You don't want pictures today. Trust me on this. Today's post is about the worst things that nature can throw at animals -- coyotes and maggots. A bourbon red turkey hen hatched babies in the pasture, and a coyote attacked her. The llamas chased off the coyotes, but a good deal of damage had been done. Within a couple days, maggots started to hatch in the open wounds.
I told Katherine to put screw worm spray on the wounds. As soon as she did it, the maggots started wiggling like crazy, and the turkey hen swung her head around and started pecking at them. [expletives deleted] I grabbed the can and started reading the label very carefully. I didn't think the poison would kill the mama turkey, but I was definitely worried about the babies eating the maggots as they fell to the ground. The label had no warnings about using it around young poultry. In fact, it said it could be used for poultry lice, so I hoped the babies would be okay.
I was mad at myself for not thinking through all the repercussions before spraying the hen. We don't use pesticides on our farm because we know that bugs -- dead or alive -- are a favorite food for chickens and turkeys. Then two years ago, a lamb was infested with maggots. We brought her in the house and elevated her to pet status. She would never be eaten, so using the spray on her didn't seem like a bad idea. But, it didn't require an entire can to treat her, and the remainder sat in the storeroom. Once you have something at your fingertips, you think about using it. Mike asked about the safety of the spray when I told him my plan, but I responded that we would not be eating the turkey hen because, number one, she's four or five years old, and number two, her leg and back are infested with maggots. I didn't think about the babies.
Once I did think about the possible problem, the options did not seem very desirable. We could bathe the turkey hen and pick out the maggots by hand, but an adult heritage turkey is not like a cuddly lamb. If you've ever been smacked in the nose by a heritage turkey's wing, you understand my fear. Yes, fear. I'm emphasizing heritage here, because heritage turkeys can fly, and you have to have to pretty strong wings to lift 15 pounds into the air. It would have meant many hours of struggling to pick the maggots out with tweezers -- and then we would have had to put her in the house, so more flies wouldn't lay eggs in the wound. A dog crate is the only thing I have that would hold a turkey in the house, but she'd be cramped and unable to stand up straight. We couldn't think of any alternatives that weren't met with, "That's crazy."
You probably know how the story ends. Over the next two days, the babies died. As I started beating myself up about my stupidity, another voice in my head pointed out that's what happens when you have that crap within your grasp. I made the same mistake that's made every day in modern agriculture. They have antibiotics, so they use them -- daily. They have hormones, so they use them. They have pesticides and herbicides and GMOs, so they use them, whether they need them or not, whether there is an organic alternative or not. I can't believe how easy it was to just grab the can and use it without thinking about all the possible repercussions.
I need to learn to deal with maggots organically. It's obvious that they are an unavoidable part of farm life, especially when you have coyotes. This summer I discovered that Shaklee's Basic H works very well as a fly spray, so I can use that to keep flies off animals in the future. I think I've read that diatomaceous earth kills maggots, but I want to do some more research on that. Hmm ... maybe I'll have Katherine do an experiment.