Grit Blogs > Great Escape

Panic! Sickie Chickies!

Rosalind head shotWith farming you have to look at the up side of things. Just because in three days one chicken gets a cold (that could possibly be just about anything and everything), a favorite hen becomes prolapsed, another chicken is so aggressive that you end up with a surprise morning cull, and one chicken goes broody and you know that the chicks she’ll end up hatching won’t make up for the egg production loss. Just because some unfortunate and unforeseen events take place (at once) doesn’t mean that you wish to quit farming (well, maybe you’ll consider it), or that you want to throw your entire flock out (without Uffie and Pastella, I might add). 

What it means (for me) is that I am in a bad mood for a few days. It means that my house smells like a wet chicken (think of a wet dog smell, but worse). It means a not-so-favorite-chicken is in the rabbit hutch as a method of quarantine. Oh, yes, it means that you have some extra scratches from chasing a nasty cockerel, eluding capture, around a hedge tree during a rainstorm. That is all. It might feel like I didn’t get anything done but nurse sick chickens all weekend, but what would I have been doing anyway? Digging beside a creek to widen it for newly acquired ducklings? Sweeping the basement? Picking up trash that the wind carries to the farm? These things are an easy sacrifice to ensure the care and well-being of your flock and farm. Of course, if any hen died you might find me speaking in a different light instead of the cheery (alright ... not cheery, but a rather acquiescent) manner I am currently in.

In case anyone else has these problems, here is what I have learned over the weekend and would recommend for anyone else facing similar issues:

For Curing a Nasty Cockerel:

Step 1- Grab a sharp axe (preferably something that strikes fear into the heart of roosters)

Step 2- Find some wood (some piece of wood that is disposable or reusable is best)

Step 3- Catch cockerel (I have found this often to be very challenging)

Step 4- Kill it (viewer discretion is advised, not suitable for those with a weak constitution)

Step 5- Get meat (if plucking, do this now)

Step 6- Make a lovely meal out of the measly ounces you received (our bantam fellow only had 2.2 ounces.)

For Curing a Hen who has Prolapsed:

Step 1- Grab hen, look at her bum (don’t stare too long, this is very disturbing)

Step 2- Evaluate how bad it is (i.e. compare to other healthy hens)

Step 3- Get a tub and fill with hot water (assuming there is a real problem)

Step 4- Put some cold water in it so it isn’t too hot (don’t want BBQed chicken, do we?)

Step 5- Grab hen and put her in bath (rub-a-dub-dub, don’t forget the rubber ducky)

Step 6- Get splashed with her flapping her wings hysterically (rain gear is advised)

Step 7- When both of you are soaked, dry her off and place her in a separate area (don’t bother to dry yourself, she is the sick one)

Step 8- Get honey (the last remnants of the stuff you put on your biscuits)

Step 9- Slather honey on her bum (close your eyes and pray you are doing this right)

Step 10- Put medicine in her water to prevent disease (who cares what kind, she won’t mind how it tastes, she just had honey pasted on her bottom)

Step 11- When she hopefully looks better in a day or two, put her back with everyone else (in the still of night, beware of falling poop)

Step 11a- If she doesn’t get better, follow steps for “Curing a Nasty Cockerel” (of course, follow any and all instructions relating to the medicine provided for her in Step 10)

For Curing a Hen with a Mystery Illness:

Step 1- Put her in quarantine if hen looks sick (the typical signs: bubbly eyes, wheezing, or lethargy)

Step 2- Research and get panicked about how many terrible diseases she could have (apparently lethargy has many causes)

Step 3- Give her food and water (she will like this part)

Step 4- Give her oatmeal (she will love this part)

Step 5- Treat her like a queen, make her feel comfortable (at this point she will think she is very special)

Step 6- Make sure she can’t commit suicide (if she tried to hang herself then work at ‘Step 5’ better)

Step 7- Make scrambled eggs with alfalfa in them to feed to sick hen (add whatever you think is best)

Step 8- Wonder why you are going through all this trouble for a possible sick hen (well, she should be getting better after being so pampered)

Step 9- Wish you had bought a stethoscope (and a D.V.M. would be helpful too)

Step 10- If she doesn’t get better, follow steps for “Curing a Nasty Cockerel” Steps 1 through 4 (don’t want to eat a sick chicken)

For Dealing with a Broody Hen:

Step 1- Groan inwardly because you are going to lose a good layer (at least she isn’t sick)

Step 2- Move hen to a nest box on the ground (can’t have the chicks falling out when they hatch)

Step 3- Collect the day’s eggs and place under hen (don’t put too many, or they will get cold)

Step 4- Place food and water near her (she will get thirsty thinking about all the cute little ones she’ll hatch)

Step 5- Make sure she sleeps in correct nest box (they sometimes migrate)

Step 5a- If she moves, repeat steps 1 through 5 (looks like another day’s eggs gone)

Step 6- Don’t get pecked (some broody hens are mean)

Step 7- Wait 21 days and watch the cuteness emerge (awww… this is the part I love!)

For future reference, this was my worst weekend so far. A couple sayings that seem applicable to this weekend:

“No good deed goes unpunished.”  (Note: broody hen)

“It always comes in threes.”  (Broody hen not part of 3’s)

“When it rains, it pours.”  (It really did rain, and pour too!)

“There is a silver lining to every cloud.”  (The sunrise was beautiful this morning.)

“If you are given lemons, make lemonade.”  (Chicken Fajitas for breakfast, yummy!)