Tuesday, June 5, 2012

too cranky to die

squawking Stella - a common sight

Stella gave us quite a scare a few weeks ago.  She spent all day in the nesting box attempting to lay an egg.  She worked at it for hours, but was not successful.  Eventually, the contents of an egg did come out, but without a shell.  By the evening, she was very weak and lethargic.  She wasn't pooing, eating or drinking and ignored her favorite treats.  I thought we were going to lose her.  We kept her in the house overnight to keep her calm and quiet. 

Thanks to The Google, I found some information about hens who are eggbound.  This condition sometimes occurs in older hens and means that there is an egg stuck in process.  If an egg or its shell are blocking her vent, the chicken can't poo and usually dies within 2 days.  Needless to say, I was a little freaked out. Many chicken keepers suggest submerging the hen's backside in a hot water bath for about 20 minutes, several times a day.  This can help relax her muscles and help release the egg.

The people who suggested this treatment have obviously never met Stella.  She is our surliest chicken, and because she was picked on and had all her butt feathers plucked out by older mean chickens before we got her, she is incredibly skittish and does NOT like to be touched.  In fact, I have NEVER held Stella, not even for a second.  On the day we brought our girls home from Anoka Ramsey Farm & Garden, I gently lifted Ray, Winnie, and Little Red out of the transport box and placed them in the coop.  When I tried to pick up Stella she flew to the edge of the box and into the coop on her own.  From that moment on she made it very clear that she does not like to be handled.  We do pet her occasionally, usually when she's sleepy, but she doesn't allow much of that nonsense.

tiny tail-less Stella on her first day in the coop
So, the thought of giving Stella a hot water bath was daunting.  But, because she was so weak she actually let me pick her up and hold her in a plastic tub of hot water for 20 minutes.  I gently rested my hand on her back and she stayed put.  After several days and a few more baths, she began to regain her strength and appetite and she seemed to enjoy flapping her wings and spraying me with water. 

After several days she still had not passed an egg.  We were a little worried, especially when we discovered a rather ugly protrusion on her backside near her vent.  It looked like some sort of abscess.  We gave her antibiotics for a few days (another tricky procedure with a chicken who does not like to be handled!!) and eventually the ugly lump disappeared.

2 weeks later, she was not laying eggs but Stella seemed to be back to her old self.  She was making her loud Stella sounds, eating and drinking like normal.  We figured she was going through menopause and that she was retired from egg laying.

We went away for a quick weekend trip and came back to find a Stella egg in the nesting box.  What??!!  We were baffled but happy.  My happiness was interrupted when I realized that our neighbors were chicken sitting for us and may have also retrieved a Stella egg.  Because she was on antibiotics for a few days, her eggs should not be consumed for a month after her last dose.  I wanted to see the eggs our neighbors had collected while we were gone.  They showed me a few of them then confessed that they had thrown one out.  They had hardboiled it and when they cracked it open, the egg was inside out with the yolk outside the white part.  We're guessing this was Stella's first egg after her hiatus.  I'm so glad they tossed out the suspicious looking egg.  I was sorry that we hadn't told our neighbors about the past 2 weeks and all the craziness that was going on at our backyard chicken clinic, but I honestly thought we'd never see another egg from our girl.

a favorite photo of Stella - fall 2009

Well, she has been laying steadily for over a week now and I am saving her eggs for a special non-edible project.  We'll be able to eat her eggs again in a week or so.

We are amazed that Stella recovered so well and is back to her bossy, loud, cranky self.  We're convinced that she was just too cranky to die, and we're quite happy about that!!  Our flock just wouldn't be the same without her. 

No comments:

Post a Comment