Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Under the Weather

Clover, back in the roost with her friends.
Clover spent a little time in the bird hospital (aka, bathtub) this week.

On Tuesday morning, I went out to let the three big girls out of the coop. Violet and Oreo bustled by in their usual speedy fashion. Clover just sat in a puffed up round ball of feathers on the roost under the light. She looked miserable.

I let her be while I did my usual chicken chores: refilled water, adding apple cider vinegar and vitamins; scattered scratch for the big girls; refilled feed containers as needed. Violet and Oreo were busily scratching and pecking. Clover was still roosting, her eyes half closed.

I regarded her with concern, and Oreo came back in, looked at Clover, then wandered around in the coop a little aimlessly like a worried relative. The two of them had come to us as a pair, and they'd been together a long time.

I picked Clover up and put her outside by the lilac bush, near the scratch, to see if she'd perk up. Thirty minutes later, Oreo was hovering, but Clover hadn't moved an inch. 

She definitely wasn't moving around like she normally would. I decided I needed to isolate Clover in case she was sick. I went inside and set up a spot in the downstairs tub with food, water with vinegar and electrolytes, and bedding, then went out and gathered up my little patient.

As I walked into the house with her, I felt for her crop, high along the top of her breast bone. It seemed firm, and felt like it had food in it. A good sign, I thought. She didn't feel thin. But she sure seemed uncomfortable. I wondered if she could be egg bound -- a potentially life-threatening situation where an egg is basically stuck.

Clover hasn't laid an egg in three weeks, but she's been moulting, and was stressed by the chicken heist, and as an older hen and a Bantam, decreased egg production this time of year seemed fairly normal. It was pretty cold out, and I knew bringing her into the warm house might help. A warm bath would be a next step if she was egg bound, but I was uncertain. I massaged the area around her vent, checked her for other symptoms, and told her to feel better. Keeping her isolated would also help me know if she'd eaten or if all other systems were go.

When I settled her in the tub she seemed confused, but I closed the door, and left her in the mostly dark room for awhile. I popped in and checked on her several times over the next few hours, and she hadn't moved--she was still just standing in the same spot.

I chided myself for not quarantining our new birds when we brought them home nearly four weeks ago. They were kept separate during the day, but were sharing the coop at night, and I was worried that Clover had picked up some sort of disease. And it was my fault. I'd never make that mistake again, but that didn't help me feel any better in the moment.

I stood in the bathroom for a little longer, watching her.

And then I heard it: a soft thunk on the shavings. She looked at me. I looked behind her. There was a small egg. It was oddly colored on one end, and sandpapery rough. I was relieved. Maybe not as much as she was.

She remained in the tub for the rest of the day, just so I could keep an eye on her, but by late afternoon, it seemed pretty clear that she was feeling much better. She was moving around, scratching, clucking and eating. I carried her outside and put her in the run with Oreo and Violet. Oreo clucked over her, and Clover moved happily around the run.

It's been four days now, and she's her usual self, looking like a fluffy bowling ball, pecking and scratching, making nests in the leaves and muttering happily around the yard. No one else has shown any signs of problems, so I'm chalking it up to a slow egg, but I'm keeping a close eye on the others.

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