Its the question of the century for chicken farmers: what do I do with my chicken that is (fill in the blank: injured, sick, not eating, not drinking, sitting with ruffled feathers).
I know some old veterans who will cull a bird that is the least bit sick, with the theory that they can’t afford to feed a sick bird and once sick, never completely recovered. Then I know others that have taken their pet chickens to expensive avian vets and paid lots of money to find out that nothing really could save them.
It’s a dilemma, for sure. I have found there is a happy medium in there somewhere. Knowing the difference between the ones that won’t last, the ones that might last and the ones that probably will recover has taken me a lot of time. And, I’m not always right.
But, case in point: about four years ago I had a lovely pullet that I was going to show at the Ohio National in November. Three days before the show she began to sit outside with feathers ruffled, and I knew something was up. I picked her up and found a soft eggshell hanging out of her vent with some yolk attached. Uh oh. Egg broken inside, probably infection, probably death impending. Still, I decided to give it a try. I brought her inside, sat her vent area in some warm water and watched the rest of the eggshell come out in the water.
I had some penicillin tablets, and decided to dose her and keep her inside, wrapped up and warm. I held her or put her in a box in the kitchen for the next two days, then had to leave for the show. I told my husband to watch her and make sure she ate and drank. After about two more days, she got up and started moving (my husband reported by phone).
Long story short…she recovered and I still have her, and she is hale and hearty. It could have ended badly, and I have it end badly with sick chickens. I guess the best answer is to talk to others who are more experienced, read from sources you know to be reputable, and learn. Often the hard way.
I have a blog post on Earth Eats this week that talks a bit more about what you can do when your chickens are ailing. I’s a never-ending learning process for me.