Animal Husbandry – A Difficult Week

They say bad luck runs in threes and with animal husbandry I have unfortunately found this to be the case this week.

The week started badly when on Monday night only 28 of my 29 guinea fowl returned to their hut. I thought this was strange so did the rounds of the hedgerows thinking that she may be sitting on the large number of eggs that I had not been able to locate. Unfortunately as I headed up the hedgerow that separates the paddock and the field with barley growing in it, I noticed a pile of grey spotted feathers. I knew instantly that the unlucky guinea fowl had become prey for the fox. Although it is light until late at night, it is not wise to leave my guinea fowl free-ranging much after 6 as the crops and hedgerows make great cover for the fox and the vixen who is out searching for food for her cubs. I am pleased to report that no more guinea fowl have fallen prey to the fox since I have been bringing my guinea fowl in a little earlier, even though they don’t want to go in at that time and a job that would normally take a max of 10 minutes can now take up to an hour rounding all the guinea fowl up.

On Wednesday morning I went to feed the sows only to find that Lacy would not get up and eat. Cagney was up but staying close to Lacy. Cagney did eat a little but not a lot. I wasn’t sure what was the matter. By teatime Lacy was up and feeding but Cagney was now a little subdued and not eating. I decided to keep my eye on them. By Thursday Lacy was back to her normal self but Cagney still wouldn’t eat despite my attempts with the bucket under her nose. At midnight having scoured the internet for information about sick sows and having convinced myself that by morning Cagney would be dead, I headed back out to the barn. When I entered Cagney was stood up. She did lay down and so I brought her some fresh straw to and placed it on top of her to keep warm. I left the barn reluctantly at 1.30am realising that there was nothing I could do to help Cagney. I woke early this morning to check on Cagney and she is still not well. Upon inspection my father-in-law thinks that she has mastitis. She has had an injection and is now resting. She did manage to have a drink of water and had a little food. Now only time will tell. I just hope that we have injected her soon enough to get rid of the infection. Cagney is the most gentle pig you could ever wish to meet and she is not just a sow that is on the farm for breeding purposes, she means more to me than that. I have already shed a tear or two and can only hope that she returns to her lovely gentle healthy self.

Again on Thursday just as I was heading out for coffee with my blogpal Birdy Trish, I noted that it was day 24 of the duck egg incubation and that it was time to take the egg turner out. I decided that I would do the job in the afternoon when I returned. (I bet you can guess what’s coming!) Yes by the time I returned and had had my lunch, as I was washing up I suddenly heard a tweet coming from the incubator. I couldn’t believe it, a duckling’s beak was sticking out of the shell and was quite close to the top of the incubator as the duck eggs are so big. I called my husband who returned home to help remove the turner. Opening the incubator at the wrong time can be fatal to the eggs hatching. By teatime the duckling that was well on the way to hatching had stopped moving. Some of the other eggs had pipped but nothing was happening. From experience I have found that although the books say don’t help the chicks, the only way to get a successful hatch when the eggs have been pipped a while is to help the chicks along. we decided to check on the duckling that had made a good effort to get out. Unfortunately the duckling had died. We did find some eggs that were pipped and had live ducklings in so we decided to help them out. It is now Friday morning and at the moment we have 3 ducklings that have hatched with assistance. I am not sure if anymore are going to hatch. Conditions were obviously not right in the incubator and although I think that many of the eggs are fertile, I don’t think that this is going to be a successful hatch. I’ll keep you posted with news on Cagney and the ducklings and I hope that I don’t have to report back of another fox incident.