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Farmer or Pet Owner?

April 20, 2010

I'm still a librarian at heart: story time for the girls

In the last post, I mentioned I was taking a class at Gales Meadow Farm, hoping to learn how to scale up my production and work more like a farmer than a gardener. While this class may help me be more like a farmer in terms of growing plants, I discovered animals are another matter.

One of the Dominiques

Two years ago we bought some chickens. We had a definite purpose in mind: the chickens were to be workers, eating the bugs in the apple orchard and vegetable beds, and providing fertilizer. We considered the eggs an added bonus. People often asked us, what will you do with them when they stop laying eggs? At first I thought, maybe they will be stewing hens. It didn’t take long before I realized that would never happen. Not only would I never be able to kill these girls, but I wouldn’t give them to someone else to kill, because I wouldn’t eat them, either. So I reminded people why we got them, that they will keep doing their jobs long after they stop laying.

The Rhode Island Red that was not well

Last fall, one of our Rhode Island Reds wasn’t doing well. She was slow, lethargic, she slept a lot, she stood with a different posture and kept to herself. I thought maybe it had to do with her molting, and eventually she seemed to pick back up. But it happened again in March and she kept getting worse. I looked on the internet for what her symptoms might mean: egg bound?  sour or compacted crop? I asked at Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply when I was there picking up some fertilizer. They had some ideas and gave me the card of a avian specialist vet in Lake Oswego.

Here she is again, now known as "The Sick Girl"

I tried a few solutions for things that could be wrong, but nothing seemed to work. I had to decide: was I going to be a real farmer and cull her from the flock or a pet owner and take her to the vet? It became official: I was a pet-owner. I took her in a found out she had injured her liver, bled into her abdomen and built up fluid there. They took fluid out of her abdomen and gave me antibiotics for her. She picked up for the first week, but the next week it was worse again. What should I do? How much money do you spend on a chicken? One without a name? One that no self-respecting farmer would take to the vet? I took her to Lake Oswego again. More fluid was taken out (a record amount, the vet said) and I got more antibiotics for her. That was two weeks ago. Last weekend, we thought we were going to loose her, she was doing so poorly. To our surprise, she perked up last Monday and seemed to get better all week.

This week, I am still not sure she will make it. I told myself at the last visit that this was it. I’d have to let her go if she didn’t get better. Oh, if only I were a farmer…

Story time takes a lot of scratch

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. tara west permalink
    April 21, 2010 4:10 pm

    I love this post! I for one am glad you are a pet owner, not just a farmer;-) Reading to your chickens and taking them to the vet is definitely the way to go in my book! Hopefully “sick girl” gets better soon! (And i hope to see you soon!)
    ~tara

  2. Johnny permalink
    April 21, 2010 5:54 pm

    They look so cute all huddled around you.

  3. karleta Reierson permalink
    April 25, 2010 9:37 am

    This picture is way too adorable!!! I love it! I can’t wait to taste all the tasty veggies and fruits you have this year!!!

  4. July 31, 2010 10:40 pm

    ahhh ! So sweet! Did she make it? You’re a farmer of fruits and veggies, no need to be one of chickens. The ladies are a part of your mental happiness… overall permaculture ; ) The photos are really cute, too.

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