We’ve talked about raising backyard chickens… but what happens when one needs medical attention?
Our Rhode Island Red hen, Rosalind Franklin (or Rosie, for short), laid her very first egg for us Saturday. Sadly, her little chicken body wasn’t quite ready for it, and it caused a prolapse, which is when part of the cloaca protrudes from the hen’s vent. It’s a very serious condition that can cause death.
We kept it as clean as we could, bathing her and blow-drying her (which she loved), but there still seemed to be some sort of obstruction that we didn’t know how to deal with.
With Rosie’s prolapse showing no signs of getting better, and having reached the end of our knowledge in treating her, we decided to take Rosie in to the vet.
We gave Rosie her (now) customary bath and blow dry and packed her in the car. She was a very good passenger and pretty much just chilled out the whole ride there.
There were a few dogs that came over to say “hello” when we sat down in the waiting area. Luckily no one was feeling aggressive and everyone was just curious about each other.
The vet, Dr. Robinson, was very good with Rosie. We explained that she’s been prolapsed for three days, resulting from trying to lay her very first egg, and that there seemed to be some sort of blockage there that we were hesitant to remove ourselves, not wanting to injure her.
Dr. Robinson cleaned her up and removed the blockage and some dead tissue, and her vent immediately looked worlds better. He said he felt good about her potential for recovery because as soon as the tissue and blockage were gone, Rosie’s body started pulling the prolapse back into herself.
After pushing the rest of the prolapse back in and applying some antibiotic ointment, Dr. Robinson threw in a couple sutures to hold everything in place while it heals. Throughout the entire examination and suturing, Rosie made not one peep. She didn’t struggle, she didn’t squawk, and Dr. Robinson and his assistant said that she was one of the best-behaved chickens they’ve ever treated. She didn’t even require sedation when he was suturing her.
We put her back in the big brooder in the living room, this time covered and blocked from the light to discourage further laying. If she does start to lay an egg while the sutures are still in, they’ll have to be removed immediately so she doesn’t tear. We also have Preparation H and Vetericyn handy to help with keeping the swelling down and protecting against infection.
A week later, Rosie is officially reintegrated into the flock. We removed her prolapse sutures Saturday night and kept her inside for observation until Sunday. Her vent is looking very good, and the prolapse has not recurred, much to my relief. She hasn’t started laying again, but I’m not worried.
Although, in the process, she has lost her status as the alpha hen. And we’ll have to be vigilant about checking her for prolapse for the rest of her life, as once it happens, it’s prone to reoccurring. I’m just so relieved to have gotten her looked at by the vet. For our piece of mind and her health, it was totally worth the $95.
Things I have learned from Rosie’s prolapse:
- Have a chicken first-aid kit on hand. Ours is stocked with hemostats, small snipping scissors, Vetericyn, Preparation H, bandages, epsom salt, electrolytes and gloves.
- Chickens are both more delicate and tougher than we think. We could have removed that troubling tissue on our own, but having never done something like that before, we were too wary to do so. Should something like that happen again, we now know that it’s okay to attempt to remove the tissue ourselves. The Chicken Chick has a great post on how to treat a prolapse. I followed her advice, but since Rosie’s prolapse looked so different, I opted to take her to a vet just in case.
- Know the location of the nearest vet who will treat chickens. I feel so much better knowing that we have a good vet who knows his chickens near enough that we can get the girls to him without too much hassle.
- Enjoy your chickens everyday! They won’t be with you forever.