Miss Autumn’s day so far: early morning poke-about in the Chicken Kingdom, attended by humans bearing liberal handouts of scratch, a nap on the hallway Oriental carpet, brief altercation with sister Hope, who interprets any move in her direction as an assault on the chicks, lengthy cuddles with the Chicken Emperor in his office and a few Cheerio snacks here and there.
I had a nice chat with the vet, who seems optimistic about Autumn’s chance to survive and even heal. She said that the material she drained from Autumn’s abdominal cavity was fresh, which indicates we caught the problem early on. She likened Autumn’s condition to an ectopic pregnancy and said that due to the early intervention, it “hopefully won’t be a chronic thing”. The antibiotics will stem the infection and the Lupron shots will keep her from ovulating while her fallopian tubes heal. While I had read that a hysterectomy could cure the condition, the vet said she doesn’t perform those surgeries because the stress is too much and the chickens “don’t make it”.
When I asked about the cause of internal egglaying/egg yolk peritonitis, the vet sighed and said, “Well, the problem is that chickens only have one hole”. The urethra, the intestines and the oviduct all use the same exit path in a chicken, and that exit path can easily become an entry path for bacteria to enter the shell gland.
I asked her if the condition was more common in hatchery birds and her response was that “it’s more common in heavy laying breeds”. I’m no expert on poultry breeding but I’m guessing that hatcheries put a much higher premium on breeding for increased laying than they do on breeding for longevity. The largest consumers of hatchery birds prize hens for a season or two of prodigious egg laying and then discard them. The vet said this condition is not frequently seen in the exotic breeds which tend to be sporadic layers.
What I know for sure is that Autumn has made a 180 degree turnaround since Saturday, so all is well – for the moment – in the Chicken Kingdom!