Surviving Heatstroke - a long recovery story

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by KnightNic, Jun 11, 2016.

  1. KnightNic

    KnightNic Out Of The Brooder

    Sep 9, 2011
    Long post ahead....

    I thought I would share Madeline’s story in case it was useful for anyone in a similar situation, and also, because it’s story with a good ending….and sometimes you just need a happy story.

    Heatstroke is something I’d become very cautious about, having lost one of my very first and most loved chooks (Lily) a few years back. She’d been broody and I, to my absolute regret, listened to the theory that she’d get off the nest for water. She did not.

    With this always in the back of my mind I was terrified anytime someone went broody or we had a particularly hot day. I had water containers galore; one self waterer and 1 freshly filled (daily or twice daily with ice-cubes) container per chicken. The coop is positioned under/to the side of a huge plum tree so gets heaps of afternoon shade and to protect from the morning sun I’d stapled old sheets to the top sides of the coop.

    But still, sometimes, despite your best intentions things go wrong.

    I’d taken a month off work after some health issues and so was very lucky to be home, it was the middle of summer and I’d been checking on the chooks a couple of times a day. On days when I’m home they have access to most of the yard but because it was hot (30 degrees C) they were just lazing in the run.

    I went out to see them and found the 2 Barred Rocks in the shade, 2 of the Light Sussex burying themselves and one Light Sussex (Madeline) sitting out in the open, in a sunny patch. I thought, stupid chicken, picked her up and put her in the shade.
    Within seconds I knew something was wrong. Madeline is not normally a chicken who likes being touched and any other time would bolt if I picked her up like that, I hoped was just hot and lazy. But then she tried to stand, flopped back down and panted.

    I brought water to her, but she wouldn’t drink and tried to walk away from me. I could see something was very, very wrong with her. She was nearly paralysed, trying to walk but falling over and basically acting drunk. She kept stumbling back into the sun. Needless to say it was a very upsetting sight and I truly thought she’d be dead in minutes.

    Grabbing an old plastic guinea pig cage from the garden shed I scooped her up and ran her inside the house – I could only assume it was the heat – and sat her on the table and turned on the air-con.

    From there I posted on and asked advice, googled frantically and watched her fade.

    Something I hadn’t heard of and didn’t see posted anywhere (and may be of use to someone else) is that her eyes were acting very strangely. She had them open and the pupils were zooming in and out, big to tiny to big to tiny.

    I held spoons of cool water to her beak which she occasionally sipped. She wouldn’t eat. I watched her and hoped for the next 6 hours. There was no change and she continued to pant, look dopey and be unable to stand. She didn’t flap her wings or get agitated, she just sat. It was a sad sight.

    This continued for 2 days. I held spoons of water to her which she occasionally drank and rubbed mashed banana on her beak which she sort of ate. Her eyes had stopped acting strange but I got the feeling she couldn't see well.

    On the 3rd night I made the tough decision to have her put to sleep the following morning, as I felt it was cruel to have her continue. She still couldn’t stand, would only go to the toilet when I held her up and she was losing weight fast. A couple of spoons of water a day wasn't enough, I figured it was only a matter of time anyway.

    Ok, so here’s the bit that still makes me cry.

    The next morning, I picked her up and brought her outside so she could sit on the grass for the last time. She tried to walk and stumbled round and fell over. She pecked at grass, like she really wanted to try to eat. It was terribly sad.

    While I was sitting on the grass with her the other 4 chickens saw and made a racket to be let out of their run and into the yard, so I let them go. Moa and Luna (BR) didn’t care about what was going on and wandered the yard, Juliet and Penny (her LS sisters) wandered over closer to have a look. Then my phone rang, so making sure Madeline was safely away from the other chooks (4 metres and a plastic fence between them lest anyone get tempted to peck) I ran inside.

    What greeted me when I came back just about broke my heart. Madeline had shimmied over and was pressed up against the plastic fence, Juliet and Penny had done the same and the 3 of them were in a pile like they did when they were chicks despite the fence.

    And I could not do it. I could not take her to the vet to have her put to sleep. I couldn’t give up on her when she clearly could fight to be with her sisters and they so obviously wanted to be with her.

    It was about as Disney/Hallmark as you could get.

    So back inside she came.

    Our treatment plan worked out very similar to another story I read on BYC (sorry I can’t remember the person who wrote it but it was a massive help). I held spoons of water to her beak and then as she drank more I changed up to little ramekins and yoghurt containers. I smeared her beak in mashed banana chunks and mixed it into a paste and altenated it with her water. After a few days I could mash the banana into a yoghurt container and she would peck bits out.

    I made her porridge out of her layers’ meal. I also fed her tiny bits of ham and meat from the fridge, when she seemed interested.

    All this time I kept her inside with the aircon on when it was crazy hot outside, she sat calmly in the GP cage, no need for the lid as she wasn’t able to climb out.

    About 10 days after the decision to fight on was made I was woken in the night by chaos out in the living room... she was flapping her wing and trying to perch on the edge of the cage!! I was so excited, and it was a real turning point.

    Once she started to show signs of wanting to use her legs I decided she needed to build up strength again. I would hold her with one hand, holding her breast up and taking much of her weight. She would stretch out her legs and act like she was standing. As time went on I would slowly lower my hand to let her bear more and more of her weight. I would have done this 5-10 times a day for 2 weeks. Each day she seemed to get a bit more strength.

    During all this time (about a month) I would take her outside several times a day and do her leg excersizes on the grass with the other chickens running around. I’d also sit her in the shade by the run/coop and move away a couple of metres. I thought it was important that she not lose her place in the pecking order…it did happen but I think this helped it turning into all out carnage.

    As time went on and my return to work arrived she was in a position I could put her in the run for the day. She could stand, sort of walk (with lots of rests), eat, drink and toilet without assistance. She continued to come inside for the night for another week but at about week 5 she was in the run/coop all day and night, I just had to make her a bed under the raised coop and she couldn’t perch.

    Her walking slowly became better and better. It started with a metre then 2, then 3. For a long time she couldn’t curl her toes so when she walked she splayed them out weirdly. She would totter about like she was wearing stillettos, and stand very tall – much like a penguin....or she sat/shuffle on her heels/elbows


    It’s might be worth noting the pecking order issues now…As I said, I have 5 chickens, 2BR and 3LS. The 2 BR are top of the pecking order as they’re the oldest and the LS were added to the flock in Sep the previous year. Everyone got along alright but there was no doubting the order. The 3 LS were all equal bottom.

    Sadly, on re-introducing Madeline the 2 BRs really turned evil, especially Luna. She’d always been 2nd in charge with a real short-chicken-complex and must have seen it as the best opportunity ever. Even the normally docile (but giant, so still top chook) Moa also started getting really mean towards the LS's. Especially poor Madeline.

    Funnily enough, the LS ladies embraced having Madeline back in the flock and showed no aggression whatsoever.

    So, with all of this going on I decided to fence off one area of the run for Luna and Moa, leaving them the original coop (it had been Moa’s long before the others came along so it only seemed fair). And I built a new mini coop/nestbox for the Madeline, Juliet and Penny. They could all see each other but there couldn’t be any bloodshed.

    I attempted to allow them to play together in the yard (supervised).
    As a result they slowly sort of got used to each other again until Luna mis-behaved. She spent a lot of time in chicken prison (aka the run) while the others free-ranged.

    It’s been 5 months since all this happened and only last weekend was I finally able to remove the safety fence. Luna still tries to bully the others, Moa is back to being docile and leading only because of sheer size and age. Juliet and Penny and Madeline continue on.

    There haven’t really been many lasting affects to Madeline’s heatstroke and subsequent rehab. She walks more upright but as time goes on that becomes less pronounced. She tires easier than the others but again, that’s fading. She seems to have forgotten living inside and is not any friendlier than the others…sometimes I think she’s rather ungrateful! But it’s so lovely to see her back acting like a chicken!!

    Some short videos showing her vastly improved walking, just in case it's of interest to anyone:

  2. gemma24

    gemma24 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 4, 2016
    what a sweet story, I needed that...a broody didn't accept foster chick and now chick has a broken that's no fun. but anyway great story!

    thanks for cheering me up!

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