We awoke yesterday morning to discover one of our favorite hens, Little Lady, had passed away. Though we had expected this, as something had very clearly been wrong for quite a few days, it was quite sad nonetheless. She was our tiniest hen, and quite friendly- even the larger, more aggressive hens tended not to pick on her like they did with the other girls. She just had this personality that spoke: "I'm just here minding my own business, don't mind me."
Lady has had a rough year. She lost ALL of her back and tail feathers (except for a scraggly two or three) due to our very large and aggressive rooster finding it necessary to copulate with all of the hens multiple times a day. Those poor girls are always running from him (unless there is some kind of danger, and then he is their best friend!). Speckles the rooster is more than twice as large as Lady, and when he jumps on her back, he tends to do some damage. Ever since we've had a rooster, I've always jokingly warned my friends: if you are bad in this life, you will come back as a hen! Poor girls!
So about a week ago, I noticed Lady just sitting inside the coop on the perch, staring at the wall. Very unusual. The hens usually race out of the coop in the morning when we open it up for them. Then the next day, she stayed inside the coop again, staring it at the wall, this time on the floor. When we went to close up the coop late that night, she was just standing there outside the coop, unwilling to move. Something was definitely wrong.
My first guess was that Lady was eggbound. This can happen when a hen's egg gets stuck inside her. It will cause the chicken to lose interest in anything, including food and water, and ultimately, to die if something is not done. Unfortunately, the "something" involves such measures such as giving the chicken a warm bath, massaging her abdomen, and making her warm oatmeal with a vitamin supplement.
That night we skipped the warm bath, and focused on massaging her abdomen, trying to feel inside her for an egg that might be stuck. Unfortunately, she was so bony that is was hard to tell what we were feeling exactly. I made her some warm oatmeal with nutritional yeast, kelp meal, and raw milk, and after some hesitation, she ate it.
The next morning we found an egg right next to Lady, and hoped that had done the trick. She came out of the coop and even ate a little bit. She seemed to be on the up and up, but by the following day she was back to the same uninterested, sickly looking Lady.
This routine went on for nearly a week, and as I said, ultimately ended in tragedy. Honestly, she had become so scraggly without her feathers that we hadn't expected her to make it through the winter, so we are not surprised that Lady is the first of our hens to die. She was secretly one of my favorites, and so today we are remembering Lady, the wee little hen.