Building An Earthship In Darfield, B.C.

We are a family of five living in Darfield, BC.
Our house is six hundred square feet in total and we are feeling cramped.

We have decided to build an earthship!

So starts the adventure ...

Monday, March 23, 2009

First medical crisis for the chicks!

O.K. we are still waiting for word on the permit for the earthship.

However, we had our first health crisis in the poultry brooder.

I was returning from my nightly bicycle ride (southbound on Hwy 5 up the north side of the Darfield hill) and upon coming through the front door Chris says "good, you're back, Stephen get your camera, we may have a problem with one of the chicks".

Chris did admit he didn't know enough about chicks to know if it was a problem.

With slight trepidation we marched through the mud (yes! our snow is finally melting!) and into the shop. I cast about the brooder to see if some creature looked amiss...yikes! With Chris and Stephen leaning over my shoulder I pointed and said, "I think we have a problem".

Stephen, by this point was quite upset and got an eyeful of the bird. "WHAT'STHEMATTERWITHIT?" he asked, voice elevated, oh, maybe 30-40 decibels above normal.

"I am not sure, " I said. I reach in and grab the little girl (it was one of our layers) and picked it up. "Take a picture Stephen".

With photo recorded I cast about for a container. "I need a container," I said.

"What for?" asked Chris.

"We are isolating this baby, " I said. If we had avian flu or hoof and mouth disease, or tapeworm, or whatever it is that birds get, I was going into quarantine mode.

"Where are you taking it?" asked Chris, who had plans on posting the picture on the internet and getting a 21st century diagnosis.

"I'm taking it to Robin."

Robin Schilling is our neighbour just slightly south of us. His family owns the Schilling ranch, which used to be a dairy when I was growing up but is now a beef ranch.

Robin can pull a calf, shoot coyotes, make hay, move sprinklers, and grow corn. He and his family also keep poultry. He's a professional engineer like Chris so if anybody could diagnose my little chickie it would be Robin.

Stephen, Helen and I pile into the car with the chick and drive over. The Schillings (Robin's wife Jody, and sons Tyler, Tyson and Tanner (8, 6 and 4)) are all suited up to tag calves. I caught them just in time.

"We need a vet!"

Stephen thrusts our shavings-lined ice cream bucket at Robin, who eyes the chick rather professionally, I thought.

"Do any more look like this?" he asks me. Nope.

He surveys the chick for a few more seconds. "I think you have an extreme case of pastey butt."


"What?" I ask.

Apparently this particular chick has been pooping and there's so much of it she can't poop. Robin explains that we need to moisten the chick's behind until we get rid of it.

Wait a minute. I'm still confused.

"So, like, what, moisten its butt a couple of times a day?" I get a blank stare. I hurriedly continue. "That big...missile sticking out her rear end is because her poop hole is blocked and it can't get rid of poop so her butt is distended?"

No, Robin explains, she's been trying to poop and the poop's drying on her butt and it apparently has been building up for some time. Really, we didn't notice. How unobservant can we be????

"So you're telling me this chick has been carrying her weight in dry poop around for a little while?" Robin nods. "How do I fix it again?" I ask.

Robin looks at me for a minute and says, "Hang on a minute." And he disappears to his basement with the chick.

A few minutes later Tyson comes up the stairs to tell me "she's a little o.k."

After a few more minutes of chatting with Jody about the black forest birthday cake the girls and I are making for Chris tonight (I had to borrow a few cups of milk from her for that, too) Robin comes up with the chick who is looking right as rain.

He cautions me that now that she's lost her weight in manure, she will probably be able to jump out of the ice cream bucket. (She does get loose on the way home.)

Feeling a big chagrined, we drive home. In the 20 minutes we are gone Chris has diagnosed the chick's problem by googling "constipated chick" although he does tell me there's some really weird results when you google those particular words...

Saved from avian flu and the thought of putting a cute fluffy chick out of its misery, I think what complete amateurs we are! And that we are going to be in real trouble at butchering time in May!

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