Baseball, Sick Chickens, and Love

Right now I’m supposed to be sitting on the third deck behind home plate watching the Minnesota Twins play baseball.  Instead, I’m at home dealing with another coop crisis.  Before I explain, I should just say that this no doubt will become a “first in a series” post since it’s just the beginning of another “ongoing-situation.”  And I should also say that if you are eating, or squeamish, or eating and squeamish, you should probably not read this.

Roxie the Rhode Island Red
This time it’s Roxie the Rhode Island Red.  My poor Reds have just taken a beating lately!  I noticed a couple of days ago that Roxie had some diarrhea—it’s an easy thing to notice when a bird’s feathers become soiled with poop.  When I notice this on just one hen and it’s a new thing, I keep a watchful eye, but I certainly don’t panic.  Hens get diarrhea—sometimes it’s just due to the heat or “something they ate” and sometimes it’s due to something more serious.  So I watch and wait.  Roxie seemed bright-eyed and active so my concern for her was mild at most. 

This afternoon as I was cleaning the coop I noticed Roxie make a couple of attempts to hop the short distance into a nest box and fail at both attempts.  This is when my concern went up a few notches and I picked her up for a quick exam.  Her eyes were bright, her comb was a nice bright red, and neither her crop nor her abdomen felt puffy or distended.  But there was a lot of poopy feathers on her back side, so I flipped her over to take a closer look and then audibly gasped.  She had become fly-blown.  Here’s the part you don’t want to read if you’re squeamish.  Sometimes in the summertime certain flies find their way to hens who are suffering from diarrhea.  Flies, as we all know, love poop.  So the female fly deposits her eggs on the poop-laden feathers.  When the maggots hatch, they immediately burrow into the chicken’s skin and create bloody skin ulcers that are laden with thousands of maggots.  A hen can go from normal to fly-blown in 24 hours, and can go from fly-blown to dead in an equally short period of time.  Roxie’s back end was teeming with maggots.  I immediately carried her to the house, took her to the laundry room,  and bathed her several times in dog shampoo and water, removing all the poop and maggots that I could find.  I found several large maggot-eaten ulcers around her vent.  I trimmed the feathers around all the bad spots and treated them all with Veterycin, an antimicrobial for animals.  Then I installed her in a crate in the basement, and mixed up some probiotic and electrolyte solution to get her diarrhea under control.  After that I finished cleaning the coops, and in the process checked all of the chickens to make sure that nobody else was maggot-infested.  It took the rest of my afternoon & most of my evening.  Tomorrow morning I’ll start in again and give Roxie’s ulcers a good wash with betadine and follow up with more Veterycin.  Roxie will be living in the basement until she heals.  Her diarrhea is not yet under control, there are no doubt more fly eggs that I missed that will hatch into maggots, and there is the strong possibility that the ulcerated areas will become infected.  She’ll be getting lots of baths and TLC.  I really hope that this sweet little bird makes it.

Speaking of sweet, my wife, Kathy, scratched the baseball game off her evening's plans and went out and bought Chinese takeout for both of us.  I told her later that one thing I'd accomplished today was to grasp two expressions of love:  "Love is being willing to pick maggots and poop off your chicken's butt.  And love is when you see your husband storm into the house, wild-eyed, ranting, and with a chicken under his arm, and you just calmly do what you need to do."  Kathy rolled her eyes and in an aside to our dog said, "You know, Bailey, it sounds like I love him and he loves his chickens."  Well, yeah.  I do love my chickens.  She hit that nail on the head.  But I love her kind of a lot, too.

For the rest of Roxie's story, see the post, "Sour Crop and Flystrike:  The Little Red Hen Gets Well"

[This post has been shared on "Clever Chicks Blog Hop #218]


  1. Sometimes you do what you gotta do. Roxie is lucky to have you! And Kathy is the best Gentleman Chicken Farmer's wife ever! Good luck!

  2. You're a good chicken dad, Randy. Nice work.