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 https://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.