It turns out that a sick chicken employs the same sort of tactics against medical intervention as a sick cat. We have two Light Sussex cockerels who had a bad start in life when their broodyhen died just after they hatched. In spite of that, Wibbly and Wobbly have done well and fathered a few chicks of their own, but Wobbly does have an ongoing issue with balance and walking in a straight line.
|Wibbly, Wobbly and a reluctant date|
In the last month or so he has spent some time living in the greenhouse because he just didn’t look well. Each time, he perked up after getting out of the Autumn chill for a few days, and then went back down again once we let him out. So, at the weekend, we took him to see our neighbour, the sick chicken guru. She couldn’t spot any specific single cause, but gave us some recommendations on things to try to make him feel better.
Twenty-four hours later, and Wobbly was worse and our neighbour took another look. It was now obvious that Wobbly had a blocked crop – for the non-chicken-savvy, the crop is where the bird stores food before it goes into the gizzard to be ground down. So, Epsom Salts drenches and massaging the crop every few hours – this already has echoes of antibiotic drops in the cat’s eye four times a day.
Wobbly took it like a chicken. Or a sewer. My partner held him so that I could dribble drench into his beak from a syringe. Wobbly did a small, viscous trail of poop over my partner’s sleeve, so I reached for the toilet roll before it could drip on the bathroom floor. (The bathroom is our venue of choice for sick chickens – warm, dry, washable surfaces...)
The thing is, that was just a warning shot. Then Wobbly let rip with the real thing – hot and smelly, over my partners sleeve, down her trousers, over her socks – Oatmeal and the power of cat pee fade into insignificance.
On the positive side, it takes time for a chicken to reload, but medical treatment had to be suspended for general clean-up, and donning a rain coat. Then, back to the drench... wait, you stand there... and twist a bit... and hold the back end over the bath... is that just Epsom Salt solution running up my arm?
Wobbly resolutely refused to get better. We drenched and massaged for a couple of days, then my partner had to be away for a few days. So... one hand there to hold Wobbly... and another to steady him like so... then stand there to avoid any further poop shots... now, if I hold the syringe with my third hand...
Eventually I got some drench in his beak long enough for him to swallow, but after another day I still saw no improvement. So, back to the neighbour, a bit of reassurance that in fact his crop was emptying slowly. Now maybe it was just coincidence, but within hours of our chicken guru examining Wobbly, he was visibly improving, standing up properly for the first time in days, and hinting that it was time for food... and then more food...
Now, Wobbly is eating well, and during a momentary balance failure he apparently kept himself upright with a stream of explosive diarrhoea. Through the bars of the cage, up the wall, down into the bath... Just to recap, this is why we put sick chickens in the bathroom – washable surfaces. And an extract fan. The important point is that high-pressure power-pooping is a perfectly normal aspect of a healthy chicken’s digestive system, so we take it as a blessing in disguise. Very heavy disguise.