Roger’s capacity for detail and care often moves me. He possesses a patience and ability to dig deep, learning what is needed for nearly any challenge. Where I might be a planner and excel at fitting a number of things into small spaces; Roger can manage details, intricacies and care in ways I simply can’t imagine.
We had been away in April for a week and enjoying a long overdue holiday. When we returned, we saw one of our chickens sporting a very messy bottom. Our neighbour who takes care of our chickens when we are away, indicated she had observed the chicken’s messy bottom and thought it might be a prolapse.
Well now, that’s a first for us.
Raising one’s own chickens is a thoroughly rewarding enterprise. Chickens are certainly the most easily managed of domestic animals — they are smaller than goats, and more practical than parakeets. Our small flock of hens produces enough eggs for us to use during the week, plus extra to sell. We keep them safe from predators, provide them shelter and food, and a good bit of free-ranging yard in which to explore, take dust baths, and catch worms. Unlike Sam and Millie, our chickens don’t need to be trained or walked. The very idea is preposterous!
Of course, when a chicken develops health concerns that is another kettle of fish, so to speak. If Sam or Millie were sick, we would take them to the vet. But, who takes chickens to the vet? We enjoy our chickens, but we don’t over sentimentalise them. We’re in the country-side and most people who keep chickens would likely make a nice soup when their hens stop laying. That won’t be the fate of our girls, because we enjoy watching them in the garden. Even so, they won’t get a ten mile car ride to the vet when they are feeling poorly.
Thankfully, there are perhaps as many chicken forums on the Internet as there are chickens in the world. If you need to know anything about feeding and raising chickens, breed selection, housing options, or recipes for eggs, just click onto one of these discussion groups and you’ll uncover a wide range of expertise, experience, photos and personal stories. It was one such forum which Roger availed himself of the health and wellness section and quickly learned what to do in this slippery situation.
Treating a prolapse begins with a visit to the chicken day spa, also known as our kitchen sink. Here the chicken will step into a warm saltwater bath and soak her bottom for about thirty minutes. I adore soaking for hours in a bath with a good book and a glass of wine, so no doubt in the world of chickens, getting to sit in a bowl of warm water would be bliss! I’m certain I’m right as our sickly chicken, one of our most evasive and difficult to catch, soon came to see Roger as her key to the spa and practically jumped into his arms when he came to get her for her warm bath.
In the beginning of her care regime, we were concerned about this flighty hen sitting for thirty minutes in a warm water bath having her bottom cleaned, so I sang to her. My repertoire bends towards camp songs and I can sing for a good twenty minutes or more about “When it comes to the end of a Brown Ledge day” or “On a wagon, bound for market…” To more than a few, this skill is among my more irritating, right up there with singing the fifty States in alphabetically order. But, to this hen, my dulcet tones seemed to do the trick. Of course, it may have been the warm water bath because as care continued over time, Roger suggested my singing wasn’t necessary.
With the chicken relaxed and her bottom clean, Roger next sprays the hen’s bum with antibacterial spray. Easy enough. The prolapse must be pushed back and with the help of a little haemorrhoid cream, Roger eases the hen’s uterus back into place. Success! Somewhat short term though, as about twenty minutes later, her inner organs slipped out again.
For over a week, this procedure of water bath, antibacterial spray and a haemorrhoid cream push-back was conducted twice daily. The prolapse continued to prolapse. Reading further, chicken information forums Roger learned about making little harnesses which attach around the chicken’s wings to hold everything up and in, a sort of uterine girdle. There are endless discussions of the steps people have taken, ultimately ending with such disheartening messages like, “after a week of treatment, the chicken died.” Like not driving to the vet, we decided to draw the line at making a uterine girdle.
While Roger carried on applying his chicken nursing skills, another chicken who was looking happy and healthy suddenly dropped dead by the feeder. She was just over 5 years old when she died. This unexpected death set us about preparing for the loss of another hen. Her prolapse was not correcting itself and we didn’t want her getting an infection or suffering.
After ten days of treatment in Crockern Spa, our sickly hen, the one who loved Roger for the warm baths he provided, developed a limp. Was this an infection? Did she sprain it jumping onto a perch? Or, was she feigning a new injury to extend visits to the spa? We may never know because this beautiful hen with her silly slipping out uterus and awkward stride, made a full recovery. Her warm baths have stopped and so too has her willingness to being caught. She is back to her evasive manoeuvres, sporting a nice clean bottom and no limp. She is her old self again.