I texted Rob, “Henrietta looks pale. I don’t think she feels good.”
“What?! How can a chicken look pale?” he replied.
Good point. Still, something wasn’t right. She spent most of her time laying down, not chasing bugs or digging dirt with her girls. Her tail quivered and pointed down. Her eyes were half closed and, yes, she was pale; her comb was a sickly pink instead of bright red. Also, no egg.
I started searching the online chicken groups (yes, there are such things) for answers. In my unprofessional opinion, our chicken was egg bound. Either an egg was stuck, or had broken internally. Neither scenario seemed likely to end well. There are a wide variety of suggested home remedies out there. I decided to go for the least, ummm, invasive first. So she dined on plain yogurt (for the beneficial bacteria), water laced with olive oil (to keep things well lubricated), liquid calcium (to strengthen shells), fresh greens, and no more people food (all the chickens have gotten used to kid-leftovers, which may have made them a bit plump, bogging down the egg-making machine). A more spoiled bunch of birds I never did see.
And still, no egg. In fact, the only thing coming out of her at all was something that looked like yolk. Gross. And not a good sign. Every day when I picked up the kids from school they asked, “Is Henrietta dead? When she dies, can we get two silkies?”
So I called my dad, who was in charge of the axe when it came to my childhood backyard flock. (For the record, it’s true that chickens run around like chickens with their heads cut off when their heads are actually cut off.)
“Egg bound?” he laughed. “I never heard of such a thing. I guess when one of our chickens got sick we didn’t really notice until they died. Then they went in the pot.”
Hmm… farm life in Idaho.
Well, it looked like the next step would have to be the invasive one. Gathering latex gloves, olive oil, and my knowledge gleaned from a childhood spent watching “All Creatures Great and Small”, I headed to the chicken run. My assistant, Violet, held the patient while I… well… let’s just say I checked to see if I could feel the offending egg. (shudder)
A couple days later and the prospects seemed grim. There was one last thing I could try, according to my sources. But it seemed ridiculous. I didn’t think it could be done. Yet watching the poor thing suffer while we ate dinner on the porch, Rob said he was willing to give it a try.
IKEA never imagined their Trofast collection could be used to soak a chicken, but that is what we did. Rob dutifully held that bird down in hot water for 20 minutes.
He passed the time by watching bluegrass on his laptop. Maybe it was the music, or the warm hindquarters, or that she was just so sick, but the squawking and flapping I envisioned never happened. She even seemed disappointed when her jacuzzi was over. We promptly wrapped her in a towel and put her in Violet’s lap where she seemed to fall asleep.
After she stopped dripping we put her in the recycling bin with a warm lamp.
As night approached I realized she was still pretty damp, so I grabbed the blow dryer.
Yes. I did. And I don’t think I’m wrong in saying she loved it. LOVED. IT. She stood completely still, closing her eyes, letting me lift her wings and maneuver her around to get all the fuzzy bits.
This is not something I ever thought I would do. Clearly. Spoiled? Apparently so. Although I am not sure I would take my chickens to the vet… so what does that say about me?
Well, all that spa treatment was supposed to relax the bird and help the inner traffic jam ease up. We did not see any evidence of that happening and were surprised she survived the night. And the next. And the next. Actually, each day she seemed a bit better. Walking gingerly, to be sure, but peppy.
Yesterday we found this in the laying box.
It’s the biggest egg she has ever laid. So it looks like the drama is over for now. Chicken Spa closed. Henrietta Universe is feeling herself again, which is something like this: