|L with a subdued Clover at fair.|
At the vet check, they talked to L about her birds and explained what they were doing (looking for evidence of mites, lice, and disease), then exclaimed over them ("They're so pretty! I love her color. Oh! This is my favorite little hen so far!") and made a fuss about them, which made L smile. They were checked twice, and both vets thought they looked very healthy.
We got them settled in their cages, and everything seemed fine. Shavings, food, and water, all freshly added. Clover's nearest neighbor was a golden laced cochin bantam pullet. Pearl was next to a fluffy black silkie pullet. All seemed in good order, and we left them for the evening.
We were back early in the morning to check food and water. Pearl was bright-eyed and happy. Clover looked miserable, her eyes closed, her little self hunched up. We added electrolytes to her water, carried her around, visited Pearl. But she simply seemed unhappy. She's normally very vocal and busy, and this withdrawn, dozing little hen was not like her.
I asked one of the poultry superintendents what I should do. She regarded Clover, and said that sometimes, old hens just didn't handle the stress well. Another poultry superintendent came by. They worked at having Clover drink, dipping her beak into the water until she finally started drinking on her own, but she refused her food. Then they had us move Pearl in with her for comfort.
They felt she was just confused and stressed and dehydrated, not sick. We walked around the fair and came back, then spent the rest of the afternoon checking on them both. One of Pearl's neighbors -- a big white meat bird -- reached through the cage and pecked at Pearl's comb, making it bleed. L changed bedding, refilled water and feed cups, swept the aisles, and offered to help wherever she could.
But by evening, it was clear that Clover was just a very unhappy hen. I withdrew her from the fair, and carried her out to the car, put her in the box next to me in the front seat, and headed home. By the time I pulled her out of the box and carried her to the backyard, her eyes were looking brighter, her head higher.
I put her down on the path by the coop and her old friend Oreo came running to meet us. The two Australorps hurried over, and Thelma noticed a piece of shavings on top of Clover's head. She reached over and picked it off, then regarded Clover as if to say, "Well sugar, where have you been?" Clover basked in the welcome, sighed and clucked, then hopped into the coop.
She and I were both glad she was home.