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  • stacy

Chicken Farm in the Sky

That’s where my little Sweet Pea is now. She left us this evening after a few weeks of us trying our best to nurse her back to health. I first took our poor little Sweet Pea to the vet two and a half weeks ago, and at that time the vet prescribed 5 days of antibiotics. I took her back to the vet a week ago after she finished the course of antibiotics and wasn’t showing any sign of improvement. This time the vet took a blood sample which revealed she was severely anemic, which explains her very pale pink comb. The vet said that a normal red blood cell count for a bird is 40 and perhaps down to 30. The lowest she had ever seen was 10, and Sweet Pea’s was only 8. The vet said she was surprised that Sweet Pea was even alive. After running a few more tests with her bloodwork, the vet came back into the exam room and said that Sweet Pea had her stumped. Sweet Pea’s symptoms suggested a possible kidney disorder, and the condition of her red blood cells suggested some other possible disorders, but she was uncertain about the diagnosis because the other tests she ran were inconclusive. Further complicating the diagnosis was the fact that there is not all that much information to assist in diagnosing symptoms in live chickens. In the commercial poultry industry when a chicken falls ill it is quickly dispatched of, and apparently there is a lot of literature about post-mortem diagnosis of chicken diseases, but that’s not all that helpful when trying to diagnose illness in a living chicken.

The vet gave Sweet Pea a shot of cortisone which she said would give her a boost for 4 to 5 days and perhaps help her recover a bit from whatever the cause of her anemia was. We noticed an improvement in Sweet Pea’s appetite and energy level for the next 5 days. Every morning I would prepare various tasty treats for Sweet Pea and feed them to her while sitting on the kitchen floor with her and drinking my morning coffee. She ate lots of live meal worms during this time, and I kept hoping to see an improvement in the color of her comb but it remained an unhealthy pale pink. We took her to the farm last weekend, and she seemed to do okay being back with the flock and even pecked about and ate some grass. On Sunday we decided to take her back with us to Portland since that was day 5 after her cortisone shot, and I was worried that the boost in energy and appetite she was enjoying wouldn’t last too much longer.

Sure enough, Monday morning there was a noticeable decrease in her appetite and energy level, and she began breathing heavily. We still sat together in the mornings, me on the kitchen floor and she in my lap while I drank my coffee, although she no longer ate anything except for a few pecks at cucumber slices. When I got home from work tonight we spent a little time sitting on the back deck in the sun which she seemed to enjoy. Then she got up from my lap, and it soon became obvious the end was near. We went inside and I held her again in my lap. She began having more trouble breathing and convulsed several times, and I wished that I’d had her euthanized rather than see her suffer. It was a more traumatic end than I would have wished for my little Sweet Pea, but I know it was a better end for her with us in the kitchen than she would have had being pestered by a bunch of hens and roosters at the farm during her last moments. Sweet Pea is the third chicken we’ve lost in the last year. Her loss was the most difficult since I had an extra special place in my heart for her, and I was with her during her last breath. I sure hope this is the last of the chickens we lose for a while. I may regret saying this, but I’m looking forward to our girls growing old and and having to set up a retirement coop for the old biddies. Right now it seems that would be much better than losing any more of our ladies too early.



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