The things we do to ourselves…
Stu and I believe in constantly challenging ourselves.
We figure challenges will ensure that we are always discovering and growing and never becoming stagnant or complacent.
One of our latest challenges has been our chickens…
We embraced all things chicken in September last year and, so far, have had a blessedly easy life with them.
But sooner or later, things were bound to go wrong…and our chooks have recently opened up a whole new world to us.
This week we were faced with our biggest chook-related challenge yet.
We woke one morning to find Horris (our bantam rooster) obsessively scratching one of his eyes and constantly rubbing the same side of his face on the ground.
I watched him for a while because, to be honest, I needed time to realize that I had a sick chicken on my hands.
After a few hours, Horris had deteriorated and couldn’t stand or walk straight. He had a weird grey crusty thing above his eye and was clearly very traumatized by whatever was happening to him.
When I was young, Dad used to solve all animal-related problems with warm water and antiseptic solution. We never used to take our pets to the vet. Invariably, Dad’s ‘solution’ always worked.
I suspected that chickens in country Italy may never see a vet either (they are most probably ‘despatched’ instead) so I did what I always do when faced with a new challenge here.
I found a great chicken discussion forum where I read about all sorts of horrible chicken ailments (that I hope we never see!). One possible explanation for Horris’ behaviour was an infestation of tiny ticks (which made me itch just reading about it!); another was an infected eye.
The home solution for the ticks was to smear vaseline on the mass which would apparently suffocate the ticks until they fell off. In the absence of vaseline, I decided a dob of quality New Zealand antiseptic manuka honey might work instead.
I picked up Horris, smeared him with this (rather expensive) goo and left him for a few hours.
That night, when he was all tucked up in ‘bed’, I sought him out armed with a warm water and eye wash mixture and a few cotton wool balls. I was confronted with a little rooster that couldn’t open his eye and wondered fleetingly if sticky honey had been the right thing to do.
But as I carefully washed his eye area, to my surprise, the grey mass came away with the remaining honey and the little fellow looked up at me!
The next day, although Horris looked completely back to normal, we decided to see if we could get something medicinal for him just in case he deteriorated again.
We started at the agriculture shop where we buy our chicken food. The man there told us to go to the chemist.
Yes, the chemist.
Apparently, in Italy all medicine whether it be for humans or animals is obtained from a chemist!
We really struggled with this; it just didn’t seem right to stand in line with a whole lot of ailing humans and ask for chook solutions.
But what have I said previously about challenges?
So we set off to the chemist.
Like all embarrassed foreigners, we loitered outside the chemist until we were certain that there were no other customers inside.
Then we entered.
“I need something for an infected eye”, I announced in bad Italian to the lady behind the counter.
She peered at my eye.
“For my chickens”, I explained in bad Italian.
Her and her colleague looked at each other and I was sure the man at the agriculture shop had played a joke on me.
I looked down, embarrassed and desperate for an escape or at least for a few more words in Italian that might explain my chicken predicament.
I could see Stu out of the corner of my eye. He was slowly backing away and making for the other side of the shop where he was feigning great interest in an advertisement on the wall.
The 2 colleagues looked back at me and I realized that they were waiting for more explanation.
Completely bereft of words, I rubbed my eye on the back of my hand several times in an expressive manner, then walked around in circles in a crooked lopsided fashion.
The 2 colleagues looked askance.
Stu feigned even greater interest in his commercial but suddenly returned to me in a panicked state.
Somehow, we were given a small tube of antibiotic ointment and sent on our way.
It was only later, outside the shop, that Stu explained his sudden departure from the advertisement. It seems that he had been showing great interest in a commercial about female sanitary products.
Next time we need a chemist, we might try the other one in town…