I have a strange story to tell you.
I’m going to preface it with a little disclaimer. If you have happened upon this post while looking up chicken diseases, or trying to diagnose one of your birdies I offer no solution. **Spoiler alert** at the end of this story I have no idea what actually happened.
But I’m sharing it anyway.
Why? Because it’s an interesting story, and people like interesting stories about chickens, well at least I do, so I’m sharing mine.
One day I was outside feeding my girls and I noticed that one of them was walking funny. She was kind of limping/stumbling and sort of holding her wings funny. I picked her up and looked at her feet thinking that she had stepped on something or maybe had a sore on her foot… but her feet were fine. She was strong enough to let me know that she didn’t want to be picked up and was eating and drinking normally.
I thought maybe she had jumped off of something (because they like to roost on my porch furniture) or somehow hurt herself so I decided to just watch her for a couple of days.
Well, the next day I walked out and all of the other chickens were out of the coop in the yard except for her. She was kind of stuck at the bottom of the ramp just sort of laying awkwardly in a blob.
So I picked her up and sat her out of the coop on the ground.
And she fell down. Then she tried to stand up and walk and just sort of stumbled forward and fell again.
I texted super friend Holly and said “My chicken seems to have lost the use of her legs.” (Holly gets texts about my chickens on almost a daily basis, she’s used to it) I then went on to describe the problem and she suggested that maybe she was getting ready to lay her first egg, and maybe she was in pain.
So I started researching. I know that chickens can be egg bound, especially if they are a little too small to start laying. I felt her belly… not that I had any idea at all what I was feeling for. I figured if she felt puffy or swollen I’d be able to tell… everything felt pretty normal as far as chicken bellies go.
So I did the only thing I could do. I put her in a dog crate in my dining room.
If she was sick I didn’t want to expose the other birds, and I wanted her to be warm and comfortable in case she was terminally ill. So I made her cozy with towels and lined them with paper towels so that when she pooed it was easy to clean up.
I gave her food and water and decided to wait.
What I read said that if a hen is egg bound they’ll either lay an egg or die within 24-48 hours. So we waited.
Now you may be wondering, why didn’t she take her to the vet?
Well… she’s a chicken. While I do love my ladies I just couldn’t justify a big vet bill on a chicken. That and there aren’t any vets close to me that see chickens (because well, maybe I did think of ways to justify the bill) They see pigs and horses, cows etc. but not chickens.
So we waited.
The teenager’s best friend and his girl friend stopped by. “Is that a chicken in your dining room?”She asked.
This was one of those moments I wanted to act like maybe she was the weird one. “Of course, you don’t have a chicken in your dining room???”
But I didn’t. I just said yes and explained that she was sick.
Well three days passed and she was still alive, still eating, drinking, pooping, and making noise. But still unable to use her legs… it was very odd.
So I asked another chicken keeper I know. She has a whole bunch of chickens so I thought maybe she had come across this strange ailment before.
“I hate to say it,” she said, “but you should probably just kill her.”
Well… that was an unacceptable answer. Even if I did think she was that sick I could never do it.
Like if the zombie apocalypse happened I would totally be bringing my chickens in the house. I would not eat them we would have apocalypse eggs. Maybe if I absolutely had to in order to feed my children I might be able to kill one of them… but I’d probably make my husband do it.
But being that we were not in a survival situation, the starvation of my children was not imminent and there were no zombies I felt offing her was not a valid solution.
So I took to the internet again. I read about a lot of chicken diseases… but none seemed to fit her problem. If she had seemed ill, her poo had been abnormal, or she was sneezing and wheezing it might have been easier.
I narrowed it down to coccidiosis. She really didn’t have many of the symptoms except weak and listless, but it seemed to be a better fit than any other chicken sickness I could find.
So I headed off to the feed store to see if they carried chicken antibiotics and lucky for me they do. I bought a bottle and headed home, hoping that they would be the solution!
This, my friends, is where I encountered my first real life word problem. Seriously, you know when your kids are having to figure out those ridiculous problems and you think, never in my adult life have I come across anything similar to this…
Well that’s because you’ve never medicated a chicken.
From the bottle…
“Add 2 Tbsp to each gallon of drinking water, or the contents of this container to 16 gallons. Following administration directions below this will provide a recommended daily dose.”
Ok I got that, 2 Tbsp to each gallon of water. I can do that…. but wait, there’s more.
“ Add the required dose given above to that amount of water that will be consumed in 1 day. Water consumption should be carefully checked to insure adequate drug intake. As a generalization, 100 turkeys will drink 1 gallon of water per day for each week of age; chickens will consume one-half this amount.”
Now if you read that and easily figured out how much medicine should be given to one chicken… I commend you. Because trying to figure out how much water one chicken should be drinking based on the average water consumption of 100 turkeys just seemed a little daunting to me.
So I mixed 2 tbsp into a gallon of water and filled her dish. I made sure she was drinking throughout the day… I never did solve the SAT math problem.
We hit the one week mark… she was still seemingly fine, just unable to use her legs. I started to think this was just a well orchestrated rouse to become a house chicken… it had started getting chilly outside at night.
Week and a half… still just laying there… poop a little stinkier.. I think from the antibiotic.
I started to worry. I couldn’t have a crippled chicken living in a dog crate in my dining room forever. Chickens can live for like 7 years… it was impractical on so many levels.
Then on day 11 a miracle happened. I took her out of the crate to clean it out and when I put her on the floor she stood. Stood!! Just for about 5 seconds, then her legs gave out… but it was something.
I took her out again later and this time she stood for about 15 seconds.
And that is how I became a chicken physical therapist. Maybe I have a new career path if this blogging thing doesn’t work out.
Several times a day over the next few days I took her out. I’d hold her up gently to help support her legs and help her stand longer. Gradually she got stronger.
At the two week mark (yes folks, the chicken was living in my dining room for two weeks… this doesn’t happen at your house??) She took a couple steps. It was like watching a baby learn to walk, a couple steps and then down. But it was a little more progress.
Over the next few days I’d find her standing in her cage. She’d start the night facing forward and in the morning she’d be facing the back of the crate, so I knew she was moving.
I took her outside and she walked around. Slowly and awkwardly, and a little stumbly but she was happy to be outside again.
And then finally after 3 weeks of being in the chicken ICU in my dining room she was ready to rejoin the flock. It took them a few days to remember that they knew her, and re-figure the pecking order but they sorted it out like chickens do… a lot of sqwaking and feathers then everyone’s cool.
And now? She’s fine. Completely normal. Like nothing ever happened.
The other chickens are fine too, no signs of this strange ailment being contagious.
So let’s go back to the beginning shall we? Why would I tell you this odd story? Well, if you have chickens and something like this ever happens to you you’ll know that your not the only one who occasionally has chickens who’s legs won’t work living in your dining room. Also to encourage you not to be to hasty in resorting to culling your sick bird… they might just need a little TLC and chicken physical therapy.
You also now know that word problems are a real life issue and your kids should pay attention!
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