With a title like that you may be thinking about food. You may even have a sudden urge to consume some Chinese takeaways. Don’t worry, you may well lose your appetite before the end of this post. If you’re squeamish and about to eat, come back later! Let’s start with the sour side of things.
Jane has been in chicken hospital. For a few days she had been taking a while laying in the nestbox but I wasn’t sure what she was up to. Since she started laying she’s been a bit of a neurotic layer, trying to nest in funny places and spending a lot of time fluffing around and putting bits in her nest. So at first I thought she was fluffing around again, then I thought she might be going broody. After a busy family birthday weekend of outings and visits I started to think that something was wrong with her, like egg peritonitis or some other egg-laying problem. When I saw her lying down a lot the next day I caught her and got her into the Hospital Cage quick-smart. There is no messing around these days. At first I couldn’t notice anything wrong with Jane other than a floppy comb, but then duh! Her crop (think food processing sac on one side of the chest) was full and sloshy. She hadn’t been eating much and the squishy, sloshy crop was the sign of a problem. Then I realised the bad smell that I caught a whiff of was coming from her mouth. Jane had sour crop. I knew I would have a case of sour crop or impacted crop one day but I didn’t want a real life learning experience right now! I couldn’t remember what to do for which case, other than I needed to do something promptly, so I quickly sought some internet advice. Then things got really ‘fun’. I helped Jane to vomit. It’s called sour crop for a reason: what comes out is VERY sour. It happens when some food or ‘food’ has become stuck in the crop, blocking everything from passing through the system and causing a yeast infection. I ended up having to hide in the garage with Jane, as Mr Bingley was most concerned that I took her away and kept escaping to try and rescue her. It was touching but you don’t want a rooster on a rescue mission when you’re on a chicken vomit mission.
I got Jane to vomit a few times over the next few days to try and clear her crop. Making a chicken vomit is not only gross and messy, it is stressful, as it’s rather awkward to hold them, you have to stop after a short while to let them breath freely and I know it is dangerous for them. There are very few cases when making a chicken vomit might be advised, and sour crop is one of them, in some people’s opinion. I took on advice from The Chicken Chick, from The Chicken Vet on The Chicken Chick and from fellow poultry keepers in my Facebook poultry group, as well as my own judgement. Knowing Jane wasn’t really eating anything for a few days was worrying, but there was no point in her eating anything until the blockage cleared. I had to keep reminding myself not to give her anything with sugar (including molasses) or grains in it until her system had cleared as it would worsen the yeast infection.
After a few days, we got to the stage where Jane’s crop felt like it had cleared and she didn’t need to vomit. But she still looked rather morose. There had only been watery stuff coming out her other end and now it turned into a very poopy butt. The only time you’re excited to see a poopy butt is when things need to come out! I gave Jane a half-bath, standing in a tub of warm water while I wiped her messy rear end with a cloth. It was then that I noticed something sticking out of her butt. It looked like a couple of bits of grassy stuff so I gave it a pull and ended up carefully but determinedly helping to extricate a very large, grassy poop sausage from Jane’s rear end. Sheesh. As if vomit wasn’t bad enough! I wasn’t too grossed out though, as I was just so relieved that she had gotten that out of her system. The poor wee chicken. There was a leaf that came out in her vomit but she had obviously had a bit of a long grass feast too and things just got stuck in there. I have been warned. Grass must be kept short at ALL costs. Not most of the grass, ALL the grass that the chickens can reach. No excuses. Jane’s butt got dried with the hair dryer and then she had a nice rest in her cage.
I’ve been giving Jane plenty of time to recover before she returns to the run with the big wigs, with more and more time outside in a temporary pen I set up coming off her cage. She and the others can see each other through the smaller gate by the garage. Naturally, Mr Bingley was up and over the gate to rescue her very soon after he spotted her (despite having just clipped his wings), but I was fully expecting this, and watching. Since then, the presence of the net leaning against the gate has kept him at bay and he has calmed down, content in the knowledge that Jane lives and is ok. Yesterday she got out and went over to the big gate where Mr Bingley was eagerly trying to get her to come in and Lizzie and Lydia were watching her with great interest. She wasn’t ready for Lydia yet though! Is anyone? I could catch Jane quite easily so she still needed to get more strength up. I think I will let her in with the others tomorrow, under supervision. This afternoon Jane and Mr Bingley spent a lot of time together, on either side of the gate. It was very sweet to see them side by side, foraging and talking to each other. Mr Bingley really does care for Jane. Lizzie has been his favourite since Lydia fell into disgrace after the Lydia vs. Frodo fight, but he often takes time to go on little ‘dates’ with Jane.
All in all this has been the most intensive chicken treatment I’ve had to go through yet. It sure requires some dedication! My neighbour commented that a lot of people would just kill the chicken. But then some people would take their chicken to the vet to treat them too. Chicken keepers come along all points of the scale. While I will try to avoid taking chickens to the vet (and I haven’t actually found one who will treat chickens yet) due to the cost, I will do my best to treat them at home as much as I am able. Someone in my Facebook group paid $218 in vet bills to get a beloved hen treated for sour crop. I’m not prepared to do that, but at the same time I know that I cannot always treat everything the chickens throw my way and I accept the fact that I might lose them if it must be so. While going through this process with Jane I knew that I could lose her or have to put her out of her misery if things didn’t clear. And even at the other side of it I don’t know if she’s suffered any internal damage because of it, so I will just have to watch her closely.
Well, if you’re still with me after wading through that (hopefully with gumboots on) we can talk about something sweet now. The feather babies! The babies are almost 5 weeks old now. How did that happen? I didn’t even realise it had been that long, as things have been so busy. That means Frodo could leave them to their own devices any time from now. With her last hatch she didn’t leave them all of a sudden, but slowly weaned them into independence. I think the chicks have been more independent this time, whether because they were born in spring instead of winter or because Frodo’s more chilled out I’m not sure. I have a lot of respect for the way Frodo raises her babies. She is a great teacher and teaches them to be independent but sociable, and not clingy or terrified of me, which is helpful. I handle some of the chicks most evenings. I started forgetting which ones I’d handled so I started a system of holding the three splash chicks and two blackies one night, then all the blueys (the three Legolas chicks and the two blue Frodo’s) the next time. Most of the chicks are coping pretty well with the handling, but the two Leggy boys are still very squirmy and eager to escape. They are so full of beans and have trouble sitting still for long.
After writing this, I went out to handle the chicks and was surprised to find Frodo on the roost. The babies are on their own at bedtime! Most of them have been sleeping in various nestboxes in groups anyway, as they couldn’t all fit around Frodo. This is going to get interesting. All the hens amazingly made it up on the roost with Mr Bingley tonight. Except Jane, who potentially might be back tomorrow.
The little boys have been sparring with each other. I have seen the four boys I know of fighting or staring other chicks down: the two Leggy boys and two of the splash chicks, Number 1 and Splash Dot. It is very interesting watching Number 1 and Splash Dot display their dominance, as they seem to be big fans of the stare-down rather than too much body contact, whereas the Leggy boys will run up to any chick and chest bump them. Number 1 is a total stare-down master at the moment. I was fascinated to see him have a big ‘battle’ with Leggyright, which consisted of prolonged bouts of crouching and staring each other in the face, interspersed with a chest bump here and there before more staring. Number 1 came out on top when Leggyright finally turned and walked away. I like this staring fighting. It’s very gentleman-like.
I’d like to think the other six chicks are girls but I’m not sure. It’s at the awkward point where you just can’t be quite sure, as all their combs are growing. The third splash chick, Pearly, who I’m really hoping is a girl, has started to get a pink tinge to her comb and tiny wattles appearing. Oh dear. For a while I’ve thought she was a girl as she has always been the most-feathered and has a more girlish body appearance, not like the big feet, chunky, feathered thighs and darker heads of her splash brothers. Ah well. Wait we must. I am also starting to wonder about Tiny, the youngest chick. When I held him/her tonight there was a lot of pecking, which I wasn’t impressed about, and he/she sounded surprisingly boyish. The boys are making more of a throaty chirping sound at the moment. I haven’t had a female, young or old, peck at me repeatedly whilst being held. The main thing is, I’m dead-sure that Orange Spot, the other Legolas chick, is a she. Also, Penguin, the pretty, dark grey Frodo chick still has a very small comb so I’m getting excited that he/she might be a she! And I’m sure Bluefro is a girl too.Oh, why can’t I just know now?