I didn’t want to post this, because the general blog theme is about food, but I think there’s more to food than just the end product of “cake” and “salad”. All our food comes from somewhere, and chicken manure is a great garden fertiliser.
I had spent the weekend at the beautiful Eden Light Retreat, having won a “Come and Stay” from the instagram account @edenlightretreat – more on that later. So while I’m away, the chooks were being fed in the evening, and mostly left to their own devices. It was only two nights.
Now, when you’re close with your animals, you notice things quickly, you notice changes. As I was bringing in my bag, I noticed Henrietta. I noticed her m – BY THE WAY this is not something pretty, but I’m sharing because there’s not a massive amount of info online, and yeah. Be warned… So I noticed her messy butt, her droopy comb and her generally unhappy demeanour. I took in my bags and immediately filled a wide, open bucket with warm water and vinegar. I put on some gloves, and I picked up the chook and placed her in the bucket. The fact I could even pick her up started alarm bells (they’re both runners). I washed her gently. As I swirled the water over her vent, I noticed that it was not very fluff any more – odd!
Then I noticed the maggots floating in the water. Yep.
The first thing I did was burst into tears. I knew what this was, I’d been reading about it the week before. In my mind, I had spent the weekend chilling out, while my baby had spent the weekend being eaten alive. I was horrified. I was a horrible, selfish person.
The second thing I did was to refill the bucket, and give her another wash. More maggots, and what I had originally believed to be poorly formed egg remnants stuck to her was actually the hanging flesh of this beautiful creature. Devastated, I did what any clueless person did; I went online.
I found three helpful resources – Backyard Chickens and The Art of Doing Stuff and The Chicken Chick. Both were super helpful, and I’m very grateful for their information, both practical and caring. I realised I didn’t have to find a way to “euthanise” the chook – I think all creatures want to live, and I really like my personable feathered friends!
So based on the information online, there seems to be no speedy way to sort out this issue. Here’s what seems to be needed:
- Clean the area
If your chook is presently weakened like mine, you can catch them easily. Make sure the water is gently warm and not hot, add about 1/4 cup epsom salts (high in sulfur). Gently place the hen into the water, making sure her vent is under water. Support her chest to make her feel safe. The maggots will start to escape to find air, after about 15-20 minutes. Luckily, my hen started to close her eyes and enjoy her bath. Flush the effected area frequently with the water. The maggots just sink down to the bottom of the bucket.
Here’s me in my “designated sick chicken outfit”, with gloves and knee-high gumboots. I supported the chook’s chest with my hand and used the other to wash the area super gently.
- Dry Her
With a hair dryer on low heat, dry the wet bird. She’ll otherwise be cold and her wound needs to be dry. I was super thankful that Henrietta was OK with this, and didn’t panic. She’s a girly girl.
- Prevent bacterial growth with Betadine
I went to the chemist and purchased a bottle of spray-on Betadine. I didn’t know whether other creams or gels would be too harsh or poisonous to the chicken. Betadine is mostly iodine, so I went with that. Spray-on was handy because she didn’t want to be handled too much. If you can afford a wound-healing spray, that would be good. I couldn’t find anywhere that sold it except for a vet charging over $50.
By the way, the smell, whether from bacteria or who knows, is absolutely horrific. Despite wearing gloves and washing my hands, I would get wafts of it unexpectedly. To help with the smell, which I was worried would attract more flies, I hung up a bunch of yellow trees (recommended by the Chicken Chick), and hoped for the best. She was in the garage, but I left the door open for a few hours to give her fresh air.
Healthy creatures also heal themselves, so I made sure that I fed her some of the probiotic grains I recently started!
- Segregate the chicken – Chicken Hospital
Not only do you want to protect the butt from further flies, you want to protect her from the other hens. There were only two hens when I rescued them, so this wasn’t a major issue, but as Henrietta is the submissive chook, I didn’t want the dominant Beryl to get her peck on. Beryl does seem to find this confusing/upsetting, and at one point managed to fly into the hospital area, just to have a look.
I made a mini hospital in the garage (I couldn’t keep her inside my rental!). It’s segregated off with some wood. The ground is covered with a tarp, then newspaper and then topped with straw. I have given her a small roost, low to the ground. Because her wound seems to hurt her, I placed flat newspaper down on the corner, and she sleeps there. I imagine the straw would poke her butt.
This is my chicken hospital:
I had some antibiotics left from their recent problems with Salpingitis. Again, I crushed the tablet, then mixed into the yolk of a par-boiled egg. The antibiotics are being given to help the chook fight infection. She’s below with her egg and some wheat grass.
Not a massive improvement, but she’s eaten most of her egg, had a few nibbles of grass, and has even perched herself. Sad, and missing most of her tail, but perched!
She slept on her perch, and when I bathed her she jumped and ran away, and wouldn’t let me dry her, which is much like the hens I remember!
Note: I have since seen that Henrietta has contracted a decent dose of mites, so I’m a bit concerned. I guess because she cannot dust bath, due to her wound! Unfortunately, I think I have also contracted them. If I have, and they’re also in my home, I feel incredibly bad for her because they are driving me mad.