Archive for the ‘Vet’ Category

It has been a shamingly long time since my last blog post and I apologise. The truth is, since the passing of Effie, I have struggled connecting with my girls. Yes I adore them, yes I spoil them and yes I enjoy spending time with them but the sad fact is that none of them are Effie. And I feel awful saying that because I love them so, and they are all so special. They are just not Eff. But my mojo is slowly coming back; I am focussing on mindfulness to regain a little sanity and joie de vivre … and it is early days but it seems to be working.

The other reason I haven’t written is that we have lost four girls this year, three of them in one week, and my heart was not strong enough to be able to write about them. Each girl we lose has always had a full obituary and to deny these ladies the same tribute seemed to make them less important, less precious. But that is not so at all. With so many hens passing through I am ever conscious of them not becoming less individual, less of a personality. So eventually I decided that a few words was better than none at all. Girls, please forgive me my human weakness and know that you are all so very precious to me.

Little Nell: Little on stature but big on character, looks and charm, Nell was a stunner. She was also very vocal and told me off if something was not to her liking. Every evening she came to tell me very loudly that she was ready for bed and if her bowl of feed, was not in her run, she would pace and shout until I put them there. She did let me have a cuddle occasionally though, although if I cuddled her for too long, she would squawk indignantly at me to put her down.
She also had a special spot in the garden, the lowest branch on the hydrangea bush, just high enough to see everything and to put her at eye height with the other hens with just enough covered perchiness to make her feel a real jungle girl.
Also, despite her beautiful name, she only really answered to the name Chick, and only then when she wanted to!!

Cute Little Nell aka Chick

Inca: Inca the Tinker was top hen but bottom bantam (I know!) and suffered from Little Hen Syndrome. She bossed the Big Girls about, all of them terrified of her, but, oddly, was herself always being told off by Iona and Lemony Goodchicken. Initially she had been Effie’s maid of honour and chief preener and she adored her MummyEffie and was never apart from her. She also loved her twin sister Iona with all her heart. She died very suddenly in her sleep, the day after we lost Nell.

Inca Bantam, gorgeous girl

Margot: Ahh Margot, what can I say about Miss Margot Eggbetter? The biggest, bossiest, nosiest and naughtiest hen, she was a total delight. From the outset she was calm and confident with humans and decided that she would be cuddled if she wanted to be, but also that the Human Coop should be hers as well. Always first into the Human Coop, she learnt that if she pecked on the cat flap we would come running. As soon as she sensed a human inside, bang, bang, bang went the cat flap. She also enjoyed standing outside the patio doors, pecking the glass, demanding to be admitted. The cats were terrified of her but her squawk was worse than her peck, she never hurt them. Sadly, poor Margot was a victim of the industry we thought we had rescued her from and it was a tumour that took her precious life.

Gorgeous Margot Eggbetter

And so we were nine … these three losses happened within a week, and left us and the remaining girls reeling.

Special stones for special girls

Then in September our darling Lemony had another prolapse. It was her third and the second within a month. Naturally it occurred at 6pm on a Friday night so we isolated her and tried to put it back in, unsuccessfully. Seeing Jason the next day, he discovered an egg was imminent so he could not suture the prolapse and had to wait for the egg to pass. This bloody egg was huge and caused our darling girl so much pain throughout the day on Saturday but eventually it was out. However, she didn’t really seem herself and by Monday, the prolapse had become infected, tissue had died and the option of putting it back in was no longer open to us. After speaking at length to the vet, it was decided the kindest thing was to end her suffering.

Beautiful Lemony Goodchicken

Little Lemony Goodchicken was the kindest of souls, the best of hens. Born as part of a hatching project, she, along with Iona and Inca, came to live with us as chicks to keep Effie company after the loss of Miss Basket. Once Iona and Inca went to live with the Big Girls, Lemony remained to keep Effie company in her dotage. I do not have the words really to describe the love and happiness this little bundle of lemony loveliness brought to Effie’s life; ensuring her last months were passed with love and companionship and for that I am forever grateful to her – she will always hold a special place in my heart. When Effie did pass away, Iona escorted Lemony onto the Big Girls’ garden, where she was met with open wings of friendship. Flora-Jayne took a liking to Lemony, too much of a liking really, but Lemony and FJ became best friends; I think in Lemony’s eyes, a big brown chicken meant love and security. Our garden is not the same without her lemonyness brightening it up.

Lemony stands on tiptoe to preen her beloved Effie

And so, we thought our losses had come to an end, but sadly, a few weeks ago we lost Pumpkin cat. A huge bear hug of a boy he was the kindest gentlest soul – taking on and caring for two mad kittins and then becoming Protector of the Hens. A role he took most seriously; every evening helping us to lock them safely up. He was run over, the driver didn’t brake, let alone stop, and a friend found him by the road. The image of his body is still clouding the happy, loving images I have of him, I hope for not much longer so I can remember him just as he was. But I am still cross, all that love and pumpkinness taken away too soon, just because someone drove too quickly. Just think of the life he still had to live and the love he still had to give; he was only seven.

Naughty Pumpkin!
(no birds were harmed in the taking of this picture!)

Pumpkin with his kittins

But now, with Samhain approaching, I feel it is time to say au revoir to our ghosts – always there, never forgotten, but we need to look forward, embrace what and who is here with us now. So we shall light candles next Tuesday, oh so many candles, to remember all those that have left us but whose spirits are still with us.

This post has gone on for a long time, I am sorry, if you have made it this far, congratulations, you were in for the long haul! I hope I haven’t depressed you too much. Things feel much calmer now, just writing about it all is cathartic. So onwards and upwards.

Oh and we have a new superstar in our midst. I won’t say too much but will save it for the next post but suffice to say Milly is gathering quite a following!!

Jo xx

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Little Larkspur Chicken arrived to live with us on 16th August, one of three very poorlie girls from a traumatic rescue. She was one of the lucky ones, she survived long enough to be rescued, and along with her new sisters, Lavender and Lupin, came down to Rosewarne for some special care.

She was named after my wonderful friend, Liz’s dearly departed ex-batt and I hoped that Liz and her lovely husband Mike could enjoy seeing their girl’s name live on in my Larkspur.

Initially, Larkpsur seemed the most healthy of the three girls. The only one with feathers, she set about beak cleaning her two new featherless sisters and seemed quite content with her new life, if a little quiet. She was a gentle soul, she had suffered a great deal in the cages and her new life would take a little getting used to.

Larkspur on rehoming day

Larkspur on rehoming day

However, as the two baldies started to develop and blossom, it became clear that Larkspur was not blooming with them. She was still quiet, but hunched and not eating very much. An initial veterinary examination found nothing untoward and Larkspur was given the usual baytril to help kill any potential lurking infection. She was malnourished and, I believe, traumatised from her experiences and I desperately wanted to give her something to fight for; to help her see the wonderful free life that awaited her.

She responded well at first and within a week had become the happy little chicken I hoped she would be. She ate plenty, went to bed with a full crop and a mashy beak and tucked up in the nestbox with her new best friend Lavender, whilst self-appointed top hen, Lupin, guarded the door. She took a dustbath and paced the fence impatiently in the hope of treats whenever I went into the garden. Things were going so well, that I dared to hope we had beaten whatever it was that had ailed her.

However, a few days later I noticed she had become quiet again, she was listless and not eating. So back on the meds we went in the hope that any infection just needed an extra thwack to completely knock it out. And it did, she was soon back to Healthy Larkspur, doing everything a free chicken should be doing.

When she was feeling well, Larkspur loved her mash!

When she was feeling well, Larkspur loved her mash!

To supplement her medicine, she had a range of vitamins, health foods, digestive aids and treats in a bid to give her body the boost it obviously needed. She was however, starting to slide back down into ill health again and no matter what I tried she would not respond.

Looking back there were clear signs and in my heart I knew we were not dealing with a mere infection. The medicine was just masking something very sinister lurking in her poor tired little body. I told myself when we went to visit the vet on that last day that it was just a check-up. She had been dozing in the sun all day (the Cornish weather had, for once, been mercifully kind to these girls) and she put up no resistance as I put her into the carrier.

Gina, our lovely vet, found a large tumour in Larkspur’s abdomen and the yellow colour I had told myself was because she had been eating corn, was in fact sky high bilirubin levels, indicating her liver was failing. Looking at her though Gina’s eyes, I suddenly saw how very sick she was, I had been too close, too intent on small details and not seeing the bigger picture. Her body was shutting down and her organs were failing. Sadly, there was only one option and as we awaited Gina and the medicine, Larkspur snuggled into my arms, quite content as I stroked her feathers gently. I believe she knew – she had tried so hard, I had tried so hard, but her scars from her caged life were just too deep. We could not win this battle, no matter how desperately we wanted to. Her passing was peaceful, she stayed where she was in my arms and just drifted off to sleep. The very least I could give her was a dignified death.

Little Larkspur, looking gorgeous and fighting hard

Little Larkspur, looking gorgeous and fighting hard

She was cremated with pink flowers under her wings and we watched as her spirit soared heavenwards, finally free of pain, she could now fly high with her Rosewarne sisters – I could feel Bella and Bunty Goodchicken waiting to greet her. Because she was the sweetest, gentlest of souls she has been awarded the posthumous title of Goodchicken – awarded to only the very best of girls.

Larkspur Goodchicken did not deserve to die so soon. She was a victim of a cruel system, her caged life was one of suffering, her body abused … and all for what? She had done nothing wrong, she did not deserve the life she had or the fate that awaited her. Every hen deserves to be free – free of pain and suffering, free to do just as she wishes and free from the abuses some humans inflict on them. Nothing I could do could save her from that, and I tried so hard to save this sweet, sweet girl. And Larkspur had wanted to live so much, she fought with her big, brave heart but in the end her broken little body could fight no more. I could not give her the long free range retirement that she should have been able to enjoy.

But what I could give her was six weeks of freedom; she knew love (such love), she knew sunshine and friendship, she scratched the grass and she bathed in the dust, she foraged for worms and she pecked at corn. It is nowhere near enough, six weeks of freedom in return for two years of suffering, but I hope she knows how hard I tried for her.
Godspeed little Larkspur Goodchicken – forever in our hearts, darling girl. RIP angel, fly high little hen xxxx

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Today my Big Girls shocked and horrified me.

There was a monumental skuffle in their garden this morning. They had a very young crow and were pinning it down, taking it in turns to try and tear it to pieces. The crow was terrified and the girls were beyond themselves in a frenzy of blood lust.

Much screaming and thwacking of the girls with a towel by me and they were brought back into hen mode and released the baby. He limped off into the undergrowth, unable to fly.

I know all too well how cruel hens can be to each other and I have seen them with a mouse, but this was something so beyond horrific that I am still having trouble believing my girls were capable of it. Left alone they would have pulled this screaming baby apart.

Effie in the adjoining garden was most distressed and inconsolable. I can only imagine that it brought back the horrors of the cage to her. What was happening was traumatic in the extreme, imagine it in a cage, magnified a hundred times. Imagine the pain and terror of a hen set upon by others who were hellbent on killing her, tearing her to pieces. Nowhere to escape and no hope of a saviour. I have little doubt my Effie witnessed this and experienced the fear that she was next. It goes much of the way to explain her emotional problems.

I found the baby crow cowering behind a rock in the garden. I am not a massive fan of crows, but one look at the fear in his eyes, pleading me to help him and I had no choice. I will never forget his face, I heard his voice as clearly as if he had spoken to me.

He spent the day in a cat box in a spare room, eating cat food and drinking plenty of water. The local wildlife centre said to have him checked with the vets and then referred if necessary. By the afternoon he was much improved, still not 100% on the flying side of things but much more mobile with no signs of serious injuries. The vet has taken him for a day or two to rest and complete his recovery, before he will be put in an open top run so he can fly away when he feels strong enough. She confirmed he was a newly fledged baby. What a baptism of fire into the horrors of this world.

I have had words with my Big Girls and there is a very subdued atmosphere in the garden today.

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On Friday evening, a very special little Silkie hen travelled across three counties to come and live with us. Bullied by her coop mates she had been seeking sanctuary in a rabbit hutch until her new life began.

The day before she came to live with us she had somehow been attacked by other hens in her flock and on opening up her cat carrier we discovered this special baby was unable to walk. Her left leg hung lifelessly and at a scary angle. After an arnica rub and painkiller she was tucked up in her new coop with her warm duck-shaped wheatbag. The next day Uncle Jason could find nothing broken or obviously wrong and thought she had nerve damage. After also seeking advice from specialist chicken vets I put her on metacam and continued with the three times a day arnica rubs. If it is nerve damage, it may well take time to heal.

Miss Izzy Hen

Miss Izzy Hen

So for the past week, little Izzy hen has had cuddles and massages and medicine and has been fed tempting treats. Her previous owner warned me she was suffering from depression and I believe she is. She is sad, limpy and lonely. Seeing her struggle is heartbreaking. When I pick her up she trembles in fear and at first when I clambered into her run she struggled desperately to get away. It was a pitiful sight. But in the past few days she hasn’t tried to escape me and has even let me stroke her as she sat on the grass.

I remember another little hen who was terrified, traumatised and trembled when she was touched…

Little Effie, is intrigued by her new friend. The first time she saw her she threw herself against the fence as expected. Izzy squeaked in fear and Effie immediately backed off, somewhat ashamed. Since then, Effie has cautiously watched Izzy and even sat on the other side of the fence to her. They actually seem to enjoy each other’s company. Two little hens with broken hearts and bodies who, I am hoping by all things good in the world, will find love and friendship together.

There seems to be a poignant symmetry in the fact that Effie lost Miss Basket, the little hen with the bad leg who cared for her and helped mend her spirit, and is now with another hen with a bad leg whose own spirit needs Effie to help mend it.

Hello. My friend Miss Basket had a bad leg too, just like you...

Hello. My friend Miss Basket had a bad leg too, just like you…

This evening, after what has admittedly been a difficult week (Hetty is broody to add to our troubles), we had two very, very small but I hope significant steps in the rehabilitation of Izzy’s spirit and body and of Effie’s heart.

As Izzy stood up, she used her bad leg to help push her up to a standing position. She has never done that before and it is a start. But perhaps most importantly, when Izzy had had her massage she squawked in distress as she was put back on the ground. Immediately, Effie came rushing across to the fence and chirruped at Izzy, checking she was OK.

Little, but important steps and as my lovely friend and long-time Effie supporter Quolanta said:

Little steps make the longest friends

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Miss Basket was the most special of hens, a kind and gentle soul with a generous spirit and a big, caring heart. A free girl for almost 18 months, she was just two days shy of her 18 month Henniversary. She was such an important part of our lives I cannot quite believe she has gone. And Effie’s little heart is broken.

Her real name is Miss Eleanor Chicken but because she came to us with a blackened foot and unable to walk, she spent her first weeks nestled in a pink laundry basket. Consequently she became Miss Basket. I remember her first night of freedom when I tucked her into the basket, folding a soft blanket around her, she bwarked softly at me as if to say thank you. Every night when I tucked her in, she bwarked at me. She was safe at last.

Beautiful, photogenic Miss Basket, in her ICU and with her bad foot raised

Beautiful, photogenic Miss Basket, in her ICU and with her bad foot raised

With much care, love and daily bathes her foot healed and she learnt to walk by flicking it out in front of her. What started as a slow limp, soon quickened and she became as speedy as Effie across the lawn towards treats!! She just looked like she was skipping!

Miss Basket spent the next few weeks in the ICU with fellow sick girl Effie. During this time these two hens, who had been picked on all their lives because they were different and who had never known what it was to have a friend, started to form a careful companionship which slowly developed into friendship and finally into love.

Due to Effie’s issues it was not possible to have her with other hens so Miss Basket gave up her chance to live with the big flock in order to stay with Effie and care for her. Never was there a chicken with a kinder heart. Which is why she was awarded the much coveted surname of Goodchicken and became Miss Eleanor Goodchicken aka Miss Basket.

It was Miss Basket that gently led Effie by the wing into a free range world and these two girls’ first foray into free ranging is my cover photo on facebook. You can see Miss Basket’s early defining feature, her tail which hung at a jaunty angle, just like an Italian policeman’s hat. She lost it in her first moult and her patchy feathers were replaced by a splendid set of ginger feathers scattered with golden flecks. She looked magnificent!

Effie and Miss Basket

Effie and Miss Basket

Whilst it may have seemed that Miss Basket played Melanie to Effie’s Scarlet, Miss Basket was a star in her own right. Most notoriously being the Phantom Egg Eater of old Camborne Town!! Often to be found sitting in the nest box happily munching away on an egg. And who was I to deny her the spoils? She deserved her egg.

She appeared in magazines, in numerous articles and in books. And her story appeared with Effie’s in the museum exhibition, Uncooped, in Los Angeles. All to raise awareness of the plight of battery hens.

Miss Basket and Effie were just so happy together. They had freedom and they had love. Life is always so much better when you have a friend. They dustbathed together, sunbathed together, and ran the gauntlet to the kitchen door together. They dozed in the sunshine with their necks entwined, resting their heads on each other’s backs. They preened each other, they kissed each other. They also had their little quirks. Such as happily pecking away at the old ladder by the side of the house, why I have no idea. Or ignoring their lovely fresh water for a tub of old rainwater in the garden. Or running me ragged at bedtime. They were having far too much fun together to go to bed and I was outwitted on a nightly basis by a hen with a broken neck and a hen with only one good leg!

Miss Eleanor Goodchicken (Miss Basket)

Miss Eleanor Goodchicken (Miss Basket)

But when they went to bed they tucked up in a two hen pyramid. Effie on top and Miss Basket snuggled underneath. Every night the same postion. Peering through the door you could see one pair of legs and a two tier hen!

However, Miss Basket had started snicking occasionally, which was originally successfully treated with brief periods of tylan. However, after a little while her sneezing became increasingly frequent and rattly sounding. Cue more antibiotics, supplements and medication. She had twice daily steam inhalations on my lap and seemed happy in herself, skippity hopping round the garden with Effie. However, the day she ignored the egg in the nestbox was the day I knew she was getting worse. She went downhill very quickly and within a couple of days we were syringing liquidised food and critical care formula into her. She got so distressed at these sessions she was gasping for air. My poor girl was suffering so.

That night Effie and Miss Basket tucked up for what would be their final night together. Effie had curled herself around her beloved friend and I hope was whispering tales of their lovely life together and how happy they had been.

The next morning, Miss Basket could not stand up. For a girl who had come to us unable to walk, I knew how important walking was to her. It gave her dignity. As she struggled to stand up, she looked at me and I knew. Miss Basket was a gentle hen but a very proud one. She had had enough and did not want to be this way. I told her that she could go in peace now and assured her that I would take care of Effie.

Before we went to see Aunty Gina, we sat with her in the sunshine, surrounded by daisies and buttercups, and Effie gave her soulmate one last gentle preen and a little kiss. Gina discovered a tumour in Miss Basket’s abdomen, which was why she had not been responding to treatment. She died peacefully in my arms, all the while being told she was a good chicken.

We cremated her that evening, with sweet peas tucked under her wing. I chose ones with bendy stems to represent her beautiful bendy foot and leg. Miss Basket showed us you don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful, you can just be beautiful for who you are.

Miss Basket - probably the kindest, sweetest girl ever

Miss Basket – probably the kindest, sweetest girl ever

As the flames burned, an image formed on the side of the oil drum. Two chickens, bottoms in the air, pecking at a delicious treat. My two girls still together.

Miss Basket and Effie were inseparable, their love for each other complete. It was such a deep, tender love that it reminded me of a film, Where the Red Fern Grows, based on a Native American legend about a red fern planted by an angel between the graves of two lovers, showing their eternal love. The two dogs in the film adored each other and when they died a red fern grew between their graves as a symbol of that love. That is the same depth of love that these two little hens shared.

Miss Basket was Effie’s guardian angel on earth and now she is her guardian angel in heaven.

RIP darling, darling Miss Basket. Fly high little hen xxxx

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Miss Bunty Goodchicken, arrived in our lives one frosty February, just as the sun was starting to return to our corner of Cornwall. Very apt for a little hen who has brought light into our lives every day since.

One of our four B-girls, Bunty was a special girl from the moment she was rescued from her cage. Instant best friends with the feisty and soon-to-be-top-chicken Bella, Bunty’s gentle spirit and kind nature meant that very quickly she became Bunty Goodchicken. The Goodchicken name is the much-coveted title bestowed on only the most special of hens; whose loving soul is a shining example to her sisters. Never throwing a peck in anger, Bunty Goodchicken was indeed a Good Chicken.

Bunty's first day of freedom, February 1st 2011

Bunty’s first day of freedom, February 1st 2011

Her first year of free ranging saw her grow all her feathers back and settle into the sort of life every hen should enjoy; sunbathing, worm hunting, foraging, scratching, dustbathing and tucking up snugly with her sisters at night.

A particularly pretty hen, Bunty was also very photogenic. So much so that one of her best photos graced the cover of Smallholder magazine promoting an article on why we should all rehome ex-battery hens. Overnight, Bunty became an ambassador for exbatts and many of her caged sisters owe their new lives to Miss Goodchicken.

The original of that covergirl shot

The original of that covergirl shot

Our Beautiful Coverglrl

Our Beautiful Covergirl

However, at the start of her second year as a free range girl, Bunty Goodchicken became ill. She had a prolapse and no amount of home remedies would help. So off to Uncle Jason the vet she went; the first of many visits and the start of her biggest battle.

Bunty had an operation putting in a purse-string suture to keep her prolapse in. She also had a suprelorin implant to stop her laying and thus stop the prolapse re-emerging. After three days of internal check-ups and monitoring, the suture was removed and after a further few days of anxious Prolapse Watch, she was deemed fit enough to return to the loving wings of her sisters.

During this time Bunty remained stoic and uncomplaining – a brave chicken as well as a good one. The vets therefore awarded her a Braveheart Award and the medal and certificate are now both very proudly displayed in the human’s coop.

Bunty's Braveheart Award Certificate and Medal

Bunty’s Braveheart Award Certificate and Medal

However, the battle was not won. Bunty Goodchicken subsequently developed egg peritonitis – she was laying internally and the egg fluid building up – and was given medication to relieve this fluid build-up. At first she happily took her pills, ground up on a delicious treat, but she soon got wise so it had to be syringed in along with a painkiller.

For over a year, this precious girl was kept alive by her various pills and a couple of sessions draining the fluid from her abdomen. She remained her normal happy, chirpy self and enjoyed her free range life to the full. After the sad passing of two of her B-sisters (Bertha and Brigit), Bunty Goodchicken and Bella became firm friends with Clara and the three were inseparable.

During this time, Bunty Goodchicken became a household name. Not content with being just a covergirl, she also appeared in a chapter of Tales From the Coop, a book by the lovely Sophie Mccoy to raise money for exbatt hens, and most recently she has cracked the American market by having her story, photo and portrait appear in an exhibition in the National Museum of Animals and Society in Los Angeles.

Miss Bunty Goodchicken at her 2 year Hennniversary party

Miss Bunty Goodchicken at her 2 year Henniversary party

However, slowly Bunty started to worsen and in an attempt to keep her precious life going a little longer, she trialled a pill to help relieve the pressure on her heart. Uncle Jason, amazed at how Bunty Goodchicken had fought to stay alive against all the odds, is currently writing a paper on her treatments. Due to his work with Bunty, he has subsequently been able to successfully treat many more hens. So she is also a medical pioneer.

However, she was not getting any better and we went to see Uncle Jason with that dreadful dilemma. Was she suffering? Were we prolonging her life just for ourselves? Could she live a little longer? It was a decision I wasn’t brave enough to make, so my darling Bunty, a Goodchicken to the end, made it for me. Whilst we were at the vets she started to fit and within seconds her heart had given up and she died in my arms. Her big, brave, beautiful heart, full of love and goodness to the very end, had finally decided it was time for Bunty to rest.

And it is now our hearts that are breaking.

But as we said goodbye to our girl, her spirit soaring to the heavens, we took a little solace in all the hens our darling Bunty Goodchicken had helped to save.

Miss Bunty Goodchicken: Covergirl, Exbatt Ambassador, Braveheart Award Winner, Medical Pioneer and (very) Good Chicken.

A big legacy for a little chicken.

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When I first became an ex-batt mum, the only difficult thing about it was finding a good vet. The first time I took Aurora, my first sick hen, to my regular vets, they sugggested putting her to sleep and doing a post mortem. Needless to say they are no longer my vets. Up until recently chickens were treated as livestock, vets were only trained to treat them as a flock and not as pets. Cull a few birds to save the flock. So you can imagine my relief at finding a good vet, who had taken the Chicken Vet course and who was willing to learn more about hen health and care and happy to deal with no end of queries and possible new treatments I waved at them.

But even my fabulous vets pale in comparison to the marvellous work done by Avian Vets in Knutsford. Their brilliance in treating sick hens leaves all others in the shade. This tale of their miracle-working on Dusty, a 5 year old exbatt, is inspirational. I just wish they were based in Cornwall!!

News Stories

Hysterectomy helps ‘henopausal’ hen!

February 2013

Dusty is a 5 and a half year old ex-battery hen that Steve and Sharon Saberi of Moore, Warrington, rescued 4 years previously and who had been an extremely good layer and become a valued pet ever since. Over the past 12 months, however, she had started to lay ‘soft shelled’ eggs. Soft shelled eggs can be due to dietary deficiencies of minerals, however, in birds on a good quality diet with ad lib layers pellets and grit this is rarely the case. More commonly the cause is chronic infection or damage of the shell gland which is the terminal portion of the bird’s uterus or oviduct and is responsible for excreting the minerals which create the shell. It is also known to happen more in older birds when they, as Sharon brilliantly put it ‘enter the henopause!’

Birds really struggle to lay ‘softies’ as when the oviduct contracts and tries to expel a normally solid egg, such rubbery eggs just collapse and fail to move onwards. The resulting unproductive contractions are obviously quite painful and the birds can suddenly look extremely sick when this is going on until they manage to expel it, or we help it out with careful manipulation. Fortunately once out and, with a bit of TLC and some pain relief, they seem to rebound very quickly. Serious problems can arise however where the offending egg fails to pass and further yolks build up behind it leading to a potentially life threatening yolk peritonitis as they start to spill out into the body cavity.

Dusty had experienced a number of such events recently with her becoming painful and anorexic and we were concerned she was now at real risk of developing peritonitis. As such we decided to stop her laying temporarily using a hormone implant the size of a grain of rice that is inserted under the skin. Over the past few years avian vets have been successfully using such implants in a wide variety of species including parrots, poultry and birds of prey to help with reproductive disorders such as yolk peritonitis, recurrent egg binding and behavioural disorders related to breeding activity e.g. aggression and feather picking.

Dusty Chicken looking gorgeous!

Dusty Chicken looking gorgeous!

In Dusty’s case the implant would successfully stop her laying her problematic eggs for up to 6 months at a time, but unusually, in her case it seemed to have a detrimental effect on her overall wellbeing and attitude with her becoming extremely withdrawn and even ill looking. After discussion with her owners, and with her quality of life as top priority, we felt long term that this was not an acceptable situation. We decided the only option we had left was to perform a ‘salpingohysterectomy’ and attempt to remove her oviduct thus preventing any further egg production. The owners understood this was a high risk operation with their reproductive tract being very closely associated with major blood vessels and kidneys but we all felt at this point we had little choice.

When we took Dusty to surgery we encountered another complicating factor in that at some point in the past, a partially developed egg had ruptured through and was now sitting outside the oviduct in a capsule of scar tissue. This had become adhered to her intestines and was now distorting both organs, so it was hardly surprising she was experiencing pain when trying to lay. Using radio surgery which is essentially an electric scalpel that seals blood vessels as it cuts, during the one and a half hour procedure we finally managed to dissect free and remove the damaged oviduct and errant yolk. Dusty recovered remarkably from her surgery and after a couple of days went home with her owners delighted and over the past 5 months has led a happy egg and hormone free life!

As the reproductive tract seems to be the cause of the vast majority of problems in aging ex battery hens it will be really interesting to see how she does long term without that Achilles heel that was her oviduct and we will certainly keep you updated on her progress. Continue reading for Sharon’s take on Dusty’s journey.

“Dusty and 3 other ex battery hens arrived with us with very little feathers and an awful deadness in their eyes. However within a couple of days Dusty had firmly established herself as “Adventure Chicken”!

Dusty was always first out of the hen house on a morning and last in at night. She was the first to bravely have a dust bath (hence the name), the first to enter the garden from being in the enclosure and the first to toddle in and out of the house. Dusty’s strap line in life was a very positive “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!”

She started having a couple of egg issues at about the age of 4, so she was wheeled in to see Richard who decided a hormone implant would sort her out – and it did! This worked for about 12 months, until once again we had egg issues and noticed that Dusty had lost her lust for life. Once again she was taken to see Richard who implanted her with the idea of allowing the egg tube to shrink and then perform the chickerectomy (as we call it). After a more serious operation than expected, she finally came home. As Steve (chicken daddy) was away with work when she came home Dusty would Skype her chicken daddy to let him know how she was doing! Yes we truly are that nuts!

Anyway, today Dusty is head chicken of 7, fighting fit and back to “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” mode. We have nicknamed her The Dustinator – indestructible and fabulous!!



We owe Dusty’s life to the care and attention that Richard and Carli gave her before, during and after her op. She turned 6 (roughly) this Christmas and we hope there will be many, many more years in her yet!!

We can’t thank you both enough for looking after Dusty and restoring her joie de vivre. The chicken house wouldn’t be the same without her in it.”

Sharon, Steve & the Dustinator!


Avian Veterinary Services,
at Gauntlet Birds of Prey Centre,
Manchester Road,
WA16 0SX.

01565 654131

Photos taken with thanks from the original article

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