Written by: Amanda B.
Well everyone, today my heart breaks! I held my SweetiePie while she took her last breath. I do not care what anyone thinks, but let me tell you, as chicken owners, we all make mistakes and today I made one. And who suffered from it? SweetiePie.
I live on just over ten acres and I am a firm pasture raiser, and I feed NatureServe Layer Pellets (for 3 years it was hard for me to find a feed I was comfortable feeding, until I found them and I have been so grateful for them ever since), and I do everything possible to make sure every hen and rooster is noticed. To be honest, my chickens are spoiled, whereas my guinea fowl and ducks could care less about attention. But, why does the one hen that lets you carry her around during chores, watch movies with you, sit outside and get “grounded” with you, have to pass away?! Well…it was my fault this time. She had been egg bound for days and I neglected it and then when it came time to help, I got distracted and she ended up passing away. My chickens mean a lot to me, because I get bouts of depression and they bring me out of it! I am not kidding everyone! They bring me out of my sadness to this different level of, “everything is going to be okay!” My children love them and smile and play with them. I can literally say that my life is complete with them in it. Have you ever watched a video on YouTube of a chicken wearing pants and running around!? Well, if you have not, you better now, because only a serial killer wouldn’t laugh or smile at it! Chickens just hold a special place in my heart. I was not raised with them and I began this journey 7 years ago. In 2015, we got 10 leghorns that transformed my world. Quick funny side story. My husband bought this speed boat to fix up and after he gutted it, he decided to not touch it for a while…well...!!! You can’t do that when chickens are around. I thought a racoon got one of my girls, well low and behold she made a little nest in his battery compartment and when did I find her? When I heard the cutest little peeps ever! (I got my leghorns when they were feathered and larger, so it was seriously my first time with chicks.) I got so excited, I jumped in the boat to see them and I HAVE NEVER RAN AWAY SO FAST IN MY ENTIRE LIFE! That momma hen chased my butt out of the boat and all the way to the house (200+ feet away). I lost an earring and a ponytail band! This was my first time dealing with this. I should have named that hen, Feisty! Instead, I called her Rita. I felt like an overprotective mama bear hen would have that kind of name. Unfortunately, two chicks got stuck in the battery and died, so I was on a mission to save the rest and get them out of the boat, so they could eat. Everything I researched said to get them out. While I did that, I had to catch Rita. She chased me 3 times until I was able to catch her and not get bitten or scream. In the end, we saved the last two. In the process, I destroyed the battery area to my husband’s boat trying to save the chicks. I seriously got this like this Hulk strength when trying to save them (It is now 2023 and the boat had been worked on every year, it still does not run!). I feel bad, but you know what? Those hens sure are cute and every time my husband eats a white egg, he knows it is from them or one of their babies, because they are older now. I swear he smiles! He is honestly probably just thrilled we have eggs and don’t have to buy them from the store. Here, pasture raised eggs are $8 to $10 per dozen.
Anyways, back to SweetiePie. Have any of you made a mistake and the chicken paid for it? If you have, I am here for you and let me tell you, your grief is acceptable. Let it out, cry, get mad, JUST DON’T! and I mean DON’T YOU DARE make any rash decisions while upset. I almost sold all of my ducks so I could focus more on my hens because of this. And I know I would never want anyone else to raise Shadow and Mama (my Muscovy duck pair) This is Mama pictured! She is so beautiful and almost 3 years old!
Taking care of animals can be difficult and we are responsible for a lot of things, but let me tell you, if you ever want to be a homesteader and you want to raise your own animals, chickens are the best way to begin this journey! They are amazing animals that take a lot of attention at times. Noticing little things and watching your flock is important. In the summer, I asked everyone to do a challenge on sitting with your flock for an hour a day. Doing that wasn’t suppose to just bring you joy and bond with your flock, it gave you the eyes to notice their breathing, their actions, who was the boss, who was being picked on, look at their feet, their feathers, their ears and eyes, see who has something unique about them. Noticing them in their natural area is what makes you a special chicken owner. It will save a bird or two, too!
Oh! I also recommend purchasing a first aid book for birds. Understanding basic health of a chicken is so important. Learning where their lungs are and other body parts so that you can treat them when an issue arises, effectively. I only say this because I have a first aid book, but it is in vet terminology, so following it has been difficult, but manageable. I plan on getting another one soon, but in layman’s terms. Which means simple and easy to understand words! LAUGH OUT LOUD! When panicking, we need to have things in simple terms that anyone can understand. I plan on teaching my children these things, so of course, I better know the right words to use!
If anyone reading this has never heard of or experienced an egg bound hen, I would like to share a few symptoms and appearances that you should notice when seeing a hen egg bound. According to Google, egg bound is when a hen is unable to expel an egg due to weakness or disease. My hen displayed all the signs. It had been 3 days since an egg had come from her. I knew this because she laid my favorite shade of green. Dark olive-green eggs. She moved slower like she was uncomfortable, did not run to the scraps when I threw them down, her tail was bent low as if how they are when they are roosting at night. If you don’t know what I mean by that, go peak at your hens’ tails, they droop down while roosting. Hers never came back up. After 3 days, no eggs, it was a dead giveaway what the issue was. She was a first-time layer and because I added a daylight bulb to the outdoor section of the run, this has pushed some of my Spring chicks into laying early. Which is do not recommend because of these issues. Usually, I add Selenium with Vitamin E paste to the hen’s diet and within 24 hours the egg will expel. But we chose Epsom salt bath this time! 1 cup of Epsom Salt per 2 gallons. If there is a broken egg inside then I recommend 1 cup per gallon to help draw out any thing left inside and reduce chances of infection. I’d do a bath 3 times a day until the egg is out. Make sure to have a warm, comfortable space inside, if it is winter for your hen.
Thank you for listening to me go off about my poor Sweetiepie and thank you for letting me share my story with you. Today, I wanted to write something that was just about how I feel and what happened. Sharing things is so important. If you ever have a story you want to share, please comment and let me know. I am here for you too! Plus, ANYTHING about chickens, I am game to talk about. The good, the bad and the ugly.
I hope this helped understand what happened and if you have to treat it when you notice it, I recommend doing it immediately or within 24 hours of showing symptoms. Don’t wait 3 days like me. Huge Hugs! Thanks again for being my ears today! I needed it more than you know!
A Flock Mama,