Sep 16, 2006

You Can Pick Your Chicken, You Can Pick Your Nose, And Apparently You Can Pick Your Chicken's Nose Too

These are two of our new birds, Tessie Suzette (in the foreground with the molting tail) and Zelda Pearl behind Tessie (Zelda is the chicken disturbingly partial to setting on my husband's head). After quarantining in the kitchen for two weeks, all seemed well with them and they made the move out to the barn to settle in with all the other girls. And all was bliss. No more chickens in the people house (and as such no more chickens roosting on non-chicken surfaces), no more staggered grazing times to keep the old birds separate from the new ones, no more extra work. Within 24 hours of the pullets' reentry into the poultry world, little Tessie took on some alarming symptoms: a very sore and foamy eye and a terrible rattling gurgle in her chest. And then panic set in. Okay, so it wasn't exactly panic, per se, but it was at the very least grave concern. I thought, "What have I done? I may have killed all my chickens. Or made us sick by keeping her in my kitchen. How could I have missed the early onset symptoms of a respiratory illness this severe? What have I done??" Now, I'm not one of those people who are constantly fretting over bird flu and the annihilation of mankind as we know it. Bird flu, or some variation thereof, has been around since the first bird popped out of the first egg somewhere. This is not a new disease. But I have birds, and as such am aware of the warning signs in a flock, and the gurgling in her chest was making me rather nervous. This could be any of a number of illnesses, all of which are contagious to my other birds. I immediately pulled little Tessie out of the barn and set her up in a cage of her own in a separate building. And not only did she cease to exhibit any further symptoms of illness, her existing symptoms disappeared. Completely. Hmm. I watched her for a bit. Nothing. Back into the barn she went as I had clearly begun to hallucinate. The next day her symptoms returned and she even was ambitious enough to have added a new one overnight: a grossly swollen cheek under the foamy eye (not a very attractive look for a chicken) and the rattle was back in her lungs. I checked her from beak to tail and off she went once again to solitary confinement where her symptoms either continued or disappeared in a completely random pattern. So I wasn't hallucinating, but I figured it couldn't possibly be too deadly and put her back in the barn. After all, the other birds had already been exposed to whatever this now-you-see-it-now-you-don't affliction was, and a killer sickness doesn't pop in and out on a breeze. Still, it had me baffled and after days of worry and obsessively checking every chicken in the flock for symptoms, I once again picked up Tessie to give her yet another going-over. And there it was. How I had missed it in the dozens of times I had checked her for signs, I'm not sure. But a pair of tweezers and a quick nose pick later and out came the piece of corn she had managed to wedge up her left nostril. I was telling a duck breeder about this and she told me that she has a duck who regularly gets feed shoved up his nose and has to have it plucked out before it becomes infected. Fabulous. I can't say enough just how thrilled I am at the prospect of picking my chicken's nose regularly for her. Thank you Tessie, from the bottom of my heart. I'm just happy you're healthy.

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