Chickens Are Easy, Until They’re Not

Day 249 of 365

Today was a tough day on the chicken front. I noticed this morning that Hector was limping and laying down in the coop a lot. I scooped her up to bring her in the house for an investigation. Her right leg felt a little swollen, like maybe she had injured it on the ice. I have been letting them play in the driveway all week before bed time because, even though they have 3/4 of an acre to play on, somehow the driveway is always better.

Her leg didn’t seem too bad, but I was worried because she felt a little thinner than usual. I knew something was wrong, but she is so young. I couldn’t imagine what it might be. So checked every body part I could. Everything felt fine. Then, just as a possibility, I checked her for mites. I had just checked for mites last two weeks ago, and everyone seemed to be in the clear.

Still, there they were! I was so sad, but at least it’s highly treatable.

I told Ron we had better check everybody thoroughly, so we did tonight. About 8 hens had mites, and it’s all the young ones. Dvorak spread the mites to the other girls because every one who had mites as a Dvorak girl. So everybody got a treatment.

Also, this morning, when I was in the coop studying Hector, I discovered that Lucy, our oldest girl and last of the original flock (she’s 8, which is very old for a production hen) is having a hard time after her molt because her feathers are not unsheathing very well. Pin feathers have the little sheathing, and normally, it just pops right off fairly quickly leaving a beautiful little feather behind. But starting last year, Lucy’s feathers didn’t unsheathe very well, leaving her full of very long pin feathers. Somehow, they had collected poop and dirt that she wasn’t able to clean. I was like, “Lucy, you’re filthy!” So Lucy got a bath and then got to hang out in the bathroom all day while I tried to gently unsheathe some feathers for her. Lucy is very old and dignified. She did not appreciate being forced to take a bath. I brought her all kinds of treats as an “I’m sorry,” and I think she forgave me.

All will be well, and we will get this fixed. In a way, I should be thankful poor little Hector hurt her leg, as it would have been another month before I checked people for mites again. Still, I am down because I know it is likely because we have rats in the coop. The walls of the coop are going to come down as soon as we get to spring and then, in addition to new walls, we will reinforce the floor and corners with mesh. We just have to make it a little longer.

Today was a tough day though.

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