13 April 2013

What I (don't) know about chickens after a year

For the last couple of weeks I've been thinking that I really should do a post about everything I've learnt in the last year that we've had the chickens.  I was thinking about the things that aren't in the books that I read, or that you don't really expect.  And then suddenly one night this last week the saddest example of that happened and made me think that I actually know nothing about the subject at all.  

I got home to find that only two of the chickens had made it back into the house when it got dark.  Fearing the worst I frantically searched the garden for the Spotty chicken, but couldn't find her.  Then I heard a little scuffle under the chookhouse, and found her there, looking really sick.  Normally she is very timid and runs away from me but didn't put up a fight as I reached down and got her out.  Then she vomited and I knew she wasn't well.

Long, sad and disturbing story made short, she must have been attacked by something a few days ago (perhaps a cat, or even the black chicken who often pecks her?) or maybe just been scratched by a branch in the garden, but because she has so many feathers, and there were feathers all over the yard anyway due to them moulting, we didn't notice anything.  By the time we found her that night the wound was infected and she was in a really bad way.  Sadly she didn't survive.  

I am absolutely gutted as we got the chickens in the first place to ensure that we knew that they would be well cared for as they produced eggs for us, and yet somehow she managed to become so ill without us realising.  It was really surprising how quickly she went downhill, as she had jumped out of the house and run around that morning as normal, and had seemed to be eating ok too.  I guess the lesson to be learned from this is that if you have feathery bantam chickens, please make sure you regularly check them thoroughly as their feathers can hide a lot.

My post about what I know about chickens might have to wait a while.


  1. Oh how sad for you. It makes me think that I too have no real idea of how to care for chickens. I also have no idea about how to check them either. I too have much to learn.

  2. I'm sad to hear about your chicken. :-(

  3. Oh, I'm so sorry about Spotty chicken :( The trouble with chickens, with almost any 'prey' species, is they are remarkably adept at hiding symptoms. It does not pay to look sick when you're part of a flock, as it will get you singled out, either by flock mates, or predators. Often by the time we see much in the way of symptoms in poultry, the situation can already be quite dire. They're just too good at masking how they really feel. Don't blame yourself too much. Even experienced poultry keepers frequently miss early, subtle, signs that something is amiss. She still had a wonderful life, one vastly superior to a commercially raised hen, and she was loved. That's all that matters. ((hugs))

  4. Oh no I am sorry to hear about spotty. I am sure the other chickens will miss her as much as you

  5. That's so sad to hear about Spotty. I'm sure she had a happy life and you did the best you could to look after her.

  6. Thank you all for your kind comments, it's one of the lovely things about this blogging community of ours.

    We're all getting used to not having Spotty around, and the other chickens have even worked out how to get out of the house in the morning and back inside in the evening without her, as it was apparently her job to lead everyone out and then boss them at night until they went to bed!

    CVF your advice about 'prey' species hiding their illness makes sense and I suspect is what must have been going on, as she was the lowest in the pecking order.

    And Liz, I'm sure you won't need it, but perhaps a useful thing that I learned last week was that most city vets don't know much about chickens, but the West Brunswick Vet does, and was fantastic (yes I took her to the vet...) so if you ever have any doubts or worries I'm sure that they would be a good point for advice.

    T x

  7. Oh sorry to hear of your little hen,I'm sure she had a wonderful life in your care and unfortunately these things happen....