Sometimes farmers have to doctor their own animals.
May 15 2017.
Poor Ruby is not feeling well. Snotty nose, crusty eyes, very lethargic. When I brought the chickens inside from the rain Saturday, she was standing in the splash zone from the gutter downspout. Didn’t want to come in. When I did chores yesterday she was like this. Full-blown chicken cold. She won’t scratch, she won’t peck, just stands there, hunched up and looking miserable. Called cousin Sandy, who has a lot of chickens, for advice. She said there’s not much I can do for her. Just keep her warm and dry. She will either fight it off or she won’t make it. I did wipe the crusty boogers out of her eyes and nostrils. She did not care for that much. Today I took a syringe and gave her some water so she won’t dehydrate. My poor girl. She did seem to enjoy sitting in the sun after that. Didn’t want to any part of the bed I made for her. But once it started getting dark she came to me. I put her back in her bed and she snuggled right down under the blanket. Any other chicken “moms” have any advice for me?😢
I am cautiously optimistic about Ruby today. Gave her a dose of penicillin orally yesterday on the advice of one of Karen S Roberts co-workers. Obviously won’t help with the viral cold infection, but did seem to help with her secondary bacterial bronchial infection. I have been using a syringe to force water, broth, juice, etc. down her beak. Has not been fun for me or Ruby. But, as she has not been drinking or eating on her own, I wanted to make sure she did not become too weak or dehydrated. I have also been mixing a tiny dose of children’s Similason in with her liquids to help with her congestion. Yesterday she did drink water of her own volition. Stood in a patch of sunlight with her feet in the runoff from the water tub and kept dipping her beak in over and over for almost an hour. I took that as a good sign. I also saw her poop for the first time in days. But, when I went in the barn today, she had not gotten out of bed yet. She did have the blanket off, but had not eaten or tried to get up. Her eyes were less crusty and she was less snotty, but she had been getting herself out of bed until today. Well, since giving her antibiotics yesterday, I knew her little tummy bacteria were probably all out of whack. So, I mixed some applesauce with some yogurt and syringed that into her. The yogurt will help re-balance her digestive system. And it’s the most solid thing she’s had since this started. After getting a few mls into her I put her out in the sun. When Levi got home from school he was very insistent on helping me take care of her. He got a little dish of chicken food and every time she moved he put it right in front of her. And finally she did eat some. I am thinking that’s a good sign. I have also been giving her over-the-counter homeopathic pink-eye drops and I have noticed she was mostly keeping her eyes open tonight, instead of keeping her third eyelid closed. I gave her some more yogurt/apple sauce mixture as I was finishing up with chores. Put her down while I fed the rest of the hens. She actually joined them and helped herself to some scratch. She is definitely not herself, you can tell she does not feel good, still congested and lethargic, but she is acting better than she was. And if she is eating, that has to be good, right? Put her to bed, covered her with her blanket, and she did not snuggle right down and go to sleep. She actually pecked a little bit at her food dish before going to sleep. Fingers crossed that she has turned the corner!
Ruby is definitely on the mend. She was scratching and pecking, eating and drinking on her own today. Snot and eye crust are cleared up. She is still a bit weak and rests frequently, but seems much, much better! She even went to roost on her own, no hay-lined box and blanket tonight. Will still be keeping a close eye on her, make sure she does not relapse, but I really think she is going to be OK.
With Ruby on the road to recovery, now poor Goldie has the dreaded bug. Sigh. Good thing I’ve already had practice force-feeding medicine and liquids with Ruby. Would it be too unethical to feed chicken broth to a sick chicken?
Had to call in to work today. A yearling lamb had a vaginal prolapse. Sat in the barn “holding her hoof” for 3 hours waiting for the vet. Propped her hind end up on a hay bale so she couldn’t strain and pop the thing out farther. She didn’t care for that much. And when Dr. Durie put it back in, she popped it right back out. The whole time he was trying to stitch her closed, she kept pushing it back out. Even with an epidural. Apparently this happens frequently with sheep. First time for us. Her cervix wasn’t dilated enough for her to lamb yet, put she was feeling the urge to push because it will be soon. For now she remains stitched. Tomorrow we will be acquiring a retainer so we can take the stitches out and she can HOPEFULLY lamb without popping any thing out. The vet was surprised we didn’t have a retainer. “All sheep people have them,” he said. He was, however, very impressed with how big our lambs are and was shocked we haven’t had prolapses up until now, with the ewes birthing 10 and 11 pound lambs.
Tonight’s lambing update: No new babies today. Had the vet in to see Chica tonight. She was totally wigging out when I got to the barn tonight; slamming herself against the walls of her pen, trying to climb out, pawing the floor like she wanted to dig to China, hunching her back and straining over and over again. Her vulva was extremely swollen and she had a bad odor. I thought, “Shit! This is it, the lamb has died inside her, she’s ruptured herself and can’t birth it. Shit! Oh, SHIT!” Dr. Montario came out on this cold, cold night, after the clinic was closed, and checked her out. She’s OK. She has an infection and inflammation from the prolapse and the retainer was causing irritation as well. He gave her an anti-inflammatory shot, repositioned the retainer and said to up her dose of penicillin. So the odor was caused by the infection, and she was straining and flipping out due to the irritation and inflammation. He said usually sheep lamb within 24-36 hours of prolapsing, but apparently she just isn’t ready yet. Said if she hasn’t lambed by Saturday we may have to induce labor. He also agreed with me that sheep are stupid. So, there you have it, folks, straight from the animal doctor. LOL
For those who are wondering, Chica still hasn’t lambed. And she keeps straining and pushing the retainer out. Karen S Roberts and I have put it back in about 5 times in the last 2 days. And when it’s not in, her vagina, while not bulging out like the original prolapse, plays hide and seek; popping out when she moves certain ways, then going back inside. This will be a major problem if she starts to lamb when the retainer is not in place and if neither of us is there to help her. But, we both have jobs and can’t be in the barn 24/7. As of 2 hours ago, when we left the barn, the retainer was in. This whole deal is a pain right in the … vagina! So glad we never had this issue before. And please Powers That Be, we never will again!
If her vagina is in a prolapsed position when she goes into labor, the lamb cannot be born, no way for it to come out. He uterus will continue to contract, and she will strain to birth it. She will tear herself apart on the inside, rupture, and bleed to death internally. Probably die in agony. The retainer is supposed to keep the vagina in place, to prevent it from becoming inverted. If the lamb dies, but she can birth it on her own, or with our help, she will recover from that. The concern is that she will go into labor with the vagina hanging inside out outside of her body. According to all 3 vets we have spoken to, and shepherds with large herds who have experienced this before, if they prolapse once, they will every pregnancy to come. And it gets worse every year. Therefore, once this birth is accomplished and (hopefully) the lamb is raised, Karen will cull her and her offspring from the herd. Even if the lamb is a female, apparently this tends to be genetic and these are NOT good genes to have in the herd.
Just came back from night check. For any one who is wondering what a retainer looks like, here it is. The reason I was able to take a picture of it? She had pushed it out again!!!! Errrghhh! Put it back in …again.
Just got back from night check. Jujube is still hanging in there, some how. Karen S Roberts and I discussed separating her from her lambs because they are constantly pestering her for attention and trying to make her get up so they can nurse. Yes, they are annoying and I’m sure she wants to rest. However, I have observed that sheep give up very easily when they are in pain and will just let themselves die, much more easily than other animals. Having those pesky lambs will, I think, distract her from giving up. And they might inspire her maternal instinct to survive because she knows she needs to take care of her babies. Also, I think animals, like people, just feel better through physical contact. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think they will help her, even if they are annoying. While I was tubing some baby food and warm water into her, they were constantly getting in the way, but I think she knew they were there.
We lost a lamb today. Her mama, Penny, is a yearling and this was her first time lambing. Penny is a small ewe. Her lamb was a big girl, probably a 12 pounder. Poor Penny just couldn’t push her out. Lamb was stuck like a cork in a bottle. When I let the sheep out this afternoon, Penny was already headed out the door before I noticed the head hanging out of her backside. She was pretty far out in the field before I got ahold of her. Fortunately she is a very friendly ewe, or I would not have been able to catch her. I tried to get her back to the barn, but she would not co-operate. So, I had to play mid-wife in the middle of the field. The head was very swollen, tongue hanging out, inside of her mouth was cold. No way of knowing how long she was stuck there today. Any way, I helped Penny to birth the lamb, but it was dead. Tried CPR out there in the field, but no luck. Penny is fine. Since it was her first, I don’t think she really understood what happened. She seemed glad to be relieved of her burden, and licked the dead lamb a couple of times. However, she did not try to talk to it, and did not grieve over it. She was eating enthusiastically when I finished chores tonight. Just a case of a lamb that was too big and a ewe that was too small. Very glad that Penny is OK. She is one of my favorites. (Shhh – don’t tell the others.)
Twins for Josephine, born yesterday. Boy and girl, each weighing 8 pounds. Buuut…problems. When I got in the barn yesterday afternoon there was only one lamb in evidence, the ram lamb, Jerry. He was dry and on his feet, had obviously been born a few hours. Josephine was taking good care of him. Cool. I was proceeding to the back door to let the sheep out when I heard a newborn bleat from in front of the mangers. Hmmm. Went to investigate. No lamb. Must have been hearing things. Head towards the door and I hear it again. WTH? Check in the “kitchen” area. No lamb. OK, I must be going nuts. Let the sheep out. There it is again. There IS a lamb over there somewhere. The “kitchen” and front of the mangers are gated off so the sheep can’t get into those areas, but somehow there is a lamb in there. Check behind the feed barrels. Nothing. Check under the stairs to the haymow. Nothing. Bleat. There it is again! But now I can narrow it down. The lamb is stuck behind a couple of old gates we have leaning against the wall. Got her out. She is dry, too. God knows how long she was stuck back there. My best guess is that when she was thrashing around, trying to get to her feet right after birth she somehow pushed herself through the 4″ gap under the gate and then stumbled around until she got herself stuck. It’s OK. It’s not a cold day so she’s not chilled. Just reunite little Julianna with her mama and we’ll be good to go. Ummm, yeah. Nope. Stupid Josephine either didn’t realize or forgot she had two. She is bonded with Jerry, but wants nothing to do with Julianna. CRAP! Well, there’s a trick I can try if I can find a placenta. It has worked before. Kick through the bedding, hoping she didn’t eat them. Whew, here’s one. Rub the lamb with the placenta. This has worked for me in the past. It seemed like it was going to work this time. Josephine started to “chuckle” at Julianna, sniffing her over and licking her clean. Unfortunately, once she licked off the scent of the placenta she realized it was not her beloved Jerry. Tried reapplying the scent several times, but it just wasn’t doing the job. OK, try another trick. Pen her and the lambs in a very small pen. She barely has room to turn around. Sometimes when a reluctant ewe is confined with her lamb for a day or two she will get accustomed to the idea. We had to use this trick on Josephine last year. Last year was her first lambing and, while she cleaned the lamb off, she wanted nothing to do with having him nurse. After a couple days she was a fine mama. But the confinement is not working in this case. She is bonded with Jerry, but sees Julianna as an interloper and drives her away whenever she gets too close. It’s been over 24 hours and she shows no sign of accepting poor little Julianna. Gets quite violent toward her. The only way the poor girl can nurse is if I pin Josephine against the wall and stop her from kicking. Looks like we are going to have a bottle lamb on our hands. What a pain. Will give her one more day in the pen, but I think if it was going to work it would have done so by now. Grrr! Stupid sheep!
Little Julianna has gone to her new home. Between Mary, Roger, and their daughter, there will be enough people around to bottle feed her often enough for her to grow strong and healthy. With Karen and I both working, she sometimes has to go 8-9 hours between feedings. Much too long for a newborn lamb.
She was perky enough last night, but very lethargic today. I suspect she may have pneumonia on top of everything else. But I know if anyone can pull her through it’s Mary and Roger. They are planning on setting her up in a playpen in the house, so she’ll be warm and get lots of attention. Plus fresh goat milk, which is much better for her than milk replacer.
Her rejecting mama didn’t even notice she was gone when I let the sheep in the barn tonight. But her brother sure did. Little Jerry was calling and looking all around for her. He will miss her.
The babies are starting to have babies. 😦
Babe lambed tonight…outside! When I let the sheep out this evening nobody seemed to be in labor. It’s hard to tell with the yearlings, though. They have never been shorn, making them so shaggy you can’t see it they are starting to bag up and their vuvlas are hard to see as well. Plus, the yearlings are usually the last to lamb and we are only about 1/3 of the way through the herd, so I wasn’t really expecting to have to watch the yearlings so closely, yet.
Anyway, when I was unhooking the water hose from the outside tub I noticed Babe was laying down in the pasture while all the other sheep were standing. I suspected that she might be getting ready to lamb some time tonight, but I didn’t think it would be so soon. Later on, after it got dark, the herd gathered at the back door to yell at me to hurry up and feed them. This is how it goes every chore time. I will be filling their feeding tubs, the bottomless pits are outside the door trying to convince me they are starving to death.
Tonight I heard them all fussing, but I also heard a lone sheep in the west pasture baaing. This is never a good thing. If one is separated from the rest it always means trouble. I grabbed a flashlight and went to investigate. May I just tell you that finding a black sheep in the dark is not fun. Luckily she was still calling to the rest of the herd, so I had a good idea which way to go. As I got close I realized there were 2 sets of eyes reflecting the light. There was Babe with her new baby.
I wanted to get her in the barn, but didn’t want to fight our way through the mob and try to get Babe and the lamb in the barn without the rest of the herd getting in. Fortunately they were near a gate, so I carried the lamb and Babe followed right along, talking to her baby the whole way. We went through the side gate and came in through the other barn door, circumventing the mob. It was a warm night, but there are coyotes around, so I think Babe was as relieved as I was to get the lamb safely in the barn.
With yearling you never know how they will do with their first lambing. Babe did great right from the start. She obviously wanted to be safely with the rest of the herd, but she didn’t abandon her lamb. The cleaned her off thouroughly and enthusiastically. She allowed the lamb to nurse without prompting. When I let the rest of the herd in the barn she immediately began circling and chuckling to the lamb. (They do this so the lamb will imprint on their scent and sound and not get confused by all the other wooly bodies in the herd. In short, she is being a great mama.
The baby is a 9 lb girl. She is dark brown with a white blaze on her face. Her name is Blaze.