Coming Back from the Dead
I did say the next Tale from the Hen House would be an update about little Barbara and Margot, but we had a dramatic day with Rita over the weekend.
On Sunday, Stonelaughter let the two rescue chooks out into the garden and all was well. An hour later, Rita was back in the enclosure lying sprawled on the floor, breathing heavily and unable to use her legs. We had no idea what the problem could be, but have seen plenty of people lose hens very quickly after something like this happens. We checked her over and determined that her crop was feeling soft and spongey and with this only this to go on, I went to consult with Dr Google.
Google suggested she might have Sour Crop, although not being able to use her legs isn’t usually an indication of that – it would be more normal to see her looking under the weather than a complete loss of mobility within an hour. Sour crop is caused when the crop doesn’t empty fully overnight and as a result the food ferments within the crop causing a fungal infection.
The information I read gave instructions on how to help (along with warnings not to get it wrong, lest it kill the chicken!) and with no vet readily available (certainly not one who knew about chickens) it didn’t seem like we had a lot to lose, so I gave it ago. Holding Rita under my arm and tipping her so her head was close to the ground, I massaged her crop up towards her mouth, which made her vomit – she brought up lots of grey, sludgey, foul-smelling liquid – the yeasty liquid caused by sour crop. I couldn’t believe how much of it there was. Then we had to let her rest. We put her in the shade with some water and left her. She still had no mobility and couldn’t hold herself up, not even her head. Her breathing was more laboured than before.
When we checked her a couple of hours later, she was sitting normally. She still couldn’t stand, but her eyes were open and she could hold her head up. Progress! We gave her some more water, and mixed apple cider vinegar into the water container.
Two hours later when we checked again, she was on her feet and taking in water by herself, able to walk around and peck again. Today she is strutting around the place, clucking and getting annoyed with me that I’m insisting she stay in the run where she can rest properly, instead of letting her free range.
With a bit of luck, we’ll have a happy, healthy chicken again in no time. But phew! That was a close call. When we first saw her, we really didn’t think she was going to last the morning. I’m so relieved that she has so far recovered (we need to do the massage again later today to check if there’s any more liquid to get rid of, but she really looks past the worst).