29 March 2015

A little operation on a messy chicken bottom

My favourite brown shaver hen lays the most enormous eggs. A couple of weeks ago she spent far too long in the nest box. By mid-afternoon I got around to investigating, and found her still in there, sitting on a foul mixture of diarrhoea and egg yolk and white. 

Reader, meet One-Wattle*, who had a troubled rear end.

At times like this, bravery is required. One must be intrepid and shoulder responsibility, even if one wants to run away from it because she has no idea what to do or what she might find.

I turned her upside down and saw a little white thing poking out of her bottom. This looked like the soft, empty shell of an egg - and indeed I'd been finding a lot of broken eggs in the nest box, and collecting eggs with very pale, fragile shells. I now understood they were hers, and that she was having trouble forming shells for her big, regular eggs. 

Also poking out was a bit of her innards - she'd been straining so hard to get rid of that irritating shell that she'd very slightly turned herself inside out, and the inside bit was a gleaming, bright red.

I began to pull out the egg shell, and noticed that this turned her inside out even more. Having given birth, I know the value of slow pushing. Give the body a bit more time, and it yields. So I just pulled a bit more slowly and gently.

The eggshell I removed

Out came the flaccid, soft, empty eggshell. Instantly the hen's bottom returned to normal, the bright pink inside-out bit returning to where it belonged, and all visible bits of the cloaca entrance returning to a normal pale pink. She must have felt hugely relieved. 

I popped her back into the cleaned-up nest box to recover. Half an hour later she was completely back to normal, running with her pals. A successful nursing mission!

I haven't had to to a lot of chicken nursing, having kept my birds fairly healthy, but you can read about another instance here (part 1) and here (the more tragic part 2).

*I call her One-Wattle, because only one of them developed into anything when she hit puberty. It's a particularly pendulous wattle, as if to make up for the other runty one.

One-Wattle's eggs are in the back row.
A giant One-Wattle egg. It looks like a double-yolker,
but always contains one yolk and excess egg white.

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