay off the field, single handed, and got them in position round the Paddock. At least we are in advance of the hay requirement for the winter. Most other things we are always one step behind ourselves, trying to catch up. Eventually, I suppose, we will have trained ourselves to be organised in regards to the routine of living a smallholders life. That, I fear, is some distance off given the fact that in most things we are total novices apart from certain country skills learnt by both of us when young. Ah well, at least we will be able to recognise mastitus should it occur again, and at least some of the hay is placed in readiness for the winter ahead. 

So all other tasks put on hold for the rest of the day, as I learn to bottle feed our two young lambs. By the way, in case you wanted to know, sheep 'ruminate' (re: 'chewing the cud' mentioned earlier). 

And two hours later: Sarah has taken the lambs down to her place. Her experience is such that she will hopefully be able to bring the lambs through the next day or so until we can pick up the pace with the feeding of them: they need feeding every hour for today, tonight, and tomorrow. Mum is now wailing her loss over in the field. Because of the mastitus she won't be able to feed her babies and they can't be kept with her while they are being fed because the logistics of doing so is beyond us. I feel her unhappiness, but I would suspect that she is a little relieved not to have two mouths bashing away at her very sore teats. 

Got to rush off now and get ahead of myself for when the lambs come back here, probably tomorrow evening or Tuesday morning. Hope your day is a good one, and for whatever learning curve you are on that you have someone special who helps you through the experience. 

Sending a big thank you to Sarah, and also to Emma, her helper.


Roz said...

I do hope she settles in well and gets better. They seem to get over loss much better than us humans do. I'm looking forward to seeing some chick photos!

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Mastitis is a bad one, hope the treatment came in time. It usually works very quickly when successful. I have watched cows who look like they are almost dead, give them a drip, a shot of antibiotics and before the drip is finished they are on their feet as if nothing has happened!! Problem always is as you have now discovered is rearing the young!

Hope all goes well and the chickens sort out which eggs belong to who. Diane

Anonymous said...

Best of luck Vera, sounds like some very busy days ahead for you, keep your pecker up!

French Fancy... said...

Aw, hope your sheep gets over her soreness soon and has the lambs back with her

Vera said...

Roz: If eggs are fertile chicks should be arriving soon, we think! Mum sheep better but cross with us because we are having to milk her!

Diane: Since this was my first experience of mastitis I missed the very early warning signs, nevertheless the ewe has made a fast recovery. As you say, getting young animals raised is a megga prob! Ah well, better that sitting in front of a TV!

FF: Sheep's udders still sore but she is up on her feet. Lambs can't go back so are being bottle fed. Difficult to see them separated, but couldn't do anything else on this occasion.

Ondine: Thanks for the encouragement. I must admit to having a tear last night and indulged in two minutes of 'I can't do this farming lark' thoughts. But a bit of comfort eating in the form of a plate of egg and chips soon sorted me out!