Two Saturdays ago, we lost our first chicken. Gertrude, one of the adult six, had been acting a little strange. She was lethargic and she looked bloated.
I was worried about her. I went to me go-to source, the internet, for answers. After a little reading, we decided that she must have an impacted crop. It was 10pm, dark and humid. We had the laptop, supplies, and Gertrude in the shed and began the oil-eye dropper-massaging technique outline on the internet for us. We were trying to clear her blocked crop by massaging whatever was in there into small enough pieces that we could work it back out through her mouth.
We managed to get quite a bit of dark liquid out, which smelled horrible, but after about an hour of carefully trying, we couldn't get any more out. We hoped that this would help her work it through herself.
Gert was a trooper through all this and was calm and patient. She knew we were trying to help her. We kept her separate from the other girls that night and checked on her first thing the next morning.
She still looked very bloated and her crop still looked full. Not as full as it had the night before but it was still not right.
I wanted to take her to a vet. She was not able to eat and was suffering. Roy said "I am not taking a chicken to a vet." Growing up where his Grandparents slaughtered cows regularly for food, he could not see the sense in it. But I knew she was suffering and I persisted.
Good husband that he is, we put Gert in a cat carrier and he took her a vet recommended by Tractor Supply. I waited at home with the little man and waited. When the truck pulled back in the driveway, I saw an empty carrier. I hoped that she was at the vet, getting IV fluids and resting.
But she was not. She was in a cardboard box in the truck, having been put down by the vet.
Roy explained what the vet said. Gertrude did in fact have an impacted crop. But she also had mites, or fleas. We did not even know that any of our birds were infected. The vet said that the mites had "sucked the life out of her". By the time the vet saw her, there was nothing she could do. I did not like this terminology and I felt horrible.
How could I not see this???
We immediately got to work. We cleaned out the entire coop - removed all bedding, feeders, fonts, nest boxes. Everything was cleaned with Permethrin 10 Livestock and Premise Spray. We then dusted each lady thoroughly with Diatomaceous Earth powder, being careful to avoid their eyes. This was not easy and we spent a lot of time chasing chickens. Finn was the trickiest chicken of all and she was last to get dusted. That’s my girl.
The entire process was done again a week later to get any remaining lice eggs. This time we used Orange Guard, which was a little less chemical-ly and smells like, well, oranges. Roy did this second cleaning solo since by this time, I was down for the count with that digestive infection.
All the ladies look healthy, I am keeping a close eye on them, and egg production is up. the little ladies are now bigger than the older ones and they have started laying. Little dark brown eggs.
I love having chickens, but I do not think that I was as prepared as I thought I was. I was ready for the responsibility and I knew that it was not going to be all healthy chickens, all the time. But for some reason I feel like I have failed. I lost Gertrude and my other ladies had to go through the indignities of dusting. I just hope the problem is solved and that they are content.
Being responsible for life is a very challenging, rewarding, stressful and sometimes a sad commission.