|My pretty hen before she got sick|
Around three weeks ago when I went out to collect the eggs, within the pile was a mess of yolk. I did not think much about it, assumed an egg broke, cleaned the mess and carried on.
Two weeks ago I noticed my favorite little red hen looking quite plump and waddling. At the time I was happy to see this, to me it meant she was really filling out and her chicks in spring would also grow to be short plump birds.
Five days ago my husband called me at work to let me know my favorite hen was just sitting in the backyard and not moving much. She had walked from the coop to under the porch like all the hens do when they're let out, but she later walked back toward the coop and then just sat there. She let my husband pick her up which was quite unusual; shes a friendly hen, but not so much as to let us pick her up.
I did a quick Google search and my initial conclusion was that she was egg bound meaning she had an egg that was stuck and for some reason she was unable to pass it. I asked my husband to bring her in and make her a steam house to loosen the egg. He set her up in a dog crate with blankets covering most of it, a humidifier under the blankets and a heater on high in the entrance way. It reminded me of the steam room at the gym, but smelled much more like sweaty feet, well I guess that steam room smells like sweaty feet too.
|A 'steam house' in an attempt to help what I thought was an egg bound hen:|
Dog cage covered in blankets with a red heat light and humidifier
When I got home I went right to inspect her. She was standing up in the cage, head moving around and still curious. Her tail feathers were pointed down and upon further inspection her vent (nice word for butt) was messy and her pelvic area was swollen and felt mushy, not at all hard. Having no previous experience what so ever and relying only on Google searches, I still was not certain what was wrong with her so I continued to treat her for being egg bound.
|Tail feathers pointed down, head hanging, all signs of sickness|
- stopped laying eggs
- pelvic area may be swollen
- pelvic area will feel like a hard mass, or you can actually feel the egg that is bound
- may have lost interest in eating and drinking
- ruffled feathers
|A warm bath may help and egg bound hen|
I started to worry about Coccidiosis, a common parasitic disease of poultry which affects the digestive tract.
Symptoms of Coccidiosis are:
- ruffled feathers
- head drawn back into shoulders.
- a chilled appearance.
Dummies.com has a list of common chicken illnesses and treatments which is very helpful when starting from the beginning and diagnosing a chicken, it is part of a series called The Essentials of Tending a Sick or Injured Chicken. I referenced this material several times as I was looking into things that could possibly go wrong with a chicken. I actually googled that phrase, but it pretty much just brought up chicken recipes.
When I really started to put all the pieces together and put a lot of thought into anything that seemed strange over the past few weeks, egg yolk peritonitis started making the most sense.
Egg yolk peritonitis is the presence of yolk material in the coelomic cavity, meaning that the egg is not taken up by the oviduct but is instead deposited into the abdomen. This causes a mild inflammatory reaction because the yolk material spreads through the air sacs and over the abdominal organs. If no bacterium is present then this condition is not always fatal and all yolk material will be eventually be reabsorbed. The more common form is septic egg yolk peritonitis. The yolk material is contaminated with bacteria and causes a severe inflammatory reaction throughout the abdomen and is almost always fatal.
Symptoms of egg yolk peritonitis include:
- loss of appetite/anorexia
- respiratory distress
- fluffed feathers
- yolk-colored droppings
- swollen vent and/or abdomen (the swelling feels spongy to the touch)
|Trying to make my hen comfortable during her last days|
Since I could not justify paying a vet for a procedure that likely would not work, all I could do was make my little hen as comfortable as possible. I kept her in the entrance way in a bin of shavings. I offered her plain yogurt and cooked eggs which she ate most of the first day, but lost interest the second and third day. I put some apple cider vinegar in her water hoping for a miracle, but she wasn't drinking anymore after the first day.
Her breathing became more labored and she moved less and less. Once it became painfully obvious she would not recover my husband took her out of her misery while I was out and gave her a proper burial.
I was glad I was able to make her more comfortable in her final days and to relieve her of her suffering before she was too far gone. I cannot stress the importance of knowing signs of illness in your flock and taking all of the clues into account when making a diagnosis. It is important to watch your flock on a daily basis to make sure nothing is out of the ordinary and the overall health of your birds looks good. Because I was not aware of signs of danger (shell-less egg laid, fluffed feathers of a hen, waddling) I caught her illness when it was too far gone, had I caught it sooner a vet may have been able to intervene and save her life. I have to keep reminding myself it was just a chicken.