Monday, September 21, 2009
Sick chickens and kind souls
As I mentioned in my last post, I've been preoccupied with sick chickens lately.
One of my Barred Rock hens, Bippity, became unwell very quickly. The basic symptoms that I identified were: sudden listlessness and standing around, not running with the rest of the flock, a lack of appetite, and a soft and puffy crop that seemed to have mostly liquid inside it. Her crop - this will sound gross - would spurt or pour out of her mouth if I massaged it or tilted it down. I'd never seen anything like it and it scared the heck out of me. Poor little thing.
Because it was clear there was not much, if any, actual food in her crop, I brought her inside to see if I could tempt her with some peach yogurt:
It seemed very optimistic when she slurped it up and it made me breathe a bit easier. She really likes yogurt:
I made her all cozy in the dog crate (a.k.a. the chicken condo) for the night and the next morning tried to get her to eat some of her pellets or corn scratch, but she wasn't interested. Then I resorted to an old favorite, oatmeal sprinkled with cheese and raspberries:
Disappointingly, after an initial sniff, she wouldn't have any of it.
She was very thirsty but uninterested in any kind of food:
Yet even as poorly as she felt, she, slowly but surely, made her way across the yard and back to her coop:
She really just wanted to be with her flock:
Ever since I got my chickens, back in March of 2008, I have been a member of a Yahoo group called PDX Backyard Chickens (the PDX is an abbreviation for Portland). This is an online group for local chicken owners to ask questions, share experiences, and find support among other chicken lovers. Renowned in this chicken community are two people in particular, Tonya and Chris.
Tonya and Chris live on a bit of property with about fifty chickens of their own and are a wealth of knowledge concerning chicken health and care. They love their chickens and everyone else's, too. I would go so far as to call chickens their passion. They make a point of being available to any and all chicken owners that need help. I have been so impressed with the time, patience and care they take to help anyone - maybe it's someone new to chickens or maybe it's a more senior member who is having an unexpected chicken crisis. Which, I suddenly realize one evening is me: I am having a chicken crisis.
So, of course I called Tonya and Chris. Though I'd never met either of them in person, and had really only "talked" to them via email (they have lovingly followed my polish hen, Dottie's, exploits on my blog for a while), they didn't hesitate for a second before offering to come out to Critter Farm - and then driving over an hour to get here - so they could do a health check on my girl:
Tonya then requested to make a trip down to the coop so they could do a quick check on the rest of the flock (photo illuminated by flashlight):
Even Roopert the rooster got a bit of love (which he didn't appreciate nearly as much as I did):
Everyone checked out really well, even Bippity, who we decided needed isolation and further observation. We also decided not to free range any of the chickens for the next few days in an attempt to try to find anything dangerous around the property that the chickens might have gotten into.
Before Chris and Tonya left, I introduced them to Pete and Reggie, who loved Tonya because she gave them a cookie:
and Roxy, of course, made a total pest of herself:
But, while Bippity didn't get any worse, she also didn't improve and, the next day, Cowgirl, my Black Star hen, was also exhibiting the same sicky symptoms:
I tried to keep their strength up by giving them their favorite treats, in this case white rice. I also chopped up some home grown garlic to boost their immune system:
Tonya phoned to check in and we decided it was time to whip up a batch of her special carrot tonic:
It sure smelled potent and I was hoping the girls wouldn't all flee when I tried to give it to them:
It looks just like a fizzy orange smoothie, doesn't it? And who doesn't like fizzy orange smoothies?:
There was immediate interest and chatter when I walked into the run:
I could practically hear them sighing their content as they gulped the tonic down:
Dottie then sang a song of thanks to Tonya and Chris:
Since then, Bippity has pretty much returned to her normal behavior, although her crop remains small and fairly soft each night before bed. Cowgirl is eating and hanging with the girls, but still puts herself to bed early each night.
I really hate not knowing for certain why my hens aren't feeling well. I feel like we've run through the entire list of "potentials" without ever really identifying the cause.
I guess farm life is just like that sometimes. You gather as much information as you can, eliminate the obvious, make the best decisions you can, and hope for a good outcome.
And so far, so good. Everybody's still alive. Thank you so much for your help, Tonya and Chris!
9/24/09 POST UPDATE: You can find the recipe to the above mentioned Carrot Tonic by clicking --> HERE.