Rosey the Riveter

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Not For the Faint of Heart

I love looking out the kitchen window while I'm doing dishes and watching the chickens peck and scratch.  It's so peaceful.

If only it was all roses and no thorns, but alas... chicken-keeping has it's disgusting side.

This is Scarlett.  She was a wild thing when we got her.  By the time the farmer had caught her the second time (she escaped from her box), Abby was in love with her.  She was clearly the roosters favorite and was in rough shape, so no rational chicken-keeper would have bought her. 

Sometimes I'm not rational.

She's a great layer, so she earns her keep.  What follows is a story with graphic pictures that are not for the faint of heart.  If you don't like gross, look away.



Thank you.

Ok, on with the story.

A couple of weeks ago, we discovered Scarlett had a lump under her left wing. 
My wonderful husband went on a search and scored a syringe from Rite Aid (for free.)  We tried to figure out what was inside the lump, but couldn't get anything out.  So we figured it was a fat deposit like dogs sometimes get.  We decided we'd keep an eye on it.

So we did.

But it wasn't red or hot, and it wasn't growing... and it wasn't affecting her in any obvious way, so I quit worrying.

But last Wednesday, something was clearly wrong.  Her tail was down and she was slumped in the corner of the chicken tractor.  And for the first time in 3 months, she didn't lay an egg.

An internet search revealed all kinds of possibilities... none of which were good news.  My mind immediately went to egg-bound, even though she wasn't straining or going in and out of the nest box.  So, I fixed her up a steam bath and tried that.  Supposedly, it relaxes the muscles and makes it easier to lay.
On the step below her is a pan with boiling water.  The towel kept the steam in.  And although she wasn't moving, I gave her some food and water to make sure she stayed put.  Her appetite was fine, so she ate.  We attempted this several times over the next day... but it never resulted in anything but a big poop.

There was also some rubber gloves and KY jelly involved, to help lubricate the eggs passage.  Not one of the top 10 moments in my life.

And still, nothing.  By this time I knew she probably wasn't eggbound, because after 48 hours the hens usually die.

Then what?  Internal laying?  Because we still hadn't gotten an egg out of her.  A thorough check revealed no signs of swelling, so probably not.

By this time, of course, I figured it could be Mareks... but she wasn't getting any worse.  In fact, by Saturday night, she was toddling around the yard.  And if it WAS Mareks, it was too late to isolate her, as the others had already been exposed (I have no idea if they were immunized, or not.  Not that that really matters, anyway.)  She had no signs of leg paralysis... but she DID show signs of limping when she walked.  But I couldn't figure out which side was bothering her.

(Tail back up, eating grapes and left-overs, with big brother Max guarding her.)

Sunday morning, the girls and I left for our get-away, so I left Stephen with burial instructions should she decide to keel over.  She spent the day inside, and he kept her in at night, too.  She was still eating and pooping and her tail wasn't limp, so that was a good sign.  And he had to work on Monday and Tuesday, so she went back out in the tractor with the others.

Yesterday when we returned, I once again found her crouched in the corner.  So she came inside yet again.  I was thinking she might have bumblefoot, although there was only a little spot on her foot that I didn't think was the typical scab... so I made an epson-salt bath and gave her a soak.

At this point, she was looking irritated with being inside, so I brought her out to see what she'd do.  She was definitely more mobile than she had been all week, walking from the house to the compost pile and back.  Yet at 7pm, she put herself to bed and went to roost in the coop.  This was more than an hour earlier than normal, so I decided she should be in for the night.

When I went to pick her off the roost, I noticed she was covered in goop.

And sure enough, her abscess had popped and was draining.

The smell was disgusting.

I flushed it out with Hydrogen Peroxide, which I've since been told probably wasn't the best idea.  Warm water would have been better.
 This is the huge hole that resulted.
 I had to use a q-tip to clean it out, while gently pressing to remove all the goop.

I knew the wound needed to stay open to drain, so I added some triple biotic lotion (without any 'caines' in the ingredient list, as they are harmful to chickens) and put her back in the cat carrier for the night.

She can't go back out until the wound heals, as we don't want Fly Strike (google it, it's disgusting).   I've been told that could take two weeks or more.  She is going to be one ticked off chicken at that point... I can already tell today that she is more like her old self and really irritated that she can't be outside.  She's walking without a limp, eating voraciously, and getting really good at pooping where there's no newspaper on the floor.  (We made a little 'cage' for her under a table, where she can walk around and scratch for treats.)

As you can see, Max is taking his job of guard-cat very seriously!

I will keep you updated, but I am hopeful that the worst is over.  What next?


  1. Thanks for sharing that! My first try at raising chickens and I want to be aware of what could happen. Keep us posted.

  2. Holy mackerel! That is a HUGE hole! Poor Scarlett! That is a job that I don't think I would have been able to do. Maybe with a clothes pinned nose and a vomit bucket nearby :D