I’m back! I’ve missed everyone, and I have missed keeping up with our newsy thread. I’ve had a bad couple of months—like a gray cloud constantly overhead. But as I always say, things could be much worse. I’m just glad to have the holidays over and be back on a normal schedule.
The following long, painfully detailed story is therapy for me to write and hopefully, some of you can benefit from the healthcare information. The moral is to carefully check over your chickens each week.
My chickens had been doing well, but two days ago I found my beautiful Eliza dead. It appeared that she had been dust bathing. It was odd because that’s where and how I found one of my former Silkie chickens dead. In the past, some of our members have said that it’s not uncommon for a chicken to have a heart attack during a dust bath. I’ve read about that, too, but it seems odd.
That may have happened, but I am sad to admit that her death likely could have been avoided if I had been more observant. I spend time outside with my flock every day, so I have no excuse. A couple of weeks ago, I had noticed that she sometimes limped. I even checked the bottom of her feet several times looking for signs of bumblefoot, but for some unfortunate reason, I didn’t notice that she was getting scaley leg mites. I’m quite familiar with them since many times I’ve treated my Barred Rock, Tweedy, for scaley leg mites by covering her feet and legs with VetRx and/or olive oil. I’ve also repeatedly “sterilized” the coop and have followed other advice. Early this past week, I finally noticed the mites are Eliza’s legs; one leg looked particularly bad. I put oil on them two nights in a row, but on Wednesday morning, Eliza couldn’t stand up so I took her to my avian vet (who has chickens and runs a wild bird rehab clinic). I wasn’t sure if Eliza had injured herself or what. Dr. Gormley felt that her scaley leg mites were the cause. He invited me to look at a scraping of the mites under the microscope. I thought they looked like tiny, flat turtles. He gave Eliza an injection for pain and a dose of Ivermectin antiparasitic. I was sent home with Ivermectin doses for my other seven hens (and directions not to eat their eggs for a week).
As a rule, Orpingtons are docile, but Eliza was an exception to the generalization. She had always been very nervous and dramatic. She was especially dependent upon calm and sensible Adeline, my Jubilee Orp, to keep her grounded. With Adeline, Eliza felt more confident (I don’t think she realized that she was the largest chicken!) Eliza was sweet, and I loved her big, dark, and expressive eyes.
Normally I would bring an ill/injured chicken inside (along with a buddy) to recuperate, but I felt like it would be stressful for Eliza. I mentioned it to the doctor, and he said she should be fine as long as she had heat. I heat the coop anyway, so that wasn’t a problem.
After we had returned home, I sat with her in the sunny flower bed for twenty minutes while the other flock members foraged. Best friend Adeline stuck close by. When I put Eliza in a nesting box in the coop, she started eating and drinking. I hooked up a sheer curtain, so she had some privacy, but could still see Adeline perching. The next morning when my DH unlocked the coop at 8:00 am, he said that Eliza seemed fine and was eating/drinking from the bowls in the nesting box. When I went out at 10:00 am, at first I thought Eliza was having a dust bath because two other chickens were next to her dust bathing. Then I noticed that she wasn’t moving, and she looked like she had been dead for maybe an hour. I wondered if she slipped and fell from the top part of the coop to the bottom because her neck looked a little twisted. Then I pictured how she’d twist her neck like that when dust bathing, so I figured that she had a heart attack. I also checked to see if it looked like she had been attacked by flock members for being weak, but I didn’t see any signs. If I had only kept her inside...if I had only noticed her leg mites earlier. Death by negligence. I feel horrible.
I laid Eliza on the patio for a few hours so that all of the chickens could see her (I buried her without the chickens watching!) I was afraid Adeline would be traumatized seeing Eliza’s body, but she seemed to understand. The day before, my youngest DD was home when I had taken Eliza to the vet. Lauren said that Adeline “screamed and screamed” when I left with Eliza. Two years ago, I had to have poor Adeline’s best buddy (lavender Orp) put to sleep for a leg injury. Adeline called for her for several days. I got Bonbon, my bantam chocolate Orp, to be Adeline’s new buddy and they were very close until Bonbon had chicks from hatching eggs. By then, Eliza (given to me by a kind past member) was old enough to be introduced to the flock. Eliza latched onto Adeline right away, and they became fast friends.
This evening, Adeline and Bonbon perched next to each other like old times. With bad weather approaching, I cleared out an area in the garage, put a tarp down, and DH put dry straw on top. The flock can hang out there during the cold days ahead.
(I found the gravestone online and added the info— art therapy!)
So sorry for your loss. She was a beautiful bird, and you did everything you could to help.
@Mother2Hens I am so sorry to hear she passed. I have had one die in the middle of a dust bath too. I also had a BA die sunbathing! When I first put all my australorp out, they were a tight knit group and copied each others activities. After a couple cloudy days, we had a warm sunny day and all 16 were sprawled out, soaking in the sun. One just didn't wake up. There are so many internal things we can't see also. Don't blame yourself mites are a common problem. Sometime life events just cause us to not see things right away too.
I ditto this. Not all animals go with an easily identifiable cause, and poultry wear their injuries and illnesses in a particularly cryptic fashion. It's hard to know in most cases that anything's even wrong with them quite often until there's little chance of complete recovery.