Our experience with chickens over the years has always suggested that they are binary: either they are healthy or they are just about to die. In the past, every hen that we have had that has become sick has died. It hasn’t mattered what we have done – trips to the vets, antibiotics, herbal remedies, changes in diet, flushing vents out with warm salt water (yes, really) – the hen has died.

IMGP3621So it was with great sadness that I noticed early last week that Esme was under the weather. With hens, the first symptom that you notice is lethargy – they don’t come out of the house straight away in the morning and when they do, they sit around, fluffed up, looking glum. All the sitting around generally leads to them getting a dirty rear end, particularly since another common symptom is very runny poo. If you read any of the dozens of web pages about sick chickens you will find many references to hens becoming egg-bound (i.e. getting an egg stuck inside them). Diagnosis is easy – you stick your finger up the chicken’s vent and see if you can feel an egg (glamorous activity, chicken-keeping). I used to be squeamish about this, but it becomes commonplace (if not fun) eventually.

I would have been surprised had Esme been egg-bound, as she hasn’t laid for months now – she’s an old lady. A quick examination confirmed the absence of any egg and so I had to decide what to do. Knowing that any intervention tends to distress them, I chose to leave her alone. My only action was to give her a bowl of rolled oats and live yoghurt every day so she had something nice to eat that might improve her digestion and would give her fluids.

She remained glum for several days, her comb was droopy and dark, her tail was down, she shuffled around showing little interest in anything much except the oats. We resigned ourselves to her imminent demise. And then she started to perk up – eating from the feeder, wandering around the garden a little. We assumed that this was her final fling – Aliss perked up like this just before she died.

But Esme continued to get better. I clipped the mucky feathers below her vent and she preened the rest clean. And now she’s scratching around with the others, perfectly happily and her comb has returned to its usual colour. Now, I may be proved wrong, and she may keel over as soon as I publish this post, but I think not. I think she has recovered.

She really was well-named, with her blue eyes and tenacity, she is a true chicken version of Esmeralda Weatherwax. And, just like Granny Weatherwax (although, sadly, not her creator), she would be quite justified in having a sign reading ‘I ATEN’T DEAD’

Esme in her prime

Esme in her prime

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  1. Go, Esme, go!!

  2. Bless her.

  3. As I recall, the older witches didn’t do a lot – it was more about waiting for Magrat to put the kettle on, or using ‘headology’. I think Esme might have just ‘headologied’ you – it resulted in lots of attention and a more interesting diet! Perhaps the egg-bound check wasn’t quite so much fun, though….

  4. Oh, I’m so glad she seems to have recovered! I hope she’s still scratching around your yard for a long time yet. πŸ˜€

  5. Just when you start to think you can work something out, it invariably has a twist. Glad Esme is the twist πŸ™‚

  6. The Belmont Rooster

     /  June 11, 2015

    That’s great! She recovered!

  7. Goodness. Glad she’s recovered. My father kept a variety of game and domestic birds and sometimes he would bring one into the house to nurse it if it wasn’t well. One day he brought in a white chicken nested in a small cardboard box and set it down not far from where my mother was reading the newspaper. A few minutes later, there was a small rustling sound as the chicken fell over. The next time my father came through, my mother looked at him over the newspaper and said, “John, that chicken is dead.” Out went the expired chicken…

  8. I am so happy Esme has survived and thrived for now. You tell this story so wonderfully.

  9. Hooray for Esme, may she strut her stuff for many a year to come!

  10. sarahfoto

     /  June 14, 2015

    What a relief she recovered! Esme’s are a tough breed πŸ˜€

  11. You are the chicken whisperer. πŸ™‚

  12. I was going to comment about Esme’s likely headology but someone beat me! Maybe she had some of Granny’s sugared water πŸ˜„


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