Ok, I know last week I said I like when things are difficult, but… there’s always a “but”, right? The most difficult part of the backyard Less is More setup is figuring out the right course of action when you have a sick hen. One evening, earlier this week, I realized I hadn’t seen Bandit in a few hours. I found her hiding behind some shrubbery as if she’s was trying to lay an egg, with a stream of white fluid coming from her vent. Definitely not a good sign. The next morning, she was hanging back and a bit sad looking, so I gave her the standard round of Tx – warm Epsom salt bath and some probiotic treats, etc. I also did a manual inspection of her vent, in case she was egg bound. She was spongy feeling around her bottom, but I couldn’t feel any obvious masses. However, more gross white liquid was ejected during the inspection. Given her long history of soft shell eggs, I was pretty sure I was dealing with an infection due to internal laying, for which there’s no good outcome. However, at-home diagnostics for poultry illnesses is usually guesswork. So, I put her back in the coop and made sure she had water and food nearby. Yesterday morning, she was clearly no better, but not obviously worse, either – hens are so stoic in their suffering. She would eat and drink a bit, but was not pooping on her own. I repeated the previous days treatment and exam with the same, but even grosser, results. I then informed the other member of the household that I felt Bandit was probably terminally ill. We debated on and off during the day, how ill was she and should we euthanize her sooner or later – and could we euthanize her? There was a strong lobby for giving it a bit more time, continuing with what little treatment I could offer. She made it through the night and seemed the about the same this morning, but during her morning exam, when I massaged her abdomen she started to regurgitate liquid very similar to what was coming out the other end, and it was clear she was very, very ill and we needed to end her suffering. As I carried her outsides to get help from my chicken care partner, she started to gasp and, despite my best intentions to do the right thing, I freaked out and handed her off. Fortunately the less-freaking-out-person was able to dispatch her very quickly with a firm pull and twist – really the most humane method to euthanize a suffering hen if you have your wits about you.
Because I still wasn’t totally sure what had happened inside of Miss Bandit, I had full intentions of conducting a necropsy. I laid her out on the workbench and got a good start on prepping to open the abdominal cavity to have a look. Unfortunately, this wasn’t something for which I had prepared, and I was having difficulty following the instructions I was using. In addition, the ancient poultry shears I found in the garage were not nearly sharp enough to do the job. So, I abandoned the task before I completely mucked it up, but I think it is something I think I should learn to do.
Anyway, despite Bandit’s difficult personality (she desperately wanted to be part of the popular crowd, and as a result, could be quite vicious towards other hens, or even wild birds), she will certainly be missed. Meanwhile, I’m still concerned about Miss Kitty’s health. Her internal issues haven’t cleared up yet, and of course, now she’s also a bit lonely. I will start chaperoning some meet and greets with the young ones, so hopefully she can make some new friends while we work on clearing up whatever is ailing her.