Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Death, Plague, and Pestilence...and it's only Wednesday

I redeemed myself last night. We went lamping for foxes (see post titled 'A Comedy of Errors' for explanation and background on lamping) and I killed 3 foxes with 3 shots. Two of the foxes were at 'The Hill' pen where we've had tremendous losses over the last week. Those two were cubs, and we know there's at least one more fox still up there - 4 more dead pheasants this morning confirm it. So my job isn't over yet.

We got home late and got to bed around midnight. Just as I started to fall asleep I heard an explosion of panicked chicks in the shed under our window. It was the meat chickens and something was in there with them, plaguing them. A rat. I got outside and crawled into the shed (it's really a whelping shed for dogs so it's only 3ft high inside) and found 29 chicks cowering in a corner, in danger of smothering each other. I untangled the chick "bait ball" and counted all 29 were still there and unharmed. Mike came out, handed me some bricks, and we did our best to block off the hole and keep the chicks safe, at least for the night.

I got up earlier than normal this morning to check on them - all OK - and to do Mike's chores and give him a chance to get a bit more rest. I walked the dogs and let the chickens out as per usual. One young cockerel flopped out of his run and looked unsteady on his feet. When I picked him up he was very thin and his legs were splayed one out front, one out back - an indicator of Marek's disease.

Although it usually affects hens, he's the right age and showed a number of symptoms. Marek's is a virus and, though our parent stock and meat chicks are vaccinated against it, the homebreds are not. It's not cost effective. And the vaccine is not 100% effective. Some of the ornamental breeds such as this poor cockerel are more susceptible. And there's no cure, only prevention through good husbandry. So it was a trip to the log pile again. I hate that trip.

A pestilence has beset the garden. I will disinfect their homes (should I mark an 'X' over the doors?) and watch our other chickens for signs of disease, and keep my fingers crossed.

1 comment:

Poppy Cottage said...

Life is never dull!!!! Well done for the foxes.

Off to cast on that cardigan........ after I have finished the floors!!