She’s alive and clucking, but don’t read this before eating!

Autumn just returned from the vet and we are poorer by – no, I really can’t tell you how much we just spent on chicken healthcare. Only a fellow poultry enthusiast could understand, and even most of those would probably stop short of having their bird boarded at the vet and fed by IV for the weekend.

But we are certifiable about our pets, and Autumn is most definitely a pet. I think she cost a buck fifty at the feed store and yes, she’s given us many beautiful light green eggs, but it’s her curiosity and affection for humans that separates her from the flock. The CE and I agreed that we will do whatever it takes to keep her alive, as long as her quality of life is good.

Autumn is particularly valued for her carpentry skills (2009 photo)

The diagnosis was, as I feared, egg yolk peritonitis. I found another good link about it here: http://www.avianweb.com/eggyolkperitonitis.html Essentially, if an egg breaks inside the chicken before she lays (internal laying), the yolk can migrate to the abdominal cavity and provides an excellent medium for bacterial growth.

I’m kind of surprised she’s alive; the condition is commonly fatal. But here she is, fairly perky, walking around and telling me all about her experience.

Still with us!

We are not out of the woods, by any means. From what I understand, this is a condition that can be managed but not cured. Autumn is on a course of antibiotics and was given an injection of Lupron to shut down her hormonal activity, i.e. egg-laying. She will need two more injections at two-week intervals and then at 4-6 month intervals. These injections are pricey, by the way. But then, Autumn is priceless to us, so what choice do we have?

I found this sobering post from a heartbroken chickenkeeper regarding her hen suffering from internal laying/egg yolk peritonitis:

“Unfortunately, Bonnie Lou died a couple of days after we
took her to the vet. We thought she was much better the night after getting the
antibiotic shot but were disappointed to find that she hadn’t progressed much
the next morning. We continued to wait it out & were feeding her with a
syringe. The vet told us to give the antibiotic a couple of days to work before
we tapped her belly. My husband was holding her when I stuck her with the
needle. I stuck her in her abdomen & nothing came out. Then, I pulled out
the needle & stuck her behind her leg, closer to her bottom. Immediately,
thick, green fluid began to come out. Unfortunately, the fluid was so thick, it
was coming out slowly in the 25 gauge needle. I had gotten about 10ml out of her
when she started to spasm, arched her back & died in my husbands arms. It
was all pretty tragic.”

(From Cincinnati Backyard Chickens at Yahoo Groups)

I am just so glad that my chickenkeeper’s intuition told me something was truly wrong and that we caught it when we did. I’m guessing she would have died within a few days without intervention. These necropsy photos are hard to look at but shows you what happens when a hen develops internal laying and then egg yolk peritonitis.

Internal laying (photo from backyardchickens.com)

Egg yolk peritonitis (photo from partnersah.vet.cornell.edu)

Those wind eggs Autumn was laying should have been my first tip-off to her condition, but when I researched the subject, the information I saw suggested that wind eggs are harmless in most cases. This turns out not to be “most cases”. From now on, however, I will consider the sight of a wind egg to be much more than harmless.

One of the first shell-less "wind eggs" Autumn laid in early May

If you’ve read this far, you are probably a crazy chicken person like me, and your next question would be “What causes internal laying and how do I prevent it?” There is a long, sad and informative discussion of this on Backyardchickens.com http://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=105308&p=1 and a data-gathering thread within it at  http://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=79443  The upshot is that there is nothing you can do to prevent it and a great deal of anecdotal suggestion that it is a genetic issue caused by hatchery breeding techniques. That could only be proved by doing a scientific study comparing the incidence of the condition in hatchery birds vs. breeder stock, and I don’t know that anyone has yet undertaken such a project. I hope someone will, since there are many brokenhearted backyard flock keepers out there who are losing their birds to these conditions.

At the very best, Autumn’s egg-laying career is over but we hope the treatment will be effective and she can continue to be a loving lap chicken and carpenter’s assistant.

About polloplayer

Empty nester searching for meaning of life through the occasional chicken epiphany.
This entry was posted in All Things Poultry, Chicken Facts, Pain and Misery and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to She’s alive and clucking, but don’t read this before eating!

  1. Katherine says:

    Poor sweet Autumn – that looks and sounds horribly painful. She’s lucky to have such good (and attentive!) humans around.

    Marilyn never ate the eggs anyway. Nothing wrong with Autumn devoting herself full-time to animal husband-try.

  2. Spook Baby says:

    note to self- to go june 27th polloplayer post next time granny brings cinnamon rolls over…i’m scarred for life now that i’ve seen these pictures. glad autumn is okay tho! 🙂

  3. This is wonderful that you shared this! I’m so glad she is doing better! Your very fortunate to find a vet willing to help you and your chicken! Many are not so fortunate. This is a big fear I have. My birds are all silkies and silkies are not supposed to be big egg layers however my silkie does not know this and she lays eggs every day to every other day. I worry so much about this disease! I just pray she won’t have these problems! She was not purchased from a hatchery but from a breeder so hopefully that will help. That’s very interesting and I’ve heard this before about hatchery birds being more prone to this kind of
    Problem.. I wonder if there is a reason for this? Someone should do a study to find out the cause so they can stop the practice of what ever the hatchery is doing to cause this. Like you I love my chickens dearly and they are my pets. I would be devastated if something like this happened to Them! I’m so glad you got help for your girl! I hope she is still doing well. Thank you for sharing this article. I wish you the best.

  4. I’m so glad she is doing better! What a lucky girl! Thanks for sharing this.

  5. jackie Hahn says:

    What doze did you use on the shot, I have one that has such a will to live and I have drained her many times, but wanting to find a better shot to give her

    • polloplayer says:

      I’m so sorry that I can’t answer this question. Our vet gave the shot and I don’t know what the dosage was. I do know that there are web sites that will tell you how to drain the fluid from a hen’s abdomen and I know that would help. Google it and I hope you will find some assistance. Good luck!

      • jackie Hahn says:

        We have already done that and will keep doing it, my horse vet is helping me, and once I get the junk out and give her meds she is off and running, but starts it all over again. Ugggg. Thanks I will have her look into it, is your baby doing good now, and one more question, I noticed she losing feathers here and there does yours do that ???

      • polloplayer says:

        I’m so sorry to say that we lost Autumn a few months later. There is a post called “1,000 Days of Autumn” on the blog at https://polloplayer.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/1000-days-of-autumn/ that memorializes our sweet girl. We still miss her so I understand what a difficult time this is for you. I hope you are somehow able to pull your girl through.

      • jackie Hahn says:

        Do you think it was due to the shots, or just because, she is healthy and active after we drain her, shoot I am just wondering, if i am trying all this in vein.. Sigh Damn chickens pull on our heart strings don’t they?

      • polloplayer says:

        I think it might have been the shots. She got one once a month for four or five months, I think. She was doing so well, it seemed, and then she just failed. I believe they told us her spine was disintegrating – I wonder if the Lupron might have caused that. It did give us that extra time with her and she was such a dear, personable little girl – it was worth the effort and expense to us – but I don’t know if I would put another hen through it given the way it ended. It still makes me sad to think about her last days. If the draining works, I would keep doing it without the Lupron.

  6. jackie Hahn says:

    We are using HCG and it is not doing the trick, but everytime we drain her, she springs back… I need something else to try

    • polloplayer says:

      Any update on your hen?

      • jackie Hahn says:

        Well she is still hanging in there, I have samples of the fluid we drained out of her this time, it looked like it had some blood in it, we sent it off for testing, I don’t want to do the implant if she has cancer, if she does this will be the third hen that I had lost to ovarian Cancer.. she was moving a little slow today but the last wekk or so she was feeling really good, thanks for asking. I have been working with her since march of this year..

      • polloplayer says:

        I don’t know if you saw this post on my blog: https://polloplayer.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/chicken-love-and-sadness/
        re losing one to ovarian cancer. The vet did not diagnose it until after her death and she was subjected to far too much treatment for the wrong maladies. It makes me so sad that these hens are afflicted with these reproductive issues – it has to be from poor breeding practices, I cannot think of any other explanation.

      • jackie Hahn says:

        You are SO SO SO right, funny how all the hatchery hen seem to die, I adopted 5 hen born in a school room, the three that are left are 4 years old, I got 8 hatchery chicks day old, I only have 3 1/2 left, the 1/2 is Rita my challenged hen. Are you on FB if so there is a GREAT group, we have all become friends now, a lot of really good chicken people on there. We share problems that come up. It is called California Poultry people, you don;t have to be in CA to join there are all kinds of people, breeder, show people, Chicken lovers, people that raise for food, we all play really nice with each other, no one judges anyone else.. I think you would enjoy the group.. I would love for you to join. If you do, just send a message and tell Alvin I sent you.. Hey how many chickens do you have anyways

      • polloplayer says:

        Sounds like a wonderful group but unfortunately I am not on Facebook. I am down to two little hens right now, was hoping one would go broody this summer so I could “plant” some chicks and build the flock, but so far, no go. We are traveling a lot right now so I am not home long enough at a stretch to hand-raise chicks. So for now, just a flock of two.

  7. jackie Hahn says:

    What we do for our babies SIGH

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t know if you are still on here Jackie, but did you have issues draining the junk? I was able to get a little out of our hen, but it’s seemingly too thick. 19 gage needle.

      • Jackie says:

        My hen passed away 3 years ago from cancer. I love my girls and would do anything for them. Thanks for your reply

  8. Charlotte says:

    Hi it was lovely to read your post on howmuch you care for autumn. I have a little Dutch bantam and I have just spent the best part of 200 pound getting her sorted with a similar issue but hers is complicated with a prolapse vent and she’s not out other woods yet as she must lay another egg which has already formed inside her. I have however found a medication that can resolve the problem.

    It is an implant called suprelorin, it’s licensed for use in ferrets and male dogs for temporary infertility. However when inserted in a chicken can stop egg laying for 6-12months. Lots of people seem to have had success With this procedure and although little pricey may be worth looking at for your girl too? It’s between £60-100 but may be cost effective for you guys in future in regards to autumn.

    Hope this helps.
    I’m looking at having it planted into my girl once she passes this next egg x

    • polloplayer says:

      Thanks for this information. I will look up surprelorin. We spent a great deal of money on Lupron shots for our dear Autumn, but, sadly, she passed away after a few months.

  9. Kelli says:

    My chicken isn’t laying and is internally laying and I’m worried about her my parents won’t buy anything for her like VetRx and I have no money

    • polloplayer says:

      Hi Kelli, so sorry to hear about your hen. It is devastating to see them suffer. Are you absolutely sure she is laying internally? Hens also stop laying when they go broody. If you are sure it’s internal laying, you might search backyardchickens.com to see if there are any new approaches to the condition. Also, some people have had success draining their hen’s abdomen on their own rather than paying for a vet to do it. Sadly, in our hen’s case, all the interventions and expense only gave her an extra few months of life so it may be that your parents’ decision not to intervene has merit. Good luck with your hen – I hope she recovers.

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