Sick Chick

The past 48 hours have been fairly fraught in the chicken department – it turns out that Gytha wasn’t just cold. ..

Mr Snail-of-happiness had to go away on Wednesday down to Surrey; not long after he left I embarked on a thorough chicken house clean. When I pulled the tray out from beneath their slatted perching area I was worried to see that it contained a lot of liquid. I had noticed that Gytha’s rear end was a bit grubby, but since she has been active and eating well, I had not investigated. However, clearly something was wrong here. I put the cleaning activity aside and inspected Gytha – she had a sore patch beside her vent and a very dirty bottom. So, I came in and consulted the wonder that is the interweb-thingy. Several options seemed possible… worms, bacterial infection or possibly she was egg bound. I had already felt externally for an egg and couldn’t feel one, so went to look at poo. Ah, the joys of chicken-keeping! After inspection of the hen-house and all visible chicken poo round the garden, I was pretty certain she didn’t have worms and I couldn’t see any blood in any of it, so perhaps a bacterial infection? The answer, in the short-term seemed to be natural yoghurt. So I made a mix of layers’ mash, warm water and live yoghurt (which I make myself). This turned out to be very popular with chickens!

I went back to cleaning the hen-house in the drizzle… scrubbing all the bits with soapy water, rinsing with clean water, drying the floors and perch and then putting it all back together with a generous dusting of diatomaceous earth in the places where red mites hang out. Finally I filled the nesting boxes with shredded paper ( great security measure… what thief is going to steal your personal details when they have been shredded and then covered in chicken poo?).

That seemed to be all I could do for Gytha at that stage, so I went back to editing and intermittently fretting. Mr S-o-h was away overnight so I fretted on my own.

In the morning I inspected the area under the perch – not much poo, no blood. Gytha was quite perky. I gave them some more food with natural yoghurt and I went back to editing. After lunch, I decided to wash Gytha’s rear end, feeling that it would be better if she was clean. So, I filled a bowl with warm water and caught my chicken. I reckoned that the best place to try this operation was in the greenhouse, as she then couldn’t escape and it’s nice and warm in there. So, I inverted my chicken to see how messy she was and found her vent distended and blocked with a yellowish mass. I rinsed her off and dislodged some of the mass, but wasn’t sure how rough I could be with her in getting it out. The smell suggested to me that what I was seeing was rotten egg. Back to the interweb. My word, there are many sites about chicken keeping and a whole range of suggestions of how to deal with ‘bunged up’ chickens. The most sensible thing would have been to take her to the vet, but Mr S-o-h had the car and the bus ride takes 45 minutes each way… not a sensible option with a sick chicken, I felt.

So, first I tried introducing some oil (sunflower) into her vent with a syringe. This did not seem to have any effect, but I sat in the garden and watched her for half an hour to see if the lubrication would help her to pass anything. Nothing happened.

Finally (after the vets had closed) Mr S-o-h arrived home. Now there were two of us we could try the next suggestion – soak her in warm water for half an hour (yes, 30 minutes) to make her vent muscles relax in the hope that she would, with a big push, be able to pass the mass of rotten egg. We filled a bowl, Mr S-o-h collected Gytha off her perch and I sat on the kitchen floor holding her in the water. It was much easier than I had expected… there was a bit of a struggle, but the water was nice and warm and I held her firmly… and held her… and held her… my word the minutes pass slowly when you are sitting on the kitchen floor holding a chicken in a bowl of water. She fell asleep – my hands started to seize up. I considered the possibility of opening a chicken spa… and dismissed it. Finally I lifted her out, we wrapped her in a towel, then transferred her into a cat carrying box with a hot water bottle underneath. We left her with a bowl of water in the dark.

We looked for a result half an hour later – nothing.
We looked for a result another half hour later – nothing.
We looked for a result before we went to bed – nothing.
We got up this morning and took her to the vets.

We have a lovely vet – he’s not the nearest, but we have been going to him for years. He knows our names, what we do, where we used to work, that Mr S-o-h has been writing a book. We have never had to take a chicken to him before.

To ensure that we got the most out of our trip we took on of the dogs to be vaccinated too. According to the vet’s computer this particular dog was dead, but he resurrected her, so that was ok. He gave her the vaccinations and then came the chicken… I don’t think he sees many chickens, but he wasn’t fazed. He inserted his finger into her vent (I clearly could have been much rougher with her, and wish I had) and dislodged a mass of egg and other stuff. The diagnosis? A soft egg had become stuck and had rotted, plus she had developed an abscess. Poor Gytha.

We are home now – with antibiotics to be given in liquid form twice a day  and a new syringe to wash out her insides from the rear with warm salt water (our vet is very keen on salt water). We administered the first dose of antibiotics, straight down her through from a tiny syringe, when we got home and it turned out to be remarkably easy – although she may have worked out what we’re up to now and dose number two may be more of a challenge. The flushing out of her vent is going to wait until tomorrow – I think she’s experienced enough invasion for today. She’s had a meal of natural yoghurt mixed with mash and some dried meal worms and we wait to see if she recovers.

I’d better get back to work now, otherwise I won’t be able to afford the vet’s bills!

Chickens in more healthy times

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2 Comments

  1. The Meandering Matriarch

     /  May 12, 2012

    I enjoyed your account of the poor egg-bound Gytha. I recently had a similar experience and could relate more than I’d like! We chook lovers will go to amazing lengths for our chooks. I look forward to following the chook tales (tails?) MM

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    • She’s looking much brighter today, and enjoying doing her ‘roadkill’ impersonation in the sunshine. Fingers crossed for a full recovery. I’m just kicking myself for not noticing she was so unwell earlier

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