We recently had our first chicken illness.
Or so we thought.
Turned out it wasn't a disease after all, but the whole process was an eye-opener for us - and more than a little stressful. And it got me to thinking - how many people add livestock (or even pets) to their homesteads without having a place set up and all the supplies to care for them should something go sideways?
Now obviously I'm a newbie at this, so what I'm going to share with you is simply my own experience - and some of the great tips that were offered up on our Facebook page, as well as via all the forums I visited as I attempted to figure out what was wrong with one of our hens. I make no claim to be an expert, and I'm not dishing up medical advice. Just some good common sense. And a few resources you'll find useful.
I'll start this way - the time to prepare for pet and livestock emergencies is not when they fall ill or get injured, but that's exactly what usually happens. Or rather, that's what happened to me. One of our hens was making this weird moaning noise, standing in a corner of the coop like she was having trouble breathing. We went through all the checks suggested in the forum I frequent, and on our Facebook page, and could find nothing obvious. So we isolated her from the rest (in case it was something contagious) and proceeded to support her as best we could while we watched. And waited.
There was nothing else we could do, because we didn't have any supplies set aside. We were lucky it turned out to be nothing - or rather not a disease of any sort. In the end, we think she either ate too fast or swallowed a bee or something that severely irritated her throat, hence the funny noise and movements. She was fine within a couple of days, but the process was a stressful one that involved many hours in front of the computer and the crazy-making that comes with not being prepared.
At that moment, I decided that next time one of our animals required extra care, we'd be ready.
In order to get ready for a livestock emergency, you really have to do the research so you know what common illnesses can befall each individual species in your area, and then prepare medicines, supplies and space so you're ready. Add to that the fact that animals will often hide the fact they are ill til they are very ill (think about how an animal acting ill would fare in the wild), and you'll understand why it's critical to be all set up before something happens.
We've put together some wise suggestions I gleaned from one of our amazing Facebook friends (thanks, Jan!), as well as my own research and preferences for solutions that are more natural than pharmaceutical:
That should have you covered for most minor emergencies or for observation of an animal you believe might be ill or injured. Of course, you'll still want to contact your vet as required, but the more you can do for yourself, the higher the likelihood your animal will pull through, and the more self-sufficient you'll be.
Do you have a first aid kit for your livestock? Did we forget anything? Victoria Gazeley would love to hear what's in your livestock first aid kit - please share in the comments below. We can all learn a lot from each other!