Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The things we do...

Sometimes I wonder, even about myself. One of the things I do here is raise various breeds of chickens. One breed I am working with now (for my daughters) is Silkies. They're cute (if you like that kind of thing) and fuzzy and appeal to most folks. One aspect of them is a problem though; they have what's known as a "vaulted" skull, which basically means they have holes in their heads.
(See this link for photos to illustrate what I mean: http://www.browneggblueegg.com/Article.html)

The problem is, because they're chickens, they get easily startled, and are prone to bonking their heads. Without skull plates to protect their brains, a head bonk is a serious thing for a Silkie, often resulting in neurological damage, and a condition known as "Crookneck." This refers to the tendency of an injured bird to screw its neck around and look up at you upside down and backwards. It's really rather pitiful to look at.

Last fall I purchased an expensive breeding cock bird in order to get a particular color in my flock. The male is Splash, which means he has two copies of the Blue gene, or BlBl. In order to get Blue birds (which is what I want), I breed the Splash male to my Black females (who have blbl, or "not blue") to wind up with Blues (Blbl.) Blues are lovely, a soft grey, and a color I work with in my Dutch as well (modified by the Cream gene igig, which is likely more than you wanted to know about chicken genetics.)

At any rate, I've hatched several Blue chicks this spring, and at least two of them are pullets (young hens) which is wonderful. What's not so wonderful is that one of them has bonked her silly head, and I am now treating her for crookneck. I even; ((gasp)) took the chick to the vet, something I would never do with any other breed. I felt rather stupid and foolish, but he was very nice, and gave me the prednisone I needed to treat her with. I am also supplementing her with B and E vitamins and putting Arnica gel (a homeopathic remedy) on her head, which is working really well. With some luck and time she should completely recover, and as long as I keep her in an area where she won't re-bonk her head, she should never have any further problems.

But I do wonder at myself sometimes. I mean, going to the vet with a chicken is something I never thought I'd do. Just goes to show you, never say never.

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