Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Mental Illness & Animals

Do animals suffer from mental illness?

Now there's a knotty question for a Wednesday morning!
I got to thinking about this as Jeremy Kyle blasted out from the ipad when I was doing the washing up. It was a result of an early morning knock on the door and the arrival of another waif and stray.
For wrapped in a tea towel on the draining board, waiting for a good squirting with the ubiquitous antiseptic spray was a small bald hen.
" she's been bullied by her pen mates" her owner shared almost tearfully
...."And for months now she has been pulling at her own feathers"
The lady pointed at the hen's abdomen which was covered in sore pecked spots and small tufts of feather quills. She did indeed look a mess.
I felt for the owner. The poor woman was a bit fraught herself. Obviously the dream of a few happy and healthy chucks pecking around calmly in her back garden had changed into a bit of a nightmare for her. The self harming hen had left her all of a dither.
Now there is many reasons for this behaviour. Sometimes it's a broody thing. Sometimes it's a diet thing. Mites and skin problems may be a reason too but just occasionally a hen can just be mentally damaged in some way , just like people can be .
And like mental illness in the human population, the treatment of such a condition can be somewhat problematic.

I have seen " depressed" animals in my time, animals that look like the spark has gone out of them.
More often than not there is a physical causation for this, and often without medical intervention the animal will invariably die. But often a " listless and depressed" look may be just the simple result of a group animal being lonely.
Herd and flock creatures need to feel secure and part of something bigger.....
It's not rocket science.
Odd, destructive behaviour in dogs is often a product of their owners' stupidity and inappropriate care giving rather than to a mental aberration. Nurture is vital when dealing with animals.
Treat an animal with calmness, common sense and consistency and you will generally get a balanced animal in return .
Not always, but generally.
The final rule for good animal care is to make sure you treat the animal , like an animal.
They may be the love of your life but they are not little people.
Treating a dog, for instance, like it was a human child , is dangerous.
Dogs need to be treated differently....in a breed appropriate way...they need to understand you in dog terms...


And so what are my plans for this sad little hen, wrapped up in her tea towel on the drainage board?
Well I have now sprayed every bit of bare skin with purple skin cleaner ( to stop her pecking at blood spots) she has had some antibiotics, and has been placed into a clean run on her own, but in full view of the other hens. I rang a lady in the village whose son owns hens and have arranged for a very young teenage cockerel to be dropped off. He will hopefully bond with the sad little hen and when both are given free range on the field he will protect her from bullying. Cockerels are programmed to stop fighting.
I checked her carefully before returning her to her run. She looked calm and had bright eyes
She could have been mad as a box of frogs inside that little head of hers
I have no way of knowing
Waifs and stays

Waifs and strays

55 comments:

  1. Ooh, what a fantastic post for the early morning tea break. This coming from someone who just can't stop at one. 3 dogs (one brand new pup), 4 cats and whatever else I can drag home - this post should be printed in each and every newspaper. For those who just don't get it and those who think they do. I hope the hen sorts herself out - I am sure she will with the great care you are providing. As for her name - that might take some thinking. If she were a he, I would have opted for Pecker? No? :) Have fun with the hen....

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  2. St John of Trelawnyd rides again. What a very nice person you are John. Any waif or stray gets treated with love and affection. Well done!

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    1. Exactly what Cro said. You really are a sweetheart. X

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  3. An uplifting post for the morning.I hope all works out with your plans for her. I would name her after the lady that brought her to you. She was a kind-hearted soul, too, by the sounds of it. Deb

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  4. She looks depressed.

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    1. You would be too if i wrapped you up in a tea towel and plonked you on my drainage board

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  5. the hen will have a good home with you, john!

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  6. I'm going to pretend to be a waif and stray over to your place - I need some kitchen love. How wonderful you will find a boyfriend for your Ms. Mary Berry - is she the cake lady I've see on the bake-off show?

    Glad you'e back home again, and I know the menagerie is thrilled.

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    1. Mary, I will be right behind you :)

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  7. I was just about to think of a name for her and seen that she had already been named! I love that she is called Mary Berry on the day of the bake off too!!! I hope she recovers. I have seen that some hens are given knitted jumpers to wear (ex batts) Maybe some of your loyal readers will be able to make something like that for her to keep her warm and from pulling her feathers out?

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    1. Brilliant idea Simone. I'm sure Chris could make her one, he knits and there are lots of patterns on the internet. Maybe a fetching stripy number would be just the job?

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    2. Animal helper pat ( who is a wizz with sewing) will be asked to help x

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    3. Great! Please put up a photo of Mary Berry when she is in her new attire! x

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  8. I hope if I ever became a waif (not much chance of that now!) or stray in any sort of need I could find a sactuary the likes of your cottage John.
    Good luck to Mary Berry.

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  9. And he name will be?......
    'One Lucky Little Hen' sounds appropriate.
    Good post John, thanks.

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  10. I am thinking of all kind of parallels to humans, I know a few who need to find their way to your drainboard, wrapped up in a towel.

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  11. You have my permission to name her Mary.

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  12. What a kind-hearted soul you are, John. I'm glad the owner brought this little hen to you. As the first commenter said, this post should be printed in every newspaper, even here in our town in South Africa. Tails up to Mary Berry. xx

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  13. I am never surprised at how people treat animals, after all children and elderly parents often fare no better. Ignorance is rife and all the articles and lessons in the world have very little effect. As my Granny used to say, you can't put sense into a dead well and expect it to float.

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  14. You are so kind.

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  15. John, a couple of days back from the other side of the world and you are already helping the sad and lonely of the poultry world. Good luck.

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  16. Yes indeed...you are home and life has picked up where you left it.

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  17. Doesn't it make you feel good to have people think of you as a healer of all things great and small? John, the chicken doctor. Mentally ill or not, she's in good hands.

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  18. Ah, John Gray, the guardian angel of waifs and strays... and anyone else he meets.

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    1. Im a regular saint I am !

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  19. And how long have you been home? How did the folks and critters of Trelawnyd get along without you while you traveled down under?

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  20. You have a heart of pure gold; what a lucky hen.

    ps I agree with all your comments about dogs having to know their place in the pack. Cats on the other hand exist to be served by their humble slaves - us. :-)

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  21. You are the best story teller and have a heart of pure gold...I love visiting here!

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  22. Mary Berry? and there was me thinking I had a shot at getting you to call her Fanny Craddock

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  23. I think she knows she's in good hands...bless her heart and yours!
    hughugs

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  24. Heh, that didn't take long since your return!

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    1. Too bloody right alison

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  25. So, the 10-year old buff orpington popped her clogs whilst you were away, and a little waif shows up a few days after your return. The circle of life.

    You're giving Mary Berry the best possible chance for healing. Hope the outcome is a happy one.

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  26. If anyone can induce a little sanity into her, it is you. And her cockerel friend.
    Good luck.

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  27. We don't need to worry about her now, John, we know she's in safe hands.

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  28. Very interesting John, and we will store that info for when we get chooks in the new year. Good to see you tending the brood once more.

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    1. Just email me if u need any help...... I run a yearly " chicken course for beginners "

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  29. See! You came home just in time!

    Jo in Auckland, NZ

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  30. Real life takes over again. I bet you feel as if you've never been away. XX

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  31. Pleasess to see that Mary Berry will have a fresh start with you and hopefully a new friend to bond with . Sounds like all is well in the chicken world.

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  32. I had a chicken once that pecked all the feathers off the other chickens head.My grandfather said he was neurotic and we should chop off his head. I cried so pitifully that he let the chicken live.

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  33. I hope the new lady settles in and is happy :)

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  34. Feather pulling, self mutilation, is common with parrots who are bored. They need to be kept amused. However they are somewhat smarter than chickens.
    Barely home and another waif, so what else is new!
    Cheers Peter

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  35. One of my Labs is a bit of a neurotic. From two weeks old we noticed it (she was bred here). She is highly sensitized to touch and so on, has super fast reaction times, and was phobic about kids right from having her eyes open. She is totally unlike her placid mama and outgoing Brad Pitt of a litter brother! I've used all my doggy skills to get her to the stage she is at now, where she is pretty sane, if a little skewiff at times. I shudder to think how she'd have gone in a less doggy family. Ps she is spayed and will not be passing on her 'less than sterling for a Lab' temperament!

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    1. One of our dogs is a bit barmy! We inherited her at a year old and already had her litter sister (from 8 weeks) who is just a big teddy bear with the loveliest temperament, so it was a bit of a shock when neurotic dog moved in! We've had her for 6 years now and she is much improved but will never be what she should have been, but we love her. Like you, we won't be breeding from her and again, like you, I think she would have been an even bigger mess had she gone to a less doggy family.

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  36. Lucky wee chook !

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  37. You are a love x

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  38. Oh boy --- I smell an adventure! Please keep us posted on this little gal!

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