Saturday, March 24, 2007

Hen on the mend

When I did my "late check" of the animals last night after work, I found one of the hens limp and flopping around on the henhouse floor. She really looked like a goner...and the other hens seemed to agree, because one of them came over and pecked her. What to do, at 10:00 at night?

One learns to take these things in stride, after a few hundred dollars in vet bills for things that turn out to be "nothing" or livestock that ends up dying no matter what heroic efforts are made. Unexpected livestock health situations aren't crises for me any more, just opportunities for problem-solving. Panic and worry certainly won't solve them. Calling the vet probably won't make much difference, either, with a sick chicken.

Through my diverse livestock health issue experiences over the years, I've found that the main thing the vet usually does is prescribe "supportive care"...the animal equivalent of "get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, take 2 aspirin, and call me in the morning." So that's always my first step when an animal looks like it doesn't feel well. It certainly seemed like the best approach at 10:00 on a Friday night. Calling the vet at that hour wouldn't make me any friends, and having him out to the farm at that hour on a weekend would cost a month's worth of chicken feed.

So I fixed up a nice isolation pen for the hen on the floor of the currently-out-of-service washhouse, where there was plenty of fresh air but predators couldn't get near the cage and she wouldn't be rained on. I lined the floor of the cage with hay, and put in feed, water, and a lovely salad of fresh grass, clover and dandelion greens from the lawn. I put the hen in...she flopped and sprawled and looked like she was really on death's doorstep.

And I went to bed.

This morning, she was strutting around the cage as if nothing had happened. She even laid an egg today.

Tomorrow I'll put her back in with the other hens, and watch to be sure they aren't attacking her or something. Probably it will always be a mystery what the problem was. But all's well that ends well...and she seems to be well.

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