I've been worried about Jane today.
She seemed to have been in the nest box for forever today. Every time I went outside to take a break she was in there. So, this afternoon, when I went outside to check on everything in the backyard after the cable guy had left (that's another open letter coming...) I noticed that jane was sort of crouching in front of the water bowl, guzzling down water like it was going to evaporate before she could quench her thirst.
If I were to approach Jane on any other day she would have bolted in the opposite direction. Today, as I came up behind her at the water bowl, she just stood there. She didn't really even look over her shoulder. I knew something was wrong.
I picked up my girl, my favorite (we've made a pact to not tell the others, so keep it on the DL), and I headed inside to the chicken sickbay (the bath tub with the shower enclosure).
With chickens, it's really more like a flow chart than a guessing game. Check the symptoms and plug them in, more often than not it's a problem that thousands of people have already dealt with and you'll have an easy answer in no time. That's how it was with Elaine when she got fowl pox last year. So, I was pretty certain we had one or two maladies in play: infected crop or egg-bound hen.
These two illnesses are more of the wait-and-see type problems. Do something and then wait and see. Do something else, wait and see. So, first, after bringing Jane inside, we gave her some water with apple cider vinegar. This helps clear the crop of whatever funkiness that might try to take up residence. Still no improvement. The next step was to pour oil down her throat to loosen things up (as if chickens really need to loosen anything up. I would prefer they move in the other direction).
If you haven't tried to force feed a chicken with oil without really forcing her (I'm too nice for that!) it's a real trip. Timing is everything. You have to talk sweet and keep her calm, pry open the beak a little bit and then try to pour accurately and quickly before she closes her beak again. I know it sounds impossible, but, trust me, it can be done. Nonetheless, no improvement.
Next, it was time to check and see if she is eggbound. Basically, if a chicken is laboring over an egg and can't get it out, it can break inside and cause internal bleeding, which can lead to septicemia and death. No good. Can't have that happen to Jane. So you palpate her tummy to see if you can feel an egg. No dice.
Now, the next step is something that farmers have been doing for ages. It's a routine task for a lot of people who raise poultry. All of this did not make this task any easier.
I had to manually check the vent. We're not talking about an A/C system here, folks.
The messageboard I'm on said that putting oil on your finger and then feeling for cracked egg shells or stuck eggs was not only good for diagnosing the hen but the oil would help move things along. Ugh.
So, I did it, and nothing. Didnt feel a thing except two clumps of poo that made me dry heave. Chicken raising is apparently not for even the most hardened.
Later on we found a yolk, a white and a weird misshapen grey egg bag type thing. Jane is looking a litle perkier and is standing up now. She's had a little warm oatmeal and we're keeping her inside tonight just in case.
Jane, I really love you. But, please, don't do this to me ever again, OK? I'd rather get to know a little more about the side of you that doesn't poop.