We thought we were doing the right thing when we put the Buff Orpington cockerel in with the hybrids in the other run at the end of the garden. He seemed delighted with his flock of hens and it gave the two Araucanas he’d been in with before some respite from his mating attempts – sometimes successful, sometimes not, but all the same pretty exhausting for all concerned.
He’s a magnificent bird with rather extravagant plumage – a joy to see strutting, or rather stumbling, about. So it wasn’t until James picked him up the other day that we realised he’d lost so much weight. Beneath his gingery feathers he was verging on skin and bones. He was also gaping a great deal, opening up his beak and making an alarming rattling sound when he breathed. A quick look in the brilliant Haynes Chicken Manual and the diagnosis was clear: the poor old boy had gapeworm, a hideous condition in which worms fill the throat. The hybrids are generally free of such things having been immunised against all manner of diseases by their commercial breeder, but as our cockerel is home-grown, having been hatched out last year, he’s susceptible to a variety of horrid illnesses.
We picked him up and fearing the worst, popped the three dogs in their outdoor run so he could at least enjoy what we thought would be one of his last days roamly freely in the garden. Sprinkling the herbal remedy Verm-X (which treats and guards birds against internal parasites) in his a dish of corn, James and I both sat down at the garden table to keep an eye on him. He was so thin and weak , we were sure that he wouldn’t survive, even his comb was a pale pink rather than its usual beautiful strawberry colour. After a few hours, we popped him back in with not the hybrids but the two Araucana girls who seemed remarkably glad to see him, especially as there was no chance he’d make any amourous advances in his condition.
Several days later, somewhat miraculously, he seems to be in fine fettle. This morning I let him and his ladies out and he practically bounded out of the pop hole towards the feeder. This is particularly good news as this weekend I’m small-holding the fort while James takes his parents away to Lincolnshire for a few days – and I’m pathetically emotional when it comes to poorly birds. It’ll be just me, Beau the Bengal, Darcy the German Shepherd, Amy and Megan the chocolate Labradors and our 18 chickens. Well, I say that, but I’m actually off to the Tendring Show tomorrow with my mum, so who knows what livestock or fertile eggs we’ll come back with. Better get the incubator out of the loft just in case I get the urge to hatch out some chicks.