At some ungodly hour this morning Paul drove the vineyard owners to the airport to catch their flight to Germany and now it is up to us to keep the vines alive as well as look after their brood of hens. How hard can it be….?
Who knew chickens thrive on routine? Every day it is the same, each morning feed them half a scoop of grain, keep them locked in the coop until about midday, then let them out to scratch around for grubs and other chicken delicacies. At about dusk (around 4.30pm -5pm), they will come to the back door to demand we bring them our food scraps, we bring out the scraps and they happily follow us back to the safety of their coop for a delicious dinner, ready to be locked in for the night. If it is cold and wet, they usually start congregating from about 3pm ready for an early mark, who can blame them I hate being out and about on a cold wet night as well.
On our first night in the farm house we were late with the scraps, as we had to pick up our cat Thomas from the airport after he had caught an afternoon flight down to Hobart from Sydney. The chickens had given up on getting our scraps that night and gone back to the coop on their own. I went over to the coop to count them, it was pitch black inside I only had my mobile phone torch. The chickens made it especially difficult for me by crowding into one small corner at the end of the coop. After counting them several times and coming up one short I went hunting for the missing chicken. I finally found her huddled at the end other end of the coop on her own in a dark corner. I thought nothing of it because chicken behaviour is all new to me. I locked up and went inside.
The next day we let them out at midday as usual, but one stayed behind, the one the kids had named Curly. She was near the grain tray with her head down and tail up. The owners had told us before they left there was one hen walking around awkwardly and she may die soon she as she was old. We picked her up her abdomen was tight; we did some research and thought that she may be egg bound. We found a wonderful site called Backyard Chickens we followed their instructions and gave her a warm bath.
Curly struggled when we first put her in the bath but then she relaxed and seemed to enjoy it a bit (and who doesn’t feel relaxed in a warm bath?). She seemed rather perky after her bath and, wandered off for a little snack. We left her to see if she would lay, she didn’t. That night she followed the usual routine.
The next morning when we let the chickens out Curly was head down tail up again. We gave her another soak and she seemed ok, however when we checked on her later the poor thing had collapsed, this time her tail wasn’t in the air, it looked like her legs had buckled awkwardly underneath her. We gave her another bath and fed her crushed calcium and magnesium tablets which are supposed to encourage contractions, we also considered trying to lubricate the egg so it could slip out easily. However the backyard chicken site stated if she is egg bound we should be able to see the top of the egg, which we couldn’t so perhaps we were wrong in our egg bound diagnosis.
We brought Curly inside and kept her in a cage where she would be safe and warm for the night to see if she would recover, she didn’t. Curly died peacefully in her sleep that night and was cremated the following morning. RIP Curly.