Thursday, September 5, 2013

Learnings from Blueberry

Many say if you have animals, don't get "over involved".  Although we have a farm, with plenty of animals to tend, I cannot conceive of such a concept.   If you provide feed and water and physical care, why not love? Don't we all need love?  I believe each animal is capable of showing loving behavior (okay I don't know what to think about fire ants or wasps yet!)  and I fully believe merits respect and loving care.  As a person of faith, I believe God gave us dominion over the earth, the waters, the lands, the animals, the sky and also entrusted those into our care.   The risk of loving so much is that when an animal is sick or suffers, we suffer alongside it as we minister to her/him.   It is called love, empathy and at The Garry Farm, we go to many extremes to try to provide healing when possible, but always comfort, loving care and personalized attention.

This is a story is now a tribute to Blueberry and what she taught us.  We drove many miles to pick up Blueberry on July 6 and were so excited about being able to get such a beautiful blue silkie with a precious high vault and beautiful crest....She was a pullet, a young hen.  She was a bit more timid than the others we picked up, but I just chalked it up to shy.  Then she and the others gotten on that same trip were put into isolation so that they would have time to shed any diseases or exhibit any problems that come out when birds are "stressed by putting into a new environment"  . When in the house before moving to their isolation area (also known as quarantine area).  I noticed Blueberry's reluctance to eat or drink water  I thought she's broody. Meaning wanting to sit on egg and hatch babies.... This is something silkies do often  Well, I was concerned about her not even stopping to drink water at all ..... I finally brought water to her and she drank.   Still no eating!!! I scrambled egg and she ate that, but still didn't move toward it.   I made her a padded ice pack to sit on to "break the broodiness"....I changed it often and gave her breaks from being on it as I didn't want to chill her. It seemed to help some and so I snuck two fairly large sized adolescents under her wings while she slept and she was up and moving  so I was hopeful!  And I thought, just a bit broody and a long drive she will be fine..... Outside in the quarantine pen, she adored the green grass and seemed to be doing really well.  Here's a picture of her enjoying the grass in the quarantine pen. 

After quarantine was over, moved her and the mini flock to their permanent quarters, came in and noticed her with the classic posture of dragging a right leg, seen in pictures everywhere perfect to Marek's disease.   I contacted the owner who assured me she had had Marek's vaccination.   I pull her out from the pen and bring her into the house.  Bath, clean, examine.   Go on line and was amazed to learn that Marek's vaccine is not a lifetime one, it can sometimes need periodic boosters.   How can a healthy bird get Marek's, from wild birds, who are major carriers!   From their dander in the air.  The simple act of wind bringing it to them can cause this. It is not transmitted through eggs to babies. Humans cannot get it from poultry or vice versa. 

Here's A picture of Blueberry after a bath.  Decided to put the vault of feathers in a loose band so she could see better and it could dry out of her eyes! This is Farmer Jac Holding her for that awesome picture!

Based on observation, hers was neural,  she used her wing to be a balancer.  She became quite good at adaptation... with flapping her wings to maintain balance, she actually after some of the meds tried to put some weight on her leg.  She decided to catch a fly that had come into the house.  she flapped her wing got airborne missed the fly, then never tried to walk again after making quite a squawk when she landed.

So what treatment was given to her for Marek's Disease,  a Marek's booster, in case it would give some sort of immunity to this disease in progress, baby aspirin dissolved and give via a syringe to the back of neck (for pain and to try to alleviate swelling) so it would not cause respiratory problems, vitamins (No Iron), tumeric with pepperin, lots of good nutritious foods and her regular feed, water, lot of TLC! bathing and water therapy, probiotics, kefir, yogurt (both homemade), access to a restful soft and supportive place where she could safely navigate  as much as possible. hand feeding when needed

This is a video of her in the farm infirmary during her first few days before the Marek's really began its destructive path on her body.  It was a miracle time when she had actually regained some mobility and was eating and drinking on her own  And I was so hopeful.... 

 Next is a pic of her with Mr. Ducky who faithful friend who never left her side. I 

Blueberry passed away the afternoon of 9/4/2013   I am still unable to write very much without crying and there's an empty place by the hearth of our great room and in my heart.   I think if she could talk she might say:
Thanks Mom and Dad for all you did and everyone who thought of me, prayed to me, wrote to my Mom about what to do, send Meds, helped her and him through my Journey.

Forgive yourself.   You did NOT know you should revaccinate for Marek's.  You worked very hard to help and save me.

I keep saying if Only, If Only I had known, I would have gotten her a vaccine and she would be alive today.   I want you to know what I know about this issue.   Please don't be blind to it. 

Trust your instincts when you work with birds.  If there is a persistent reluctant eater, drinker something is wrong.... Just because it's a silkie doesn't mean it's always a bad case of broody.We have had birds for over a decade, having pet birds before we bought the farm.   There have been injuries and other issues we have worked with but nothing as distressing as this.

ALL vaccinations are not created equal   What if the vaccine administered got too warm, or if it stayed mixed too long, or if it the amount given was not the right amount, or if the chick was too old to receive it or the initial vaccine was not mixed corrected.  It happens in human vaccines....Certainly could happen with poultry. 

The best of cleanliness, food and care Cannot protect a bird from Marek's.  It tends to strike age 5 to 25 weeks old but can strike younger and older......

Vaccinate all your birds for Marek's as babies and revaccinate them when they are new to your farm.   A newcomer is very vulnerable because they are undergoing relocation stress. Death by Marek's is horrifying and helpless for an owner to watch..... It is to me the equivalent of human polio...but much much much faster.     You might be able to offer some comfort measures but there is no cure. It is progressive and sometimes there might be recovery, but largely NOT  If you really love your birds and we do, it is horrific to watch them struggle and try and maybe succeed a little, but ultimately loose the battle. 

Picture below the beginning of her complete leg paralysis - right leg issue was first

Tell others what you are learning about Marek's so I did NOT die in vain.  I am doing that right now, Blueberry. 

According to research, there are some breeds more resistant to Marek's in poultry but all birds can get Marek's...   Cleanliness and care in isolating new birds will not prevent it.   Vaccines are not 100% reliable and yes the dosages are in 1000 doses but after having been through the sadness with her, I will gladly purchase the vaccine over and over again, to protect against this horrible disease.  After you order vaccinated birds or introduce newly vaccinated birds you should keep them in isolation for a minimum of 2 weeks that is the highest shedding period for the Mareks.  New birds should be quarantined a minimum of 30 days.   That means visit them last.  Shower up and change clothes and shoes before you see ANY other bird after seeing any quarantine group....

I used to think that you could just breed for disease resistance..... That is very unrealistic for Marek's...If you have wild birds on or flying over your property, or even that next door, your property and its occupants have.  If you go walking in the woods or outside, you could even bring it inside a coop, should your birds never see the light of day.  There are a lot of rumors about Marek's - that it will cause Marek's  That's not true!

Remember The Happy Times Mom and Dad!

I am just now! for a little one you were quite a fighter
You showed us so much courage and love
When the road looked dim, you would struggle to walk 
And eat, and when I petted you or fixed your favorite food
You made such a sweet sound.  I am sure you gave me much more that I ever gave you

You loved your baths and grooming time….. Oh face it, you just loved love  During the times I wasn’t in the house, you would snuggle up to Mr Ducky, your gigantic stuffed Duck…..

You made me laugh even while you were in the infirmary
You did NOT like boiled egg and would sling away the tiny bits of white while
Shaking  your head as if What has this Woman come and brought for me today.

Now a scrambled egg you would devour.  But your ultimate favorite was cooked liver with a side of fresh tomato or cantaloupe…. And a side of scrambled eggs as well. 

Now you never ate gigantic amounts but you loved your varieties and after you ate your strengthening foods would eat your “regular food”  with a bah humbug look and look around to make sure that I had hidden her treats….. The kefir grains were favored as well, but only IF ROOM temperature.

You despised the taste of Turmeric, there was no way to hide it! And when finally I had to syringe it and tried so hard to make sure you wouldn’t taste it, I knew you could.   I’ll never forget when I thought I could sprinkle it on your food, you found the only two bites of food that were free of it and ate them and waited… and I the indulgent mom took the offender plate away and cooked anew.

The last few weeks in the house infirmary had more humor….Up until a few nights ago, At night even when you had only one working leg, you would move herself into a corner or another hiding place.  Never the same.  It was our daily “Peek a Boo” time. Certainly your independence but I also think you loved just fooling me…. There I am with her breakfast, unable to find you and saying “Now where is Blueberry”?  And then you would start talking to me and coming to me and I would scoop you up and say “Now There’s my Girl”… 

Tears fall without signs of ceasing my dear But I am glad that you are no longer in any discomfort or having to struggle so.    So young, so sweet, so loved, RIP Blueberry 9/4/2013
Pictured here was her brave efforts to prop and eat on her own!
.... You will be carried in our hearts forever and sweet girl your life was not in vain