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Sick Chicken

If you have read any of my previous blog posts, you know I am a little bit of a crazy chicken lady. OK, I’m a crazy chicken lady through and through. Anyway, we take our fowl very seriously here, and that includes not losing any. We had a sick hen recently, and for a day or two she didn’t look too good. We noticed she was spending a lot of time in the coop, even when we let everyone else out for some supervised free range time. She also didn’t seem to be eating much or drinking. We had a meeting and decided our first step was to separate her from the other birds. Since we don’t have a hospital wing set up, we did the logical thing: we brought her in the house.

When my husband picked her up she didn’t put up a fuss, which is unusual for this bird. And he said she felt like she had lost some weight. We put her in the bathroom on the tile and gave her food and water and watched. She was droopy, didn’t hold her tail up, didn’t move around and didn’t complain about the accommodations. Not eating is bad, but not drinking water would kill her faster, so I got into my bag of medical supplies and found a 3cc syringe. We mixed up some water with chicken electrolytes and I dropped it on her beak. She drank a little, so I tried a larger amount. She drank right from the syringe, and I got two full syringes in her before she refused any more.

Since she kept nodding off, we made a cubby for her to sleep in and left her alone for a little while to get some rest. That night we checked on her every three or four hours, just to make sure she was okay, and each time gave her a little water with the syringe. The next morning she was a little perkier, and I had a surprise waiting on me in the bathroom floor. Side bar: I’m a nurse by trade, so poop is no stranger to me. I’m not squeamish, and I have no problem looking at and poking around in it. Gloves on, of course. Our sickly chicken, Hodor, had left me a giant pile of the weirdest looking chicken poop I have ever seen. I made sure when we got chickens to look at pictures of healthy chicken poop and not-so-healthy chicken poop. That might make me a little strange, but I don’t like surprises, and when it comes to health I like to know what to expect. This particular poo wasn’t within any of the healthy parameters, with the exception of the white urea in it. It was bright green and had quite a bit of undigested food in it. I did what any person in this day and age would do, and I searched the internet.

As can happen when one decides to turn to the digital arena for answers, I got a myriad of different explanations. Cancer was among the most often mentioned, but I wondered if that was even a probability given that this chicken isn’t very old. It is possible, but not probable. Another very popular idea was E. coli. That was not comforting, since it is contagious. And, of course, there was the page that thought maybe aliens, but I discounted that after some careful thought.

It just so happened that the next day we had to take one of the cats to the vet for his yearly check-up. After it was determined that he is indeed still a cat and kind of a whiner, I politely asked my vet if she minded looking at the pictures of the poop I had taken. She very kindly agreed to take a look and, after a fairly quick study, she told me she was going to give me a shot for the chicken. Oh, and don’t eat this chicken for at least two weeks. Hodor is one of our egg hens, so she is safe in that regard. I did ask about eating the eggs, and the vet said that wouldn’t be a problem.

We got home, let the cat out of the bag, and went to check on Hodor the chicken. She was more awake than she had been, and she had moved from her previous spot, so that we took as a good sign. Then my husband picked her up and held her while I did as the vet instructed and stuck that needle in my poor, sweet chicken's breast meat. If everyone was as relaxed as that chicken was, my job would be so easy.

The day after the shot she was walking around the bathroom, clucking and eating. When we opened the door, she just walked on out like she owned the place and proceeded to make a menace of herself in the living room. We gave her some watermelon and sweet corn to reward her for being so good, and then we decided to keep her one more night just to be sure. She has been back with the flock for a week now, and she is as healthy and active as ever. We have been keeping a really close eye on the yard and coop for any other neon green poop, but so far we are clean. I knew when we started this homesteading journey there would be times we would have to treat our livestock’s medical problems, but if you ever told me I would be giving shots to chickens, I would have laughed.

Chicken on the Loose