I suppose it is some sort of poetic justice that after spending most of my life consuming chickens, it appears I am currently consumed by them.
Yes, there have been a few gentle reminders that normal people do not befriend chickens in the first place, let alone go to elaborate lengths to keep a two-year-old chicken clucking when the vast majority of her compatriots are known to be barbequed, roasted or Kentucky-fried around six weeks of age.
However, the 50,000+ folks on Backyardchickens.com (not to mention urbanchickens.org, chickencrossing.org, www.homesteadingtoday.com, the poultrykeeper.com.uk and a host of other online resources) cannot be entirely wrong, can they? If they are, it appears the lunatics are running the asylum at this point (and not just in Washington, D.C.!) because people love their chickens, and not just on a plate.
Autumn is still with us, but she is subdued. I think her body is getting tired of the trauma. She lingers in the coop in the morning until I carry her out, but she’s still feisty enough to cut the little ones off at the pass to grab a mealworm. So we’ll see…
The bad news is that I found a very long, informative and distressing thread on Backyardchickens.com which I will warn you, is not for the faint of heart or the casual reader (meaning anyone who is not obsessed with chickens). The tip-off is in the title: “Drained a chicken’s abdomen…Rest in Peace, Olivia, 11-5-10”. The thread, which can be found here: http://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=362422&p=1 chronicles the loss of at least three of the poster’s beloved hens to internal laying and egg yolk peritonitis.
The thread extends for twelve pages and includes posts from other beleagured flock keepers whose hens are perishing from the same cause. The one thing these birds all seem to have in common, besides being beloved, well-cared-for pets, is that they came from hatchery stock. Whether breeding practices that favor heavy laying over longevity are to blame for all this sadness, I don’t know.
In the meantime, there is, perhaps, a glimmer of hope. Another post on BYC mentions that “spaying chickens” is a common practice. When I queried the poster about it, referencing our vet’s pronouncement that hens cannot survive a hysterectomy, the reply was “your vet is full of it”. Sounds like someone is going to have egg on their face here, but I’m not sure who.
So, while the rest of you are going about your normal lives, I’ve been trying to get hold of papers with titles like “Increased mortality in layer flocks due to egg peritonitis” and asking questions about chicken hysterectomies. Where that will lead, other than to the CE calling in the authorities with straitjackets, I’m not sure, but I’ll keep you all posted here, so to speak.
And lest you think there were no signs of this chicken madness along the way, here’s a photo that Tina referenced in her comment about being “in touch with her inner chicken” back in 4th grade. Ah, yes, you see, we’re all bird brains from wayyy back…