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.


  1. Wow! Having a resource such as Tanya and Chris is sure a blessing. What dedicated folks they are. I sure hope the special orange fuzzy tonic does the trick. And I hope you discover, some day, what caused all this trouble!

  2. I am sending you and the girls my best healing energy. Chicken health problems seem to come on suddenly,and can be very hard to diagnose. My own track record on healing chickens is about 50/50. Most vets don't know much about chicken although some bird vets do.

    I would really like the recipe for that special carrot tonic when you get the chance please.

    Good luck and good health.

  3. Well keep that tonic recipe on hand in case I ever need it for my flock. And a big THANK YOU to Tonya & Chris for taking care of Danni & her very special birds.

  4. Wow, Tonya and Chris sound like God's gift to chickens. How very kind of them to help you through this. Your picture of Bippity with the yogurt on her beak totally cracked me up. Inexplicable farm maladies are maddening, but you've done all you can and then some. Your good karma alone should keep your chickens healthy.

  5. I'm glad they're feeling well. I'm sorry you haven't been able to figure out the cause yet. That's frustrating because you never know when it's going to hit again. I had an issue like that with my goats a few years ago. Scary.

    That's wonderful that you have knowledgeable (and very helpful) people out your way.

  6. PDX Backyard Chickens is a great resource and there is a real sense of chicken community there.

    When one of my girls isn't feeling well, the first thing I notice is their combs are not bright red, and a general lack of perkiness. Trying to diagnose them is vexing, except when it's something obvious like eating foxglove flowers (Margo, I'm looking at you!).

    I hope they feel better soon; they are in good hands.

  7. I have discovered that you can meet wonderful friends on the internet. It sounds like Tonya and Chris are just like my goat mentor Cathy. It's so nice to have someone around to give you advice when things go wrong.

  8. Sweet chicken girls. Im sorry that they are feeling poorly. They are so fortunate tho to have you as their mama. And then add to that that you have such fantastic chicken buddies that are so very helpful. They even make house calls. :) How awesome is that!!!

    And of course, Roxy, Pete, and Reggie needed to be introduced. A Critter farm visit isnt complete without that. :)

    Sending great big hugs and super get well thoughts to the chicken girls. They are in great hands over there at Critter Farm.

  9. Gosh how frightening. I hope everyone does well. Dani would you mind sharing the carrott tonic recipe? Hope you are able to determine what brought on this sudden illness. Raising chickens is the easy part keeping them healthy, well, and away from trouble, now that's the difficult part.

  10. Your chickies are beautiful. Sending prayers and positive thoughts that they get to feeling better asap. I also would like to have the tonic recipe for just in case of's. Sure hope you can find out what is causing the illness. What wonderful people Tonya and Chris are. Please keep us up to date how the girlies are doing.

  11. I'm glad they seem to be doing better! What great chicken friends you have! I hate it too when I don't know whats wrong with my chickens. We had several of our bantys die and I don't know what caused it. The rest seem as healthy as can be.

  12. I have a Limping chook at present and one who Lays like a champ but has a Red Bum and alooks like she is moulting all the time!!!
    I completely understand your anxiety! Completely!
    I need a Tonya and chris!

  13. I'm so sorry Bippity and Cowgirl have been sick. I do understand how stressful that is, especially when you're doing all you can and still not sure you are treating the issue. Thank goodness you have Tonya, Chris, and a great chicken community. Tonya and Chris are angels to drive all the way over for a house call!

    I pray your girls on the way to full recovery! And please add me to the list of people that would like the carrot elixer recipe!

  14. So sorry Bippity was feeling bad. That pic though, the yogurt beak, IS ADORABLE!
    So glad you have new friends to help out.

  15. You may not want to use chemicals but I'd give her a small injection, high on the inside thigh, of LA-200, it's been a miracle drug for me.

  16. Hey this is Crystal responding about the birthday cake, I have found store baught fondant to not taste good, I make Marshmellow fondant which taste a little better, its very rich, you can also flavor it, I like flavoring it with almond extract, the recipie I use is here I really enjoyed making my sons cake, it was a lot of trial and error, for the animals you have to add gum tex you get it at craft stores that have cake supplies its a powder, I love looking at your blog!

  17. I'd love that carrot tonic recipe some time.

  18. I hope they keep improving Danni. Nice to have chicken people!

  19. Hopefully, by now the girls are back in good health. That was kind of Tanya and Chris to help you all out. Your orange cream drink looks good enough to grab a spoon and dip in...

    We also use a crate for any of our ill chickens or Roosters.


  20. I hope your chicken girls are doing better!


  21. Aww, so happy to hear they're doing better. That can be nerve wracking indeed. How are you feeling? Better I hope! <3

  22. What a blessing to have such kind chicken experts as Tonya and Chris within driving distance. I have been hoping your chickens were getting better and I'm so glad to hear that they are. And how gorgeous they all are!

  23. I am happy to hear they are doing better. I hope they make a full recovery. We lost one due to vent issues this year.Also, I need to solve a hawk problem after missing two keets in two days.

    I have to say how much I love seeing when you post something new. I love how you set it up with pic in between. Very nice. Keep up the good work!

  24. I'm always sad when Critter Farm has ailing animals. They do look like they are on their way to recovery. My best healing thoughts are making their way to the poor chickies.

  25. Thank you all for your get-well wishes. Last night, everyone in the coop had firm, full crops when they went to roost - this makes me very, very happy.

    So many of you asked for the carrot tonic recipe, I have posted it in a blog post for you today.

    Thanks again!

    (Chook - your Margo eats Foxglove flowers??? gasp)

  26. I've been a wee bit preoccupied with my own navel for the past little while. I'm sorry to hear that you've had some sick chickens. That photo of Bippity with the yogurty face just melted my heart. The look on her face is so silly and sweet. I'm glad to hear they're responding to your carrot concoction.

  27. I know how one day a chicken is fine, the next day...not so fine. I've always understood respitory is a issue with hens, but I'm no expert. And you don't have overcrowded conditions. I've lost 4 or 5 hens in 3 years, 2 to just dropping over. It's hard not knowing...Did you hear a gurgling sound in her throat? If so, it's not good. I love my barred rocks and hope she recovers.

  28. I found your blog just browsing around and really enjoyed reading your posts. So fun and I love the way you care for your animals.


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