Chicken woes.

An update.

Today I isolated two chickens that seemed ill so I could observe them for a couple days after I noticed they were acting strange. A couple weeks ago we had a hen (a Plymouth Barred Rock I think?) that started acting unusual, almost listless. She wouldn't scratch at the ground like the other hens and would leave the coop and stand quietly in the pen for hours, not eating or drinking or walking. The next couple of days I kept watching; she moved less and less... and that's when the other hens moved in. She had been laying in the dirt (and not in that cute dust-bath kind of way) when the other hens realized she went down. They took this as cue and began pecking at her and I quickly learned that chickens will eat their kin alive once they realize what is happening. Thankfully it didn't quite get to that point (we pulled her out when we realized the others were pecking her and eating her feathers), and realizing that she was nearly dead we finished the sad job and buried her in a deep hole.

This morning when I fed chickens I noticed two more hens acting in a similar fashion. When I entered the coop they were standing quietly upright, kind of puffed up and doing that looooong blink with their eyes that the other hen did. I felt worried and decided to isolate them in case they are ill. I was surprised by just how unresponsive they were-- when I crouched and picked up the hens there was no squawking or feather flapping, just silent resignation. So amiable were they, that I was able to tuck both hens under one arm and grab our spare water container on my walk to the other coop. I tucked them in for the day with plenty of water and mixed their scratch and peck feed with some organic cultured yogurt and when I checked later I noticed neither had eaten or drunk, so I pushed their beaks into the water hoping that they'd respond like my rescued kittens from childhood. They took cue and drank. I did the same with food but neither seemed interested. When I came back the food was still untouched so I repeated the process and once the red hen began eating then the black/white one did too. By the end of the day the red hen seemed almost normal again, and I noticed that the black and white one seemed a little perkier. I hope they pick up and get well. I need to do some reading about chicken health.

Which brings me to the sad part of rearing chickens-- I always mourn the unexpected death of a hen. I found a Rhode Island Red carcass in the pen today; the bald eagle has continued luck with his business around here. I never thought I'd be so angry to see our national bird on a regular basis! Also, my favorite old hen has disappeared, the last Ameraucana. No more green/blue eggs... I think she went the way of the predator. I buried the other Ameraucana's warm body last month after watching her have an apparent chicken heart attack after surprised by a dog.

Tomorrow will be a better day.

PS. In the process of carrying the hens to the empty coop today I was attacked by fleas. Of course, I didn't realize until I felt that upsetting repeated stinging bite inside my bra, on my back, on my waist, down my panties. I hate fleas and had to shower and change clothes, finding them hiding against my flesh under my bra.

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