Martin Gur­don

Martin Gur­don suf­fers sev­eral dis­tress­ing losses to his flock

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A dread­ful month

Priscilla the Brahma had been sit­ting on a clutch of six mys­tery heavy breed eggs sourced from eBay. Af­ter two weeks, I was pretty sure I could feel move­ment in­side one or two of them, so was hope­ful that our flock would soon be ex­pand­ing.

The day they were due to hatch we’d been away, and re­turned hop­ing to see some shat­tered eggshell and hear the sound of chicks, but all was quiet. The fol­low­ing day noth­ing had hatched and we re­signed our­selves to things hav­ing gone awry.

How­ever, the next morn­ing I heard some cheep­ing noises, gently lifted Priscilla, and there was an egg par­tially split and a lit­tle round eye peer­ing from a hole in the mem­brane. Four hours later I re­turned and not much had changed, the chick seemed weaker and the mem­brane was dry­ing out. Sens­ing trou­ble, I gave the lit­tle bird a help­ing hand and it spilled out of the egg.

Fast-for­ward a day and Priscilla’s baby was vo­cal, fluffy, but a bit mori­bund, but another egg was be­gin­ning to pip. Hours later I could see its oc­cu­pant was still trapped with the same dried mem­brane is­sues, so I helped a bit but de­cided to leave the rest to na­ture, as I was head­ing to Lon­don and would be away.

WEAK AND WOB­BLY

That night my wife phoned to say the se­cond chick hadn’t been strong enough to break out and hours later was still trapped in its egg. She’d donned rub­ber gloves, brought it into the house and was warm­ing it with a heat pad. We de­cided to risk putting the tiny bird back with its mother and sib­ling. It sur­vived the night but was very poorly, so my wife headed for the vet, who di­ag­nosed an in­fec­tion and rec­om­mended a dis­patch. Not a good start

The other chick still seemed a bit weak and wob­bly when I re­turned and got the birds up the fol­low­ing morn­ing, and I was hor­ri­fied when it wan­dered into Priscilla’s path and she trod heav­ily on it. Within min­utes the chick be­gan to look very sick and it was my turn to get out the heat pad and call the vet, but the bird didn’t sur­vive the three-hour wait be­fore the vet could see her.

This rather dis­tress­ing state of af­fairs hadn’t done with us though. Hestletina, one of our four Pol­ish Crested ban­tams had emerged that morn­ing look­ing very poorly. Now five, she’d suf­fered egg bind­ing last year, and her pos­ture in­di­cated a re­peat per­for­mance. The vet pre­sented op­tions that were ei­ther pro­longed, in­va­sive and ex­pen­sive or ter­mi­nal. I looked at a bird, who sud­denly seemed very old, sick and weary, and found the right de­ci­sion wasn’t hard to make. It was, how­ever, the cul­mi­na­tion of quite the nas­ti­est 48 hours I’ve had as a gar­den hen­keeper.

Na­ture doesn’t know that Chicken Crazy is sup­posed to be a light, comic read, but let’s end on a pos­i­tive note. Priscilla quickly shook off dis­tress and brood­i­ness and has al­ready moved on. So should we.

It was the nas­ti­est 48 hours I’ve had as a gar­den hen­keeper

INSET: He­seltina, on the right, didn’t sur­vive

ABOVE: Priscilla shook off her dis­tress

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