Posts tagged ‘Autumn’
Do good hens go to Heaven? I hope so.
Autumn left us on Thursday morning, and strange as it may sound, we are grieving. For a chicken. I know what you’re thinking but please don’t say it.
It’s only a chicken.
Not quite true. Autumn was a horse of a different color when it came to being a chicken.
Even the most hard-bitten flock keeper will admit that at any given time, one or two hens wriggle their way into the humans’ hearts. In our case, Autumn made a bee-line for our affections; she was always underfoot, always looking for a cuddle (and, no doubt, a treat) and generally seemed to prefer human companionship to that of the other hens.
She was a pretty girl. Her glossy, mahogany-colored feathers were tipped in caramel. If you held her close she would make soft little clucking sounds. I think that was her way of saying she was happy.
As many of you know, Autumn was stricken with internal laying and egg yolk peritonitis last spring. This condition is generally fatal, but we kept her going with frequent vet visits and Lupron shots to suppress egg production. But new problems emerged: a few weeks ago she began to favor one leg and then could not walk or even stand.
We brought her inside and made her a little nest in the kitchen where she held forth for several days, enjoying hand-fed treats and lots of affection. She actually seemed to rally for a few days, relishing tidbits of oatmeal and cheese, and we wondered aloud how our house-sitters might react to being slaves to a house chicken.
But sometime during the night on Wednesday, the pain and dysfunction became too much for her little body. The CE found her on the floor, unable to even right herself to a sitting position. He took her in to see the vet, who said it was obvious from the cast of Autumn’s eyes that she was in pain. It was time to say goodbye.
The vet prepared an injection and the CE held Autumn in his arms and rocked her for nearly half an hour until she was gone. The vet said to him “Thank you for taking such good care of this little chicken.”
She was only two-and-a-half years old, but those were pretty darned good years for a hen. Some may think it’s silly to care so much for a pet. For a mere chicken. I almost agree. But on another level, I think that any time we care for another creature, it makes us a little bit more human in the best possible sense of the word.
Autumn is buried in a very nice spot back under the oaks where she enjoyed searching for bugs and worms. She will be missed.
For all the yadda yadda yadda about weather in southern CA, some of us think the place should be characterized as sub-Arctic most of the time. Not this week! It is a glorious, warm, sunny day.
Autumn is almost done with her antibiotics and so busy enjoying her re-claimed life that I can hardly get her to stand still for a photo.
My stitches are out to prevent additional scarring, steri-strips are in place for the next few days and then we will see how well this monstrosity heals. In the meantime, I hope your summer day is as beautiful as ours!
I know you’re getting used to more frequent blog posts, so I will try not to disappoint. Just don’t get spoiled, okay? After all, there’s only so much one can say about chickens and the randomness of life, which is more and more often the topic here, it seems. And this post will be about a little of both.
When I called Autumn to the coop Friday evening, I noticed she was walking slowly. Autumn has always been the athlete of the group, racing so quickly toward a handout of scratch that she often looks like she will pitch forward in a face plant. (hold that thought because “face plant” is not irrelevant to this post.)
Her gait suggested that she might be in pain, so I palpated her abdomen to see if she might be eggbound. This is a common condition in laying hens, and indicates that an egg is too large or the chicken’s muscles are too weak to push the egg out. Another common, and often fatal condition is egg pertitonitis. In this scenario, the yolk leaks into the abdominal cavity instead of the hen’s oviduct. A more thorough explanation can be found here: http://poultrykeeper.com/common-articles-to-all-poultry/health/egg-peritonitis.html
Since Autumn has not been laying for several weeks and, before that, was laying only yolk-less “wind” eggs (see http://polloplayer.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/chicken-drama-a-broody-wind-eggs-and-baby-chicks-on-the-way/) the spectre of egg peritonitis is a plausible explanation for her behavior.
On Saturday morning, Autumn would not come out of the coop, and when I carried her outside, she did not move from the spot where I placed her. Something was very wrong! I dropped her off at the vet in hopes that they might be able to help her.
What happened next made a bad day far, far worse. I came home from the vet, then tripped and fell against the kitchen door, slicing a neat inch-and-a-half long gash in my forehead. And no, I am not posting a picture of it. Fifteen stitches. The less said about it, the better.
The weekend was a kaleidoscope of misery: by day I moaned about the after-effects of crumpling my body at full force against a door, whined about the pain in my arm from the tetanus shot, wept over what will be a scar of Frankensteinian proportions, and lay awake at night worrying about Autumn. The vet was unable to come up with an immediate diagnosis and elected to keep her for the weekend to give her IV nutrients; this was not a hopeful sign.
I called the vet first thing this morning, fully expecting to hear that Autumn had perished. But finally, a bit of good news: she is alive and “resting comfortably” and the vet will continue to work on finding out what’s wrong with her today. Of my four original chicks, only Autumn and Hope remain. Not a good track record, especially if we now lose Autumn.
I’ve done a bit of research on chicken life expectancy. Many sources claim 7-10 years as an average lifespan for a chicken, but there is an undercurrent of anecdotal evidence that suggests hatchery stock is more fragile. Since many, perhaps most, hatchery birds are either slaughtered for food at six or seven weeks or age, and laying hens often discarded after one or two years, breeding for longevity is not a priority for hatcheries.
Polloplayer readers will be the first to hear the news, be it good or bad.
Our hearts sunk, because this was exactly what happened to Amelia before she died.
There’s a cab driver in NYC who is probably still talking about the wacko couple who spent fifteen near-tearful minutes in his backseat talking about what might be wrong with their pet chicken.
Ashleigh and Paul were back in CA watching the animals for us, and Ashleigh was, thankfully, taking her chicken-sitting duties quite seriously. So when Hope didn’t leave the nestbox for 24 hours, she knew something was wrong. We dispatched her and Hope to the vet, but told her to be prepared for the worst. Our waitress at Balthazar probably thought we were discussing a beloved relative as we pondered Hope’s plight over our steak frites (God knows we couldn’t order chicken!)
You can only imagine our relief when Ashleigh called back and said “She’s going to be fine! The vet says she’s just gone broody.”
I’ve read about broody hens and posted about broody hens (June, 2009: http://polloplayer.wordpress.com/2009/06/16/what-broody-means-in-chickenspeak/ ) but until you’ve come face to beak with a broody hen, you know not of what you speak. This is a force of nature to be reckoned with, the ultimate embodiment of biology as destiny: in short, Hope is POSSESSED!
She hasn’t laid an egg in weeks, so I don’t know what she thinks she is hatching. A plot? A plan? Certainly not any baby chicks. But don’t tell her that.
We take her off the nest two or three times a day, lock the coop up and set her out on the lawn so she will be forced to get up, walk around and eat and drink. She does this reluctantly. For the first five or ten minutes she just sits on the grass looking dazed. Then it’s as if a switch has flipped; she gets up, cleans her feathers a bit, struts over and takes a sip from the dogs’ outside water bowl, begs for some Cheerios, and then gets that strange look in her eyes again and tries to beat it back to her nest. The other day, she was so upset at finding the coop closed that she flew up on my shoulder and refused to budge until I let her back inside to sit on her imaginary clutch of eggs. As an empty nester myself, I guess I should have more compassion, but, really, Hope, get over it!
Meanwhile, Autumn has developed her own little quirk. She is laying what I’ve learned are called “wind eggs”. They are shell-less, yolk-less and look as much like a deflated balloon as anything. In fact, they don’t really look like they were worth the trouble it took to lay them.
The cause of wind eggs seems to be in the wind, as they say. I haven’t found anything conclusive about the topic. A site called CityGirlFarming.com http://citygirlfarming.com/Chickens/ChickenEggProblems.html refers to these eggs as “fart eggs” and suggests that the cause could be “a small chunk of tissue comes loose in the egg production area of the hen and is mistaken as a yolk. The process immediately surrounds this hunk of tissue and creates an egg around it.”
Broad Leys Publishing, a UK site at http://www.blpbooks.co.uk/articles/egg_problems/egg_problems.php, says that wind eggs are “not important and can be ignored, unless the pullet continues to lay such eggs. Wind eggs can also occur in older hens if they are subject to sudden shock.”
Autumn is only two years old, and as far as we know the only recent shock the chickens have encountered is the sight of the newly-shaved Codester.
The upshot of all this is that there are no edible eggs being laid at the moment. Good thing baby chicks are arriving next week! Yes, we are about to set up the nursery again – four little ones are due to show up courtesy of the US Post Office either on Tuesday or Wednesday. Polloplayer readers will be the first to know!
I know, it’s not the weekend yet, but Chicken Events occur in their own time. Yesterday we had an altercation, conflagration, confrontation: sisterly love went all sibling rivalry. I heard the racket and went to investigate. Autumn was sitting pretty in the “preferred” nesting spot and Amelia had flown up and was loudly complaining. Bawk bawk BAWK bawk bawk bawk bawk!! My guess was that Autumn had exceeded the parking limit in the nest, so I reached under her and removed her egg.
Unfazed, Autumn shifted her weight and used her beak to roll a golf ball into the spot where her egg had been. As you can imagine, Amelia called fowl, and looked at me as if to say “MOM! DO SOMETHING!” So, again, I reached beneath Autumn and removed the golf ball. But Autumn was in a feisty mood and made it clear she wasn’t going anywhere. She just settled deeper into the nest, giving Amelia fits.
Either on principle, or because she really needed to unburden herself of an egg, Amelia wasn’t taking no for an answer. She pushed and shoved her way into the nesting spot next to Autumn.
Twenty minutes later, both ladies were still holding their ground.
At least Hope decided to be reasonable.
Amelia finally laid her egg in that scrunched-up space and Autumn didn’t move until she was good and ready.
Today, peace was apparently restored and all was forgiven.
The kids and their friends gathered at the kitchen table last night for a friendly game of poker hosted by the CE. Lots of fun!
To start things off, Victoria prepared a huge bowl of Spaghetti Carbonara and one of our favorite family recipes for dessert: Chocolate Cherry Cake. Yum!
Happy New Year from all us chickens!
Autumn is serious about learning a trade. Our electrician has been here to work on the new lights we’re installing in the chicken yard, and Autumn has taken a special liking to him. When she’s not busy supervising the project, she follows him around and pesters him until he picks her up and gives her a cuddle.