Saturday, December 17, 2016

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Blessing of a Life With Animals

Daniel and Cammie, 2004      Copyright 2016


The following post originally appeared on my blog What I Learned from Daniel.

The post has relevance for those of us who love animals, and so I would like to call your attention to the link to the post here:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

From Rational Preparedness: What Is Myiasis ?

          Because the infection of wounds with fly larvae can be an issue for both animals and human beings, I would like to call your attention to this article, which appeared first on my blog Rational Preparedness.

Although the post was originally written for human beings, the post also gives insight as to the issues of wound infection with fly larvae for animals as well.

The post in it's entirety appears below:


                 Most people who have an interest in survival and emergency nursing believe that maggot infestation of wounds is a problem only in the Third World.  Most correctly, maggot infestation of wounds can occur absolutely anywhere in the world.   There are a wide variety of flies including Old World and New World screw worms which can cause a fatal infestation in animals and also in people.   A soldier, a homeless person, a traveling migrant, or anyone else who frequents the out of doors or a tent living situation, can develop a wound and have flies lay larva in it.  The larvae then hatch and the insects feed on moist necrotic tissue.
                 The first time I ever saw this was the time I rescued a turtle with an compression fracture of its shell.  Flies had laid larva in the compression fracture area before I had encountered it. Once the infestation was established, not even the vet could not save the poor creature.    On a farm we see this occasionally with elderly dying animals. especially those who are no longer able to swat flies or in those who are in in multi-system failure. Even though curing the issue might not save them in the long term, it will promote their comfort. Make no mistake, some animals and some humans can die from such infestations, even when whomever is treating them finally gets a handle on the primary cause for their health problem.Infection with fly larvae can be an important cause of mortality for some.

                  Occasionally, nursing homes are fined when maggots are detected in bedsores. This is the reason that restaurants as well as nursing homes often use a blue wall device which electrocutes flies.

                    There are some harrowing accounts of soldiers from the first world war who were caught in no man's land for several days with open fractures. By the time the men were retrieved, their wounds were filled with maggots.  Such men had a 75% chance of mortality when discovered in this manner.  The Civil War also had its share of deaths from this issue.

                       In later years physicians used sterile maggots bred in labs to clean wounds with large amounts of necrotic tissue, however these are specially bred and fairly innocuous  types and the entire process is watched very carefully.

                    Myiasis is the medical term for such infestations. It is pronounced as if written my-eye-a-sis.

There are a variety of different classes of infections of this type:

1. The first one is a nosocomial myiasis.   Nosocomial always means hospital acquired or acquired during the course of receiving medical care.  (An example of this would be the bedsore with nyiasis encountered by the nursing home patient as I mentioned earlier.)    Hospitals take great steps to avoid flies for this reason.

2.  A cutaneous myiasis is also possible.   This is an infection of this kind within the skin. This is far more common in tropical regions, but it can occur almost anywhere in the world.
3. Infections of the eye, or Opthalmomyiasis can also occur.
4. Such infections may also occur in other body orifices, such as nose, ears and occasionally mouths. The urinary tract and the intestine may also be infected, particularly when someone ingested larva in food or drink.
5. In animals, injections of Ivermectin and Dectomax can be used to kill the invading agent.  Although this is done in animals often, Ivermectin can cause liver enzyme increases and is rarely used in human beings, although it is known to work, particularly in Africa where it has often been used in those with helminthic eye infections.  In human beings, a 1% topical solution may be used, particularly when the wound is near the eye. Stromectol is one of the brand names of this drug when used in human beings.
6. Improved personal hygiene and better handling of trash can also improve the likelihood of not contracting such an infection.
7. Occasionally antibiotics of certain types may help with secondary bacterial infection, but will not help against the invasion of these larvae. 
8. It is possible simply to cover the wound with generous amounts of vaseline, choking off the larvae. They will slough off when dead by themselves in about 5-8 weeks.  Rarely, a physician will surgically remove them, but this is often not the best course, and leaving them to slough off may be the safest course after thick vaseline application.    Theoretically, vegetable oil or thick mayonnaise could be used, although I would be concerned that food substances may attract other flies.

How such an infection progresses depends largely upon the species of fly and worm that invades the wound.  There are some as mentioned in the cutaneous version above that afflict intact skin.
Infections of all these types may lead to septicemia and to death.

Of course, the most prudent course with regard to Myiasis is PREVENTION.

When someone in your party is injured, wounds should be bandaged when possible. They should stay indoors until the wound has almost healed.   Badly injured people in wilderness situations should be in the most solid and clean structure you have, away from food which might attract flies.  Building this patient a "net bubble" as is often done with children sleeping in parts of Africa in order to avoid malaria, may also be beneficial.
In the cutaneous versions of this disease, the insect often creates an air hole for itself.  You may be able to get the insect to come to the surface for removal by covering the open hole with a thick glob of vaseline, cutting off its air.

I am well aware that this is a difficult topic for many to read about and that the mental images of such are particularly unpleasant.  However, during a migration, a protracted disaster with or without injuries, this can be an issue. Proper management can make a difference in the survival of the infected.

    The pictures of such were so disturbing that I chose not to include them so that our readers were more likely to read and learn from this article.  They certainly can be googled.

 Preparedness Implications:
 In view of this, please purchase extra vaseline, extra gauze for application to wounds and extra amounts of clean roller gauze in order to secure the gauze to such wounds.   Consider buying mosquito netting for your emergency medical kits.   A bug zapper might be a good idea also.

Rational Preparedness ©2016  All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Hot Reggae: We Will Meet Again

                           Hot Reggae is an alpaca who was born in 1994 in the Pacific Northwest. He was the cria of an alpaca who was owned and bred by two vets in a very large operation.  By the time of his birth he was owned by a dentist and his wife who also lived in the Pacific Northwest.  Hot Reggae accompanied two other alpacas we purchased from them in March of 2000.  Hot Reggae made the long trip from the Pacific Northwest to Virginia in the air conditioned horse trailer that people in the alpaca trade call "The Alpaca Train".  He arrived to us with Mr. Ditto Two and Noche Buena.  Hot Reggae was a gelded male, but he had a very important job within the herd. He was the lookout, the security officer and the alpaca policeman, not only when the herd consisted only of three, but later when others were born, or added through additional purchases.
                          Alpacas are very much herd animals. The herd is a family to them, and when one dies, there is a grieving period. They are more loving and more empathetic than most realize. While protecting the herd and notifying us of marauding dogs and coyotes, he also grieved and supported grieving when Shakria, our first cria died when just a few days old.  He also supported the herd when Shakria's mother eventually died of astrocytoma.  He oversaw and participated in alpaca soccer tournaments until the farm vet put a stop to the practice saying that it could lead to a potentially fatal broken leg. Then, he became part of the tetherball alpaca league.  He also dutifully listened as our children learned to play a variety of musical instruments. The Irish whistle and the uileann pipes are the two I remember that he seemed to enjoy best. I also remember his placing his chin on my shoulder as I sat on the stump within the alpaca pen and cried when I heard that my aunt had died.

                        In 2004, we moved all of the alpacas to a new farm we built where they would have much better accommodations.  Hot Reggae never seemed all that impressed.  All he ever really seemed to need was his herd, some green grass, some good hay in winter, a handful of Mazuri pelleted alpaca feed per day, and lots of fresh water.  He tolerated shearing as if he understood. We never really needed to trim his nails much because he used to file them down himself on a sharp rock in the pen. He seemed to stop, as if it were a secret, each time he realized that we were watching.

                          Alpacas have a stated lifespan of about fifteen years, however in captivity and with good care, some individuals have lived much longer. As they have aged, we have developed additional habits which have kept them healthy and living longer.  Normally, We add zinc to their feed.  We continue injections to prevent meningeal worm. They receive an annual rabies and CDT shot.  With age, we give occasional thiamine and vitamin A,C, and D, shots.  We drop selenium tablets in their pellets

                           In the past year, we knew that Reggae, as well as his dear friend Mr. Ditto II, were failing. Neither were moving particularly well. Hot Reggae seemed to have a stiff neck. Their tolerance for heat was also not what it once had been. We made sure they had extra water and we added fans suspended to the rafters from their now shared concrete floored barn room.  When the weather was hotter than 90 degrees F, then we would spray them down with cool water particularly on the legs and underbelly which is where they dissipate heat.

                            At the end of July, both Mr. Ditto Two and Hot Reggae were illl.  Both seemed to have pneumonia to me. I treated both with an appropriate dose of Tylosin intramuscularly over several days. I also gave multiple injections of thiamine.  Hot Reggae rallied and seemed to recover.  Ditto died peacefully at the end of July, this year, at age 20.

                              We knew that Hot Reggae, though he appeared completely recovered, was living on borrowed time. He was now 22 years old !  He simply appeared not to want to leave his herd, and the human family who had loved him for all this time, right on top of Ditto's loss.  So he hung in there with us.
This morning, he seemed congested again.  I gave another injection of Tylosin. He drank some water and ate all the pelleted grain in his dish. Then, he grazed in his pen with his nephew, Chocolat, while I moved four horses out to graze.  He appeared all right, and yet I knew that we wouldn't have much longer together.

                               When I returned from lunch to top up waters and to check on him, he had passed quite recently. He was lying in the stall on his side under the fans on the cool concrete floor, his eyes still open.  I imagine that it had been just moments ago because as I wrapped him for burial, rigor mortis had not yet set in.

                                Today, Reggae joins a herd of alpacas who were all loved here. It is my hope that Daniel will look after them until we get there to, once again, help with the task.  It has been my honor and privilege to know you and to care for you while you were here, Reggae.  I will do my best to ensure health and safety for the remaining herd.  And of course you know, you will be sorely missed.  We will meet again, my friend.

A kind and gentle animal who was always the protector and the "police officer" of the herd.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Rehydration Solutions and Indications for a Variety of Species

This post first appeared on my other blog  www.rationalpreparedness/

This is the direct link to this particular important article.


(Picture from: )

   I used to buy a commercial apple flavored electrolyte powder which could be added to water for horses. I usually used a gallon sized orange or lemon gatorade for alpacas, dogs or even ailing poultry.  I have been very lucky with my interventions with animals and many of my animals, whatever the species, live far beyond their normal life expectancies.   Lately though I have been doing some research.  The commercial apple flavored electrolyte mix for horses has gone up to fifty dollars for a large container. It is sold out in my area, and the livestock supply house where I buy the heavy bucket size says they may not be buying it again.  In addition, I have read that horse electrolytes may not been formulated in the manner that is best for alpacas. Even though they are mammals, other species do not need electrolytes balanced exactly as humans do. Also, giving sugar to other animal species (other than hummingbirds, of course) without a specific veterinary direction to do so can be risky. We also need to establish for each species when the use of a rehydration solution or electrolytes is indicated. Although some farmers leave an electrolyte water solution out for horses or alpacas all the time, many vets think that this may be a bad practice. It may cause tooth decay. It may allow bacterial growth in sugared water that is sitting all day, and it may attract flies, even the more dangerous borer variety. So we should define the conditions for each species under which we would use such things. Since we are planning in advance for such emergencies, you have time to consult your equine vet or your farm vet either during a routine visit you have already scheduled, or by talking to them online.

                  Rather than spending fifty dollars for a large container of apple horse electrolyte, you could gather the ingredients for your own. Place the boxed ingredients and a copy of the recipe in a large transparent freezer style bag and then mark it for the animal species for which it is intended. Since I have alpacas, horses, dogs, guinea fowl, chickens, ducks, cats, and sheep, some could be used interchangeably but many formulations should not. 

 Then, after you have created a species specific  rehydration kit, place it in a location where you can gather it at a moment's notice.  

Some electrolytes are best delivered to the animal in water, where others might get more of it when given as a top dress to their dry food, with water given nearby.

        Since this was one of my tasks this week, I established an electrolyte and rehydration kit for each species here, and then I placed it in a durable large plastic bag. Then I marked each bag with the species for which it is intended to be used. Then I placed each prepared bag in a rectangular plastic bin with a lid which came from Wal-Mart. Then I placed a piece of masking tape on the lid and the side of the box and marked it "Varietal species rehydration kits" When kept in a cool dry place with the component parts in original packaging, they should last for a considerable period of time, perhaps many years.

The benefits are as follows:

1. By creating rehydration packages for each species and placing them in a large freezer bag, you are saving a great deal of money over purchasing the prepared varieties.
2. You will know how to make such solutions for each animal species you have and be enabled to hydrate your animals in a more customized  fashion.
3. You will reexamine your own practices of hydration and have a better plan for hydration when indicated, not simply when it's hot.
4. On finding an animal with heat stress or another issue during hot weather, by having these packs pre-gathered, you are not only saving the time by not needing to run out and gather these things under what could be worse conditions than now, but you are going to be able to provide appropriate rehydration much more quickly than if your animal had to wait for you to return from a quick emergency trip. You will have the species specific recipe and the materials right in the plastic package.
5. Remember that very hot conditions may trigger the need for rehydration solutions, but that diarrhea necessitates at least a phone call to a veterinarian. Diarrhea is not normal and although it can indicate a simple change in diet, it can also indicate gastrointestinal worms, or a serious infectious disorder of some kind, which could require additional intervention often in terms of a drug, in addition to rehydration.

This is the unsweetened flavoring. It doesn't take much of this to flavor for horses or alpacas.  Sometimes, plain lemon juice works best.  This is great to have as a backup in your rehydration kit to add to one of the recipes here.

Animals who are too hot, too cold, under stress, or found in Winter with frozen water should receive assistance with rehydration.  Animals with diarrhea need to be provided with rehydration solution as well as plain water immediately, and then you need to call your vet.


Some people believe that their horse automatically requires electrolytes in hot weather. Vets say this is not always true.  A horse should always have access to a clean bucket of plain water, and should have access to salt. For many horses, this may be all you need to do. Generally having a lot of plain salt blocks available and having them in a protected plastic bag is a good plan. I try to stock up when they are on sale.
For a horse with diarrhea,exhaustion or excessive perspiration, they lose salt and water.  Again, find out what your equine vet's objectives are if this happens.

This is one home recipe for equine replacement of electrolytes:


This particular one is sugar free and ideal for a horse with insulin resistance

26 ounces of NON-iodized salt
22 ounces of Lite Salt (potassium)
2 Tablespoons of Epsom Salt
OPTIONAL: One half packet of unsugared unsweetened lemon Kool-aid
        (Some horses benefit from the flavoring)

This can be used as either a top dress to feed or added to a separate bucket of water.  If the horse is one of the few who do not like the taste, you may add lemon juice, 6 Tablespoons.



Some equine vets believe that in Summer, especially active horses may benefit from a bucket of plain water, and then this solution placed next to it.  This is helpful for horses who aren't fans or frequent users of a salt block.

    5 ounces of non-iodized salt added to

    5 gallons of water



Mix equal amounts of non-iodized salt with
                            Morton's or similar Lite Salt (which is potassium chloride)
in five gallons of water.
  ( In this method, your horse should also eat because most horse feed contains adequate magnesium  and calcium.)




Take a clean five gallon bucket.
Add equal amounts of non-iodized salt, Morton lite salt (potassium) and baking soda.
You may flavor with lemon juice.
Do not add sugar unless vet has ordered it for a specific reason.

This is a great hot weather supplement in addition to having a salt block and plain water available.

Some farms keep this available in Winter also, in a heated bucket.


Notes on alpaca hydration:  Although many of us have gotten away with using four or five scoops of a lemon gatorade powder in a five gallon bucket for alpacas at risk, vets tell us that gatorade is low in electrolytes and high in sugar for alpacas, and so the recipe above is superior for them.
Resorb, can also be used in emergencies. Check with your vet and his/her objectives. 


You may use the alpaca recipe above.  Please read the links below on sheep dehydration also.


You may use Gatorade solution so long as you are also providing plain water.   Resorb as reconstituted for humans will also work. The alpaca recipe would also be helpful.  However, a goat who is dehydrated is very sick indeed and requires veterinary input in order to rectify the underlying cause of the dehydration whether it be infectious or otherwise.


 Chickens, Ducks, Guineas, Doves, Pigeons, 

These animals should generally have an abundant and clean supply of water, year round.
Last year, a Texas chicken farmer told me that when it becomes hotter than 100 degrees F, he slightly salts the chicken feed for his chickens once time each morning.  I have been doing this here in Virginia, and I have not had any sudden hen deaths since.

If you find one of your birds injured, stressed or ill, they should still have abundant water and food, but they should also have available.

Bird Rehydrator         Gather the materials and bag in advance, but mix only when needed

1. Place one gallon of water in a clean bucket 
2. Add one tablespoon powdered sugar   (or plain sugar if that's what you have)
3. Add one teaspoon non-iodized table salt.
4. Add one teaspoon baking soda
5. Add 1/2 tsp. Morton lite salt (which is potassium)

  Most of the time no additional flavorings will be needed.  Lemon juice, one tsp could be added. 

Recommended United Kingdom Recipe for bird rehydration  (Structured in measurements most familiar to them.)

7g sodium chloride
5g sodium bicarbonate
3g potassium chloride
40g glucose
2 litres water

  It is not necessary and could be harmful to provide the electrolyte solution to birds who are well so save this recipe for the sick or stressed animals.

 Rehydration Solution for Dogs:

A dog who is rescued and looks slightly dry and is hungry, can be given lots of plain water and food.  Lemon gatorade can be offered in addition.   A dog with a more complex issue will need veterinary attendance.

Rehydration Solution for Cats:

Cat Rehydration Recipe #1:

Plain lemon gatorade in addition to a separate dish of water nearby will work for most cats.

Cat Recipe #2
This recipe is designed for cats in kidney failure who are having trouble holding on to potassium.
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
    (Use spring or filtered water to avoid chlorine and flouride.)
  • 2 Tablespoons raw honey
    (Raw honey has natural antibiotic properties.)
  • 3/8 Teaspoon sea salt
    (Table salt from the supermarket has sugar in it – [what, you haven’t read the label recently and noticed this?] – and is missing all the trace minerals available in a good quality sea salt.)
  • 1/8 Teaspoon potassium salt (365 mg)
    (Sometimes called “potassium chloride” and available in health food stores in powder form.  I use the NOW brand Potassium Chloride Powder and that’s the basis for this measurement.)
  • 1 Teaspoon fresh lemon juice
    (For a bit of vitamin C and to cut the sweetness.)
  • Enough water to make 2 full cups (16 ounces).
  • A glass bottle that will hold 2 cups of electrolyte liquid for storage purposes.
  • A 1-ounce brown dropper bottle for easy dispensing.
  • An extra dropper for dosing your cat so the dropper in the bottle isn’t contaminated.
  1. Put the raw honey into the warm water and stir.  I use a small wire whisk, but a fork will do as well.  You want to break up the honey and spread it through the water.
  2. Add the sea salt, potassium salt, and lemon juice.
  3. Put the mixture into the glass bottle and add enough water to make 2 full cups.
  4. Shake well.  This distributes the ingredients evenly throughout the liquid.
  5. Pour about an ounce of this into the dropper bottle.
  6. Refrigerate both bottles.
 Offer four times a day.
 A sick cat should be seen by a veterinarian as quickly as possible.
This recipe was obtained at:


More detail from veterinarians in dehydration treatment and assessment:

Information on Lamb Dehydration from a Veterinarian

Information on Sheep Care: 

Data on Pigeon Rescue:

DISCLAIMER:   This post is designed to allow an owner or animal enthusiast hydrate an animal while the vet is either on his way or while you are making arrangements to have your animal seen by one.   Dehydration is often a symptom of an infectious illness or a serious disorder. Unless you are absolutely certain as to a cause of dehydration do not simply treat for dehydration without getting a vet's input after initiating rehydration.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Tribute to Mr. Ditto Two

Ditto, as an older herdsire, after shearing, in his stall.

               Mr. Ditto Two came to us as a jet black young adult intended to be a herdsire. He came with a group of three to us from the Pacific Northwest in 1999.  We had purchased him in a small starter herd of three when alpacas were perhaps not so plentiful in the East.  When Ditto arrived, he came with one female, Noche Buena, and one gelding, Hot Reggae.  I remember as they disembarked from the air conditioned transport truck affectionately called the "alpaca train", there was a lot of distressed humming. Ditto countered with a lower and shorter hum, as if he were telling them that it would all be okay. I can't blame them for being concerned. They had left the green, wet pastures with more than a hundred alpacas and taken a more than three thousand mile trip to Virginia, a hilly, dryer and decidedly less green environment at that time of year. Also, at the time, their species was almost unique in these rural hills. We were the first alpaca breeders in our county.  Ditto had a nice and calm nature. He was generally cooperative for sheering, nail trimming and immunizations. All of our alpacas are loved, but Mr. Ditto II had a special place in the hearts of everyone.

               In the beginning we were told that alpacas live about fifteen years, but that a bit more time was possible in captivity with good care. Mr. Ditto II has lived a good life.   As our herd grew, he played soccer against half of them until the farm vet stopped the practice fearing that someone would break a leg.  He listened to Irish whistle and fiddle music as our children needed an audience.  He watched as a first barn was built on our first farm, and then he and his herd moved to a smaller temporary barn or run in, while our family built another farm and a much larger barn for his herd and his family.  Over the years, Mr. Ditto II sired a dark brown female Shakria, who died as an infant.  He sired Chocolat, a male who is at his side today, and a daughter with a jet black fleece like he once had, named Warrior Princess Camellia, or Cammie in these parts.   Mr. Ditto Two was a devoted male partner first to Queen Isabelle, the mother of his crias, who died from astrocytoma, and later to jet black Noche Buena.  Ditto's easy going nature never changed.

               Mr. Ditto Two is now twenty years old.  He was born on Valentine's Day just a few months before Daniel.  When many of us die, whether we are human beings or animals, our bodies simply wear out and can no longer continue to house our souls. Eventually, our souls must escape and go home.  This week, Mr. Ditto II's body is so well worn that he needs to sleep. Multiple systems are failing, even with good support and attention.  Sadly, with time our herd has returned to being a small one, and the herd sire does not wish to go, and to leave his remaining family without him.  He continues to fight to rally to remain, when he should simply just sleep. His herd takes turns cushing next to him in support.  It's strange that they know.  An apple horse gatorade bucket sits next to him and I lift his head every couple of hours for a sip, if just for comfort.   Every once in awhile he falls into a deep sleep and his respirations are shallow. Then he moves his legs as if running, as if he sees the green field in the next place and can't wait to run free once again. My husband and I turn him side to side on sheets laid on the concrete stall floor.  Part of us wants him to go so that he is spared any discomfort during these last hours, but part of us realizes that our children's childhoods and teen years were punctuated by the presence of this animal, and that his departure marks aging and a new era for our human family as well.

             You owe us nothing, Ditto.  It's time to go.  We will make sure that the remaining alpaca members of this farm family are cared for well.  Go home. Let Daniel and my father rejoice with you, as you will no longer be encumbered by your shell, as beautiful as that shell really was. Thank you for all the time spent with us.  You brought a lot of joy, and you deserve to be set free.

Ditto in his later years, when his black fleece turned gray.

                 Ditto passed quietly, at nine am this morning, with his son Chocolat cushed by his side, while I penned most of this post.   Hot Reggae who is also elderly and who has also been ill this week, seems to be moving well at the moment, and Ditto's daughter Cammie will receive extra attention today as well.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Short Life of "Peep"

This is a picture of a normal Rhode Island Red hatchling

On Thursday afternoon I went out to begin the afternoon care of the dogs and I heard a loud chirping like a bird. I thought that a mother bird teaching its fledglings to fly probably had a straggler who was calling for her. Still, the chirping did not let up, and it was of some urgency. So I took a break and went in the direction in which I heard the noise.  Then, I looked into the hen home with rooster nearest the dogs and I saw what looked like a hatchling duck flailing in their deep water dish.  "Help me, I'll drown !" was apparently the probable translation of the urgent chirping. The rooster in the pen and the four hens acted as if the chick were a predator.   When I scooped the little bird out of the water, I took her into the barn to dry her with a paper towel. Then I took a look at her in bright light.  She wasn't a duck at all. She was clearly a new hatchling from one of my hens in the pen in which she was found. She was a small Rhode Island Red, and she was quite a pretty one.  Domestic hens don't always know how to mother, and an accidental chick such as this one, would likely pass away, just as two did inside the hen house last year.    So, I took the little chick, found a small box, a jar cap for water, and a jar cap for food. It was quite warm and so a hatch light for warmth could wait until this evening.   She certainly was active and moving well.  I did notice when she was wet that she had a prominent crop.  Rather than food passing right to the stomach, as it does in mammals, chickens have something called a crop, which is a pre-stomach which houses food until it moves on to the fore-stomach.  Sometimes, food gets stuck in the crop and can cause problems, usually for adult chickens. I had never seen a chick with a prominent crop in her neck.  For a moment I considered that she may have a congenital anomaly, but this possibility did not change what I had to do. I had to take care of her as if she were any other chick. An anomaly, if it existed, would take her soon enough.

       I had quite an afternoon.  I didn't have a cage quite small enough and she kept exiting the cage by squeezing through the bars.  The barn cat Brielle would have been more than happy to eat her, but I looked at Brielle, and said, "No !" and Brielle flounced off as if to say, "You owe me a better treat than that, later."
Eventually, I placed the little chick in a box and moved her to the laundry room in the house.  That would be warm and bright, and safer.

       For a hatchling, she didn't seem to eat and drink as much as I remembered them to.  Still, for two to three days, they are hatched with enough nutrition to allow them to take those three days in order to learn to eat and drink.  I had lined her box with paper towels and there were stools, and so I thought she was doing well.  That evening, my husband found the hatch light so that the chick could be warm enough as the temperature would drop overnight, and chicks need a fair bit of warmth.   On Friday, she still didn't seem to eat or drink well.  Since hatchlings learn almost everything from other hatchlings, we decided to see if the feed store in the next county could sell us a couple of chicks. They had no chicks but they had a guinea of the same age, whose early developmental milestones are about the same, so we came home with a friend for our hatchling I had named Peep.   The guinea, whom I have called Skoot was much more active and much hungrier than Peep.  By evening, I thought Peep needed some rest and so I separated them in two boxes for the time being.

         This morning I checked on Peep at 5:30 am.   Despite the light and all the care she had been given she was clearly deteriorating.  When I examined her carefully, her vent wasn't closed shut (a reason that a hatchling might not want to eat and drink)  Her umbilical area was as expected.  However, her skin and wings seemed dehydrated to me. I mixed a drop of golden syrup in water with a grain or two of salt and proceeded to feed her with an eye dropper being careful to approach the side of the beak and not get liquid in the nostrils. She took some. There had been no stools overnight.  She seemed quite weak. She also seemed quite cold despite the fact that she'd had the benefit of the hatch light overnight.

            As I held the little bird, I realized that she had deteriorated overnight to a point at which I was unlikely to be able to save her. How sad to overcome such odds to be hatched, to avoid drowning, to call for another species to save you, just to succumb to some type of anomaly or difficulty just two days later. Poor Peep.  I hoped her passing would be as quick and as painless as it could be. It's Sunday, and I don't have a particular schedule this morning. I can feed the horses, alpacas and dogs a bit later, and so I held Peep in a gloved hand speaking to her, while holding her under the hatch light. I thanked her for calling me and giving me the chance to try to help her. I told her that she had fought hard to come here and to stay, but that sometimes the lessons God teaches here on Earth can be taught in a very short time. I told her I had a son and a father who could look out after her in the next place, if God allows them to, and I think he will.  Then she started to use accessory muscles for breathing and I didn't think it would be long. I held her with one hand and stroked her with one finger until her respirations became difficult to see.  Then she tried to jump out of my hand with energy I didn't know she still had. When I gathered her into a more comfortable position in my hand, I saw that she had died.

         Goodbye Peep, I will miss you, and I will take care of your friend Skoot.  Thank you for coming.


Update:   July 24, 2016       After Peeps death, we bought five more guinea keets to keep Skoot company. All of them are growing well and enjoying the summer.

Monday, June 20, 2016

An Old Hound

I always keep one of these in the car, along with some water and some dog treats.

  My husband has asked me, no begged me, not to take on any more rescues.  Currently, we can afford to care for the rescued horses, dogs, and poultry we have along with our alpacas.  However, my husband has been watching trends. The farm vet, the equine vets who will each come out to the house cost more than they did a couple of years ago.  The small animal vet, where we take the dogs has also increased their charges.  As I drove home Friday, I was pained to see a dog lying in the road about a mile from our farm on the curvy mountain road.  I stopped to see if she'd been hit.  I am fairly friendly with the farmer nearby. They also rescue animals on occasion, but wouldn't be doing so, this time. They had a new baby and with their other children, their hands were quite full. They had called the pound and they would be there sometime later in the day.  I knew that the local pound would euthanize her.  In the last year or so,in our area, rescue groups will collect purebreds, immunize them and then adopt them out for often a $500. fee.   Pitbulls, beagles, and hounds, which are common here. would not be so lucky, and would probably be euthanized in a week or so.
  I took a look at her and determined that she had not been hit. She had no collar and the pads on her feet were quite swollen. She was quite thin, even more thin than hunting dogs are supposed to be.  My neighbor the farmer said that at the end of each hunting season, some hunters simply remove the collar, release the elderly or ineffective animals to fend for themselves. They survive or they die.  This is a foolish and barbaric practice in a place where rabies is endemic, and wolves and coyotes are plentiful and run free.  My friend the farmer had fed and watered her earlier in the day.  I threw a disposable bed liner on the floor of the passenger side of my car and tried to coax her there. Most dogs listen to me. She allowed me to gently lift her into the car, and then she fell asleep.

         I thought my husband wound be angry when he arrived to find I had set up a dog house in the shade, some distance from my other dogs in order to quarantine them from her.  I thought we would take care of her immediate needs, pay for a vet visit or two and then locate a new home for her ourselves, no matter how long it took.  My husband was unusually sympathetic to this elderly female hound who seemed bewildered yet a bit more animated when he arrived. I took this to mean that she had been owned by a man.

          I fed her small amounts several times each day over the weekend.  I have placed the appropriate liquid dressing on the pads of her feet. Today, I will speak with the pound and ensure that no one is looking for a dog fitting this description. I will tell them I have her, and they might issue me some adoption papers and provide me a discount certificate for spaying.   I will also need to take her for a rabies shot and a heartworm test.  I will give her a distemper-hepatitis-leptospirosis-parainfluenza and parvovirus shot myself as I do the other animals in my kennel.  If she is heartworm negative, I will begin heartworm preventive.

           Once the dog was hydrated again, she could feel how sore her pads really were. She yelped when she had to stand to drink or to eat, or when I took her for a short walk to urinate or defecate.  She doesn't know how to walk on a leash. It's possible that as a hunting dog, that she never has.

           My husband has been fairly attentive to her. He made several stops over the weekend to check on her and make sure she was cool enough and comfortable, despite the fact that he knew I was visiting her on a particular schedule. He even made a trip to Wal-Mart to buy her, soft food of her very own.  I think this old girl is going to need a name. I don't think I am going to need to work very hard to locate a home for her. I think she has already found one.

Update:   July 24, 2016  "Miss Penny" has been seen by the vet, given a rabies shot, had a heartworm test and has begun monthly heartworm preventive.   She had no collar and has no microchip.  She will likely spend the rest of her days here on the farm under our care.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Disappearance of Patch

Patch is up in front

      Patch is a large attractive Rhode Island Red rooster that is a son of Ross the rooster. Ross the rooster was purchased by our young son Daniel two days before his sudden passing in 2008.  Since Daniel is no longer here, all the animals Daniel cared about have become even more of a devotion than they were when he was here.  With Ross the rooster now gone eight years later, his progeny is now the point of our focus.   Patch is a large and attractive rooster who has a nasty habit of walking in messy or wet places.  This has resulted in a periodic infection of one foot which is called by farmers, bumblefoot.    The most correct treatment for genuine bumblefoot is a surgical removal of the swollen and infected area, and then a packing of the region until it heals from the bottom of the wound to the top, which is also known as healing by second intention.

              Most vets won't do this because it's a couple of hundred dollar procedure on an animal they believe is only worth twenty dollars. I would have paid for it to be done, but I found something which took care of it   I had given Patch a 0.4 cc injection with a tuberculin syringe subcutaneously of tylosin. The foot was resolving as the infected portion was in a process of coming to a head. I thought that I may have to repeat the injection, and that I may have to lance and wrap the foot. Patch was impaired by the foot not enough to be unable to fly out of his coop during the day, but he was impaired enough to limp around after the injection triggered a process of resolution. Patch was a fan of free ranging which is usually safely possible here at least during the day.
              Later that day I came out to check on animals and found a pile of beautiful red feathers where Patch normally sauntered.  Many times, a predator won't be able to take a singular rooster, especially during daylight. I looked over a broad area. I thought he may have been attacked, but that a predator likely couldn't have taken him   On the opposite side of the barn I found another collection of feathers, the type close to the birds skin.  We theorize that something grabbed Patch from the air and that as it went airborne, he fought. The second pile on the other side of the barn may be where the predator dropped him long enough to get a better grip. Although there was no blood, I believe he was killed there. There was nothing else anywhere.  I spent a couple of hours looking for him in the event that another predator had grabbed him and was wrestling him to their den.  I think the broad winged hawk is probably the predator in this case.  Patch, I am so sorry I did not contain you while your foot was healing so you would have been in top form when the predator assaulted you. I am glad, however, for all the free ranging you have done, quite safely for almost seven years. I know your passing was swift and that your parents and siblings will see you now.  Thanks for coming and enriching all of our lives.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016



This is a picture of Henriette and her sisters, when they were younger.

  Here in Virginia we don't normally heat the structures that house chickens or ducks. We have had them here for more than ten years. The only time I use an incandescent light as a warming light is during hatching and in the immediate hatchling period.

        The breeds we have here tolerate even extreme cold, and will huddle together inside where it's dry in the rare event that it snows.  The lifespan of a Bantam hen is about seven to eight years, and that is right where these girls are. These are a cross between their Bantam mothers and Rhode Island Red sire. Still, when last evening I learned that it would be 13 degrees F overnight, I checked the housing. I wanted to make sure that everyone could find a clean, dry, place inside.  I was more concerned about some of the larger furrier dogs in the kennel than I was about the chickens.

        Life holds surprises. This morning, all the horses, elderly alpacas, ducks, cats and dogs emerged from their homes happily, but one of the hens did not.  It is unlikely that hypothermia got her. It is more likely that she had reached the end of her lifespan and was ill with something, usually respiratory. The cold weather certainly didn't help but was more likely to have been a catalyst rather than a causation. I will miss Henriette. All animals, no matter what type, are a blessing. Thanks for the eggs, the entertainment, and the loyalty. You will be missed, by your family and by your human family as well.