Grace Update

Grace is still with us. It’s still touch and go, and very intensive. She is actually on two antibiotics, the first was prescribed by the initial city vet that we had to visit as they were the only local vets that could see her at such short notice. The second, Baytril (the standard poultry offering) was prescribed by our normal vet who is quite up on poultry, having a farming section. Baytril was suggested as, according to them, it can help with infections of the brain area whereas the other antibiotic we have can’t. So, every morning Grace has 0.9ml of Baytril, 3.1ml of the other antibiotic, then three heaped teaspoons of a critical care powder (essentially an energy, mineral and vitamin mix), mixed with a little water and syringed in to her mouth. Every night she has another 3.1ml of the unknown antibiotic, another three heaped teaspoons of critical care powder mixed with water, and some fresh greens to try and tempt her. The vet suggested 11 teaspoons of the critical care powder a day if we could, so we’re probably giving her near that with the heaped teaspoons, but it’s a lot of syringing and it must stress her! Suz’s coat (she holds Grace whilst I do the business end) is covered in the sticky stains from it – Grace has learned to take the syringed liquid into her mouth but close her beak so the liquid sits in her mouth. She then keeps her beak shut, pretending to have swallowed it, until she’s quite confident that *you* think she’s swallowed it. Then she’ll defiantly shake her head, showering anyone near with sticky white gloop! Talk about a battle of wits! Now when I syringe it in I prise her beak apart with my middle finger and thumb, holding her head in my hand from the back. I place the syringe in the front of the beak, so she can bite down on that if she likes and I use my two fingers to keep her beak from moving sideways to remove the syringe, and syringe enough in to sit at the back of her tongue. Too rough and it squirts down her throat which is not good, too gentle and it sits on the tip of her tongue and she refuses to swallow it! Once it’s on the back of her tongue I move my two fingers to form a ring around her beak so she can’t shake her head to gloop us, and to also keep her head level so she can’t drop her head to allow the gloop to drop under gravity. This technique works almost flawlessly – maybe I should try and video it, it’s taken six days to master!

Then we also mix more of the critical care powder with some Oxbow Critical Care (a mix of timothy hay and more vitamins and minerals in it) into a small bowl of water which she is encouraged to drink by leaving it under her nose. We also throw some wheat grain into this, and some nasturtium leaves, parsley leaves and dandelion leaves cut into small bits to float on top. The whole concoction is called “Grace’s Soup” by us all – she seems to like dunking her beak into it, and anything she does swallow from that bowl is doing her some good. Also, once we’ve been through a ‘syringing various liquids into the goose’s mouth’ saga, she likes to rinse her mouth out, so we place the soup in front of her so she’s rinsing with something else good for her!

What we have found is that being totally separated from the other two, one of whom is her hubbie, seemed to get her really down. So we’ve placed the small field shelter the other side of the gate from her two friends, so she can see them through the chicken wire stapled to the gate. We then place her under the field shelter, surround her with her various bowls (Grace’s Soup, a big low bowl of fresh clean water, a small bowl of layers pellets with added poultry spice pellets, and a small pile of whatever greens we’ve picked that she might like to pick from), and she can see them and they can see her, but they can’t get too close to her and they can’t steal her food! Importantly, we also place their drinking bucket of water the other side of the gate, and we’ve found that when they take a drink, she’s more likely to take a drink from hers, to join in!

At night we bring her back nearer the house to the ‘goose hospital’, which is a large dog crate, filled with plenty of fresh hay, covered with a waterproof tarp. The whole thing is in the old pig sty which we use as a log store, so it’s nice and cosy and covered.

After a week of this, her poops have gone from water to a runny green, but thicker by the day for the last three days. She can now stand on her own two legs, albeit quite wobbly, and she’s started to eat dirt a few days ago and pull at small tufts of greenery. She’s not eating a lot though, so today we’ve spoken to our normal vets again who have suggested another three days of Baytril, and we’re also going to start her on a probiotic mix to try and replenish her gut flora. After three days on that we’ll reassess.

Her feathers continue to grow from the moult, bless her, and her bite, which was quite pathetic at the start when I used my finger to keep her beak open whilst syringing the various fluids into her mouth, is now most definitely more acute. To the point that I really do try and keep my fingers out of the way!

So, to cut a long story short, she’s heading in the right direction, she’s not out of the woods yet, but it’s better than it was three days ago! But she really is a lovely goose – lovely colouring and very placid – worth fighting for!

Grace Update

We took some advice from Steeple Ducks about using a small stick to prop Grace’s beak open whilst we syringed liquids into her mouth- what a wonderful technique! It only needed to be about 8mm in diameter, near the end of her beak. That way there was enough space behind the stick to squeeze some nutrient mix on to her tongue, then quickly pull the stick out so she could swallow it. Not a quick process but less hassle for us and her to open her beak whilst holding her head in place!

Steeple Ducks also suggested that the Baytril thing is perhaps a concern about increase in resistance to antibiotics. Perhaps if we ingest it even in minute quantities we could develope a resistance to ones prescribed to humans? They may well be right about the Baytril – the first vet we saw about our ill bantam suggested that the medical profession was leaning on them about the over-use of antibiotics. I imagine it’s all related to the general problem with antibiotic resistance and bolting doors that can be bolted.

Today she’s still with us, and no worse than yesterday, which is good. As I said in my previous post, we have managed to get a small amount of nutrient mix into her, and she’s taking water and some mix of her own accord. She’s not eating a lot, but then she seems to be having little and often. She has started to dig into dirt that she finds in the grass – I wonder if she’s after the minerals in the dirt, or the roots of the grass. Either way she seems to have more strength, but tires easily. With our chicken it took about 3 days on antibiotics to see a noticeable difference so as long as she’s bouncing along the bottom but getting no worse over the next two days I won’t panic. If she looks worse before then then we’ll possibly take her back to the vets for more treatment.

Poorly Grace – Sun Stroke?

Here goes. Two days ago we noticed one of our moulting geese, Grace, was a bit listless, wobbly on her feet, and not eating a great deal. She’d also taken to sitting down quite a lot, in the full sun. We have had a heat wave into the high 20s, early 30s for a week or so and, despite having a field shelter, the geese have taken to wandering around in the full glare.

Our other goose, Lucy, had also been listless and lacking energy about 3 weeks ago, and was also going through the moult, but this was before the heatwave, and is now plodding around happily with Barty the gander.

Worried that something was amiss, we decided to part Grace from the flock and bring her near to the house where we could keep an eye on her. There was also more shelter from a large fence, should she decide she needed it. We also gave her her own bucket of water, another lower water bowl in case she was too tired to stand, a bowl of barley corn (there is some doubt over the suitability of barley for geese – this needs more research), layers pellets, and a selection of freshly picked greens. She nibbled at the corn and pellets, but didn’t touch the fresh stuff. She would also take some water occasionally. During the day she got neither better nor worse.

We looked to the ever-helpful Pilgrim posse on mail, and had suggestions that worming her may be a good idea, and possibly treating for heat stress (cooling her down with a damp towel, dipping her beak in the water to encourage her to drink).

This book was suggested for diagnosing ailments:

The next day we were greeted with clear and runny poop, so we whisked her off to the vets who prescribed her with the antibiotic Metronidazole and the wormer Panacur.

Whilst being initially offered Baytril, the usual antibiotic cleared for use in poultry, the vet mentioned we wouldn’t be able to eat the eggs once administered. We said we knew this, the usual fortnightly wait before it was safe, but she informed us we would never be able to eat the eggs again! Crikey – that’s a turn up!

We were also advised that 2ml of Panacur per 1kg in weight per bird was to be given once daily for three days, so 5ml for our Grace was the dose!

Alarm bells once again sounded, so I called Chris Ashton of Ashton Waterfowl for some advice. Chris said that vets tend to just multiply quantities based on animals they know, but that 2ml per adult Pilgrim would be plenty. And to combat gizzard worm you only need to dose once, then again in 1-2 weeks time – two doses in total. The staggered dosing is to kill the emerging adult worms the first dose missed, as Panacur is not effective against the eggs of the gizzard worm.

As for the Baytril, it seems to be a misinterpretation of the regulations, but in practice you can eat the eggs 14-18 days after administration. That being said, a recent visit to another vet with a poorly chicken we bought (we didn’t have the heart to leave her with her owners), we were also told that Baytril was no longer an option and that they had to give us something else – amoxicillin – a paediatric banana-flavoured antibiotic. It worked, but I’m sure their reason was something along the lines of ‘clamping down on the over-use of antibiotics’.

So there are the official quantites for Panacur for Pilgrim geese, from Chris. And as for the antibiotics, there seem to be many discussions online around people’s experiences of it – for example:

I’m still not sure about Baytril’s current standing, but one vet said they can no longer prescribe it, and the other said we can’t eat the eggs ever again if they did so. All theories welcome.

We’re now on the evening and we have given the first doses of both, much to Grace’s disgust. It’s relatively easy to squirt the stuff into her with one adult hugging her and the other doing the messy business of holding her mouth open and syringing. However, it has crossed my mind that this is a weakened goose and that, if all goes to plan and the liquids do their job, by the time she’s ready for her second dose of Panacur she’ll be a darned sight less amenable to having her beak prised open by a ham-fisted, syringe-toting human slave. I’ll be glad of that bite when it happens, as I know she’s back on form.

Hay Making

This year was the first we carried out the plan to make our own hay. Way back, when the layout for The Patch was drawn up, one quarter acre was always meant to be left to grass. In theory, this quarter acre would give us around 20 small bales, enough for a couple of sheep over winter. Now, not having sheep that need feeding, and the grass still being quite new, we have grown grass for hay before.

However, last year we made around 10 bags by necessity – a long rainy stretch at the start of the year meant our grass was too long to cut, in the chicken paddock at the back of the house. When we finally did manage to cut it, it was around 8-10″ high, just about manageable with the push mower, held at an odd angle. From this we made hay, very mulched as it was, and the rabbits had good food for winter!

So, after that experience, this year it was decided that we’d have a bash at our first hay! The grass grew, the clover started to peek out amongst the rye grass seed heads, and a week of sunshine was 2013 Hay Makingforecast. The fly in the ointment was how to cut it! We’d been lent an old scythe a few months prior, but the blade was in a pretty bad way. Not having the first clue about how to use one, and looking at a week of sun but also a good load of normal day-time job work, meant I couldn’t afford to take the time to learn and do, and risk losing the grass. We needed someone to cut it for us, after which we could turn it and bag it.

And therein lay a 2013 Windrowsproblem. No one wanted to do it! More to the point, no one was capable of doing it! All the local farms are large scale, no one is geared up to squeeze between 8′ gates anymore. Even if they were, to cut a quarter acre is not economically viable. Luckily Farmer John next door put us in touch with a chap who would cut it for us, but into a semi-mulch state – 2013 Bagged Hayaround 6″ long pieces. The day arrived, and my task was to follow him with a garden rake, and rake the missed stalks upright, for the second pass, and rake the cut grass into rows that he could go over again. After three passes of the field, trying to keep up with the cutter, I have to say I was exhausted! A full day outside, in the hottest sun we’d had all year. Once he’d left, as the pieces were quite short, the windrows needed turning more frequently than normal hay as wind had a struggle getting into the piles. So a full week later and we were ready to bag  the hay. Of course, not managing 2013 Hay Barnto find a small-scale hay cutter was a precursor to also not finding a small-scale hay baler. We needed to improvise, and in such a short term I decided on recycled refuse bags. If left open they would hopefully breath enough, although the hay was pretty dry when we finally came round to bagging it up.

All four of us spent half a day bagging it all up, 2013 Hay in Garagethen we needed to transport it to a small barn that Farmer John said we could use – a life saver as the garage was almost full as it was, and we needed space for storing our produce! It was a satisfying sight to see it all brought in, and enough in our garage for the pet rabbits. The best thing was the quality – I hand weed the quarter through the first part of the year, pulling out anything that’s not meant to be there. No chemicals are use, and so we can have complete faith in using it, or passing it on.

Meet Willy the Cock


Meet William – the newest edition to our family. He’s a Light Sussex bantam, chosen from the four brothers we bought locally, and is destined to be the father of our new bantam flock. After a week of worming and three weeks of quarantine, we’ll introduce him to his new harem, Delphi and Squinty (Honey).