Death on the Homestead

Last night when I went to the barn to lock the chickens up for the night I found my sweet, gentle Speckled Sussex chicken dead on the floor right beside the feeder.

Disbelieve! “No, this can’t be, I take such good care of my birds,” I thought to myself.

I have an aversion to touching dead things, so I carefully loaded her body on a nearby scoop shovel and brought her under the light, I needed to know what had happened to her.

It’s been a crazy week for me with constant outings and commitments, no excuse to neglect animals (which I hadn’t) but I still feel responsible for what happened. Upon close examining I found her vent all swollen and red with a tell tale roundish bulge. I saw a small piece of steel nearby and tapped the bulge gently. Sure enough, it was an egg! My poor girl died of being egg bound. Had I been around more during her last 48 hours alive I would have noticed her all puffed up on the perch with her eyes closed, not out scratching with the other hens. When a hen is egg bound, the egg she’s trying to lay is literally stuck! Sometimes a first egg can be problematic, or an especially large egg (double yolker). If the hen’s not getting enough calcium the muscles may not be able to contract enough for her to lay her egg. Too much protein in the hen’s diet can be the culprit. Sometimes the bird just has poor genetics.

In all our 8 years of chicken keeping we’ve only ever had one bird who was egg bound. After a warm bath in some Epsom salts she laid her egg and was fine afterwards. Never break the egg inside the hen, this may lead to infection or possibly death. As soon as you discover an egg bound hen place her in a warm Epsom salt tub (or large bowl) for about 20 minutes, then dry her gently with a warm towel or even a blow dryer set on low heat. After this you can rub some vegetable oil all around her vent and massage her lower abdomen very gently. To keep her calm you then put her in a dark location and keep her warm, add some sprigs of lavender around her to help her relax. If she doesn’t lay her egg soon, repeat this procedure every hour. Hopefully it won’t be too late for your girl like it was for mine!

I brought my beautiful girl to our compost pile and buried her there, letting her become part of the soil on our homestead. Was I sad? Yes. Did I cry? No, I don’t cry easily. I did know I should write about this to process the whole situation, sure, to share this with others, but also to help forgive myself.012

I miss you my Speckled girl!


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