May 15, 2020
Hello all, I have been a silent fan of Backyard Chickens for six years, when I first became a chicken owner. I had three chickens until a few days ago, a Rhode Island Red (Eleanor), a Barred Rock (Iggy), and a Polish (Simone). My girls were best friends and I genuinely believe that there was no pecking order between the three of them, because of how docile and agreeable they were to each other. Sadly, just two days ago, we made the decision to have the vet euthanize my beloved Eleanor. I will tell the story of her slow and steady declining health in the last few months of her life, in hopes of finding other people who have experienced this and maybe someone who has more insight into aging RIR's than I do.

In December of 2019, Eleanor stopped roosting at night with her friends. She started sleeping in the nest box at night, and we were able to rule out her being broody because she hadn't laid an egg in over 2 years. At first, every night I would lift her up onto the roost. In January, things took a turn when she lost her ability to balance on the roost and would have face planted to the ground if I wasn't there to catch her. Thus, I started allowing her to sleep in the nest box. Eleanor remained generally content and healthy until May of this year (2020). First, she lost her ability to ascend the ramp up from the run into the coop at dusk. Second, she stopped roaming around with my other birds, and took to sitting underneath the ramp except to eat treats. We concluded that she had arthritis, due to the pained way she was walking. Also, we hypothesized that she had gone blind, which would explain why she lost the ability to roost and her affinity for sitting under the ramp (because it was a constant and a way for her to orient herself.) During this time, I would frequently check her vent, eyes, and legs. I also gave her water with a syringe nightly and hand fed her often. From the outside, there was nothing abnormal about her, except for a droopy tail, which I think had to do with her general weakness.

This past Sunday morning, I went out to give the girls some treats, and quickly noticed that poor Eleanor was looking even more forlorn and lethargic than usual. I picked her up and looked under her tail. What I saw was something that I hope no other chicken owner ever has to see. Some of you will know exactly what I mean when I tell you that she had gotten flystrike. That's right: MAGGOTS. Maggots everywhere. Crawling in and out of her vent, eating my baby alive. I will not go on, for obvious reasons. We took Eleanor to the vet immediately. He took one look at her, and after hearing that she was six years old and of her underlying conditions, he strongly suggested euthanizing her. Of course, I was devastated, but I knew that it was her time. After all, her quality of life had not been the same for months. So, we drove home without our sweet little red hen.

I wish that Eleanor's life had not ended in such a horrific way, and sometimes find myself beating myself up over the flystrike incident. But I remind myself that she had been nearly immobile for weeks on end, sitting in dirt and feces, so it is no surprise that flies preyed on her. My chickens live a good and clean life, and Eleanor's circumstances were terrible and strenuous for both me and her. I am telling Eleanor's story here because I hope that there is someone out there who has gone through a similar drawn out and mysterious ending of a chicken's life. Some of you may wonder why I didn't have her killed months ago, but most of you on here probably understand that chickens are so much more than agricultural commodities. They are pets, full of personality and zest for life. I also just wanted to tell my hen's story so that her memory lives on! Good luck to anyone trying to support an elderly or diseased chicken right now, I can assure you that, while it is hard, it is incredibly worthwhile and life affirming. Every chicken in as unrepeatable and worthy of care as any other pet! Hang in there!!!



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Apr 23, 2020
I'm sorry. Sometimes we just do not know what to do, especially with our older hens who have become special pets. Sounds like she had a great life and was loved.

Chicken Vet Of Our Flock

In the Brooder
Sep 27, 2021
she had a beautiful life and you were an amazing person for her! I recently lost a three year old rir to what I believe was egg problems. she had a heavy molt and then stopped laying after all her new feathers grew in, she would waddle, not roost and was very disinterested in food. she passed shortly after (1 month or so). I had another RIR, her sister going down the same exact path and i wanted to help her and not loose her either. I put her on a liver powder and lo and behold in about a month she was totaly back to normal. she was running again, squawking, chasing bugs and acting like a teen, she even aid her first egg in over half a year and gloated over it for about a hour. maybe your gall had egg problems, especially if she wasn't roosting and had no balance.

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