I haven’t blogged in six days because for a good chunk of that I’ve been sleeping off medication. Any drug that cautions, “don’t drive, may cause drowsiness” puts me out for hours, so I don’t take even the mildest medication unless I really have to. Last week, not long after posting the July 21 blog about Japanese Beetles, I picked one of them off my peach tree to feed to Edwina (who was watching and waiting). The beetle shoved it’s hind leg barb into my thumb. Quite the effective defensive move. Much to Edwina’s chagrin, I tossed the beetle in the air with a yelp. My thumb was sore for a day, which wan’t too bad. But then I guess the toxin traveled into my bloodstream because I broke out into raised red, itchy welts all over my body, which shifted, like a moving map. Hence the need for antihistamines, which knock me out.
My girls won’t be hand-fed Japanese Beetles anymore!
Candy’s ears are healed and are now as soft as velvet. A cliche, I know, but there are reasons why we use cliches – there are times when they are perfectly descriptive. A fine fur coat is growing where for months there had been dry, scaly, reddened skin. Her ears really do feel like expensive velvet ribbon. I think that Candy must be much more comfortable. Her eye isn’t teary anymore either. All better!
For the last week while having the medication applied, Candy was kept in a stall in the big barn. She had plenty of room to hop, and a concrete slab to stretch out on and stay cool. But she was BORED. Bunnies are naturally curious. Candy especially so. When I opened the stall door, out she’d squeeze to go exploring. You’d think that a rabbit would be cautious in new surroundings. After all, she is the favored food of many other critters. But no, Candy shoved her way out, hopped onto galvanized bins that hold chicken food, peered into corners, and went up to the screen door to say hello to the chickens. I was careful to keep the main barn door securely latched. My barn is safe, but not so the wilds of the yard.
Today I put Candy back in her hutch in the Hencam yard. Perhaps you’ll see her.
Before I had kids, I’d watch parents finish off melting, half-eaten ice cream cones that their toddlers handed them, and I’d think, ewww, I’ll never do that. Of course, I have.
Before I had chickens, I’d never have willingly picked up a Japanese Beetle. Some bugs are pretty. These aren’t. Some bugs are nicely tickly, like inchworms. These have scratchy, prickly feet.
But, my hens love to eat them, and I want to feed them to the girls. Organic pest control AND a free source of protein (have you seen the cost of chicken feed lately?)
The Japanese Beetles like to eat the leaves on the rose that climbs the side of the Hencam coop. They are easy to catch, but when you open your hand to feed the bug to a hen, it flies away. So, what do I do? I shake it in my closed fist to discombobulate it. Then I call the girls over, who come running – they know exactly what is in my hand. Open my palm and those bugs are gone before I can blink- or take the picture.
Candy’s left eye has been teary and I haven’t been able to solve the dry, irritated ear-skin problem, so I took her to the vet last night. Luckily, Dr. Mead has evening hours when it’s cooler and less stressful to transport a rabbit. I have a small dog crate that I fill with her favorite fragrant timothy hay and she travels quite nicely in it.
Although Candy likes to be pet, it is all on her terms. When she wants a head scratch, she’ll sit at the edge of her hutch near the door. If she doesn’t want to be bothered, she’ll let you know with a growl (yes, rabbits vocalize) and a scratch. Candy has never liked to be picked up. So what does a vet do when he needs to hold a rabbit still and probe around her eyelid? He puts her in a special bunny sock.
Candy was comfortable, secure, quiet and showed no signs of distress.
The diagnosis? Something has irritated her eye, and although it isn’t scratched, it still needs to have ointment applied twice a day. The ears are a bit of a mystery. You’d think that where they drag on the ground would be where the issues are, but the eczema is at the base. So, I have an emollient to apply twice a day. It combines several drugs, including an anti-fungal and an antibiotic and we’re sure to fix whatever the problem is.
So far this morning, I was able to apply both medicines without having to put Candy in a sock. Dr. Mead is an expert, but I know Candy will be annoyed with my fumbling.
Unfortunately for Hencam Candy-watchers, she has to be kept in her hutch to be kept clean (dirt sticks to the ointments.) Candy has a parrot toy in her hutch. It has blocks of wood to gnaw on and a bell at the bottom. When Candy gets annoyed or wants to be let out she rings the bell – not genteelly, but with much flinging about. I expect to hear a lot of bell ringing in the next week.
My chickens spend a lot of time scratching in dirt, which gives their feet a natural pedicure. I’ve never thought about it much, until my husband noticed how long Buffy’s toenails were. So long that they were starting to curl. Buffy, as many of you know, has a mystery ailment that has weakened her legs so that she isn’t strong enough to scratch. The hard-packed sandy, gritty dirt of the yard has not been her emory board. So, yesterday, I got out the clippers that I use on my dogs (specially made for long round nails) and I trimmed Buffy’s toenails. It doesn’t hurt at all – as long as you avoid the quick where there is blood flow (usually the quick extends about halfway down the center of the nail.) However, I can’t say that Buffy enjoyed the attention like I do when I go to the spa for a pedicure!
Buffy is now standing more comfortably. Makes me appreciate how healthy my girls’ outdoor life is. I don’t want to imagine what a hen’s foot looks like if she can’t get outside.
(I took photos of her feet, but they were too out-of-focus to share. You try getting a picture of a wiggling chicken foot in which that toenail, and not the background, is in focus! I’m sure there’s a way, but I don’t feel like practicing!)