Ode to Our Fair Rhoda
Our dearest Rhoda, one of the original founding members of 5R Farm, has gone up to the chicken farm in the sky. I want to take a few moments to remember all of the things that I loved about her.
Rhoda is radiant, her feathers shine in the sun, my eye seeks her out in the crowd Her cluck is a cheerful bup-bup-bup that is music to my ear Always in the center of the action, she knows what she wants and she gets it Swift of beak, and oh so fond of maintaining the pecking order A personality larger than life, she’s no lap chicken, but she always makes me smile
I noticed Rhoda was not quite herself starting a few months ago. After taking their annual winter vacation from laying eggs, the hens resume laying eggs sometime between January and March depending on their age, with the older hens taking longer before they start laying. By the end of March, I noticed that Rhoda had not started laying eggs, and neither had another of our girls, Grace. Neither of them was eating quite as much as usual, and they both seemed a bit off. I isolated them from the rest of the flock and treated them with an over the counter antibiotic, and for a short time after that Rhoda seemed a bit better. But by the end of April, I could tell that Rhoda was in a decline. Rhoda is one of our first two chickens, we bought her and Raquel as baby chicks back in March 2010, and they are two of the original founding members of 5R Farm.
Given her special status, I decided that I would do whatever could be done, within reason (or perhaps a bit beyond that) to save her. A chicken can live to be 10 or 12 years or more, and we were hoping to have at least another year or two with her. So off we went to the avian vet. Rhoda was diagnosed as having high egg binding, meaning that her eggs were getting stuck in her reproductive system before she could put a shell on them and lay them. The vet prescribed an antibiotic in the hopes that she could fight off the infection and perhaps would be able to lay the eggs that were stuck. For a short while Rhoda improved, but within a few days of the course of antibiotics ending, Rhoda looked sick again. Back to the vet we went, this time for a surgical procedure. The vet removed a softball sized mass of egg yolk that had gotten stuck in Rhoda’s uterus, and fixed a kink and a tear in her uterus. Unfortunately, as a result of the tear in Rhoda’s uterus, some egg yolk was released into her abdomen, which can result in serious infection. Rhoda came home after two days at the vet, and she bounced back to her old self within a couple of days. But as soon as she completed her course of antibiotics, she started acting sick again, not eating as much and being much less active than usual. We’ve been to the vet a total of 5 times over the last month and a half. Some days Rhoda seemed almost her old spunky self, but on other days I could tell she was not feeling well. Rhoda was no longer showing any improvement on the antibiotics. I feared that she was either egg-bound again or had some other complication from the original occurrence.
It is a sad fact of life for a chicken, that reproductive problems are one of the most frequent causes of illness, and are rarely, if ever, curable. Due to chickens being bred to lay an unnaturally large number of eggs during their lifetime, they are predisposed to reproductive disorders and a variety of other health problems as a result. We have lost many girls over the years, most of them to either confirmed or suspected reproductive problems. It’s getting pretty crowded up in the chicken cemetary, and we only just recently bid Grace farewell, I’m fairly certain to a reproductive problem. Grace was not so lucky as to go to the vet. I tried to treat her at home and make her as comfortable as I could, but in the end we let her go on too long, and I wish I could have done better by her in her last days. I still cry every time we have to say goodbye to one of the ladies, sometimes I think it’s getting easier over the years, but not this time around. We will cherish our memories of Rhoda, and she will have a forever home in our hearts.