The Saga Of Six Sick Hens…


back when there were six…

The saga began on the Saturday before Father’s Day.  Every morning I clean out the chicken house with my trusty little broom and dustpan, but that morning I ran into a bit of a problem–some very runny chicken poop!  I swept it out the best I could, and wondered what in the world “the girls” had eaten to upset their stomachs.

Father’s Day morning, when I rounded the corner to feed the girls, I was met with a horrible sight.  One of my largest hens was stretched out in front of the feeder, dead!  I was shocked, since everything seemed normal the day before, with the exception of some runny poop.  Little did I know, things were about to take a turn for the worse!

Brad's 27th b'day 042

Ed buried the hen, while I went to clean out the chicken house.  When I opened up the door, I was greeted with a disaster!  Apparently, all six chickens had been sick with a super-duper case of diarrhea during the night.  Watery poop (mostly water) covered the entire floor of the house.  It took nearly half of a roll of paper towels to clean it up.  Clearly we had a problem!

As Sunday progressed, it became apparent that our remaining five hens were very sick.  They weren’t eating, and they weren’t moving around much at all.  They looked like five hens with a very bad case of the stomach flu–and I didn’t have a clue what might be wrong with them.  I did a little on-line research looking for answers, and discovered that giving chickens probiotic sometimes helps with diarrhea.  Who knew?

It was Sunday, and our local feed/seed stores were closed, but Father’s Day Sunday was the day Ed and I took our Excellent Shopping Trip, so I looked for some chicken medicine while we were looking at tillers and weed eaters. I found a concoction of probiotics, electrolytes, and vitamins, otherwise known as Rooster Booster.  I laughed at the name, but I bought some for “the girls”.

By Monday, “the girls” were looking and feeling even worse.  There wasn’t any chicken activity going on in the coop.  No singing, no scratching, no eating, and very little drinking.  I’d lined the bottom of their house with newspaper, the night before, and on Monday morning, the paper was dripping wet!  I knew my girls were in  desperate trouble if they didn’t get some help fast!

Ed happened to be on vacation that week, so I sent him to the feed/seed store in search of a different brand of feed, some additional medication, and a watermelon!  He returned, thirty-six dollars poorer, with all three items in his possession.

Brad's 27th b'day 039

watermelon~ a favorite treat (this isn’t the $6 melon)

We added the new medication to the drinking water, along with the Rooster Booster we’d added the day before.  It quickly became obvious that”the girls” hated the way their water tasted, but somehow they drank enough to survive.

Our hens have always loved watermelon, and we found it to be one of the few things they would eat while they were sick.  The melon helped keep them hydrated, so it was worth every one of the six dollars Ed paid for it!  The only other thing “the girls” found desirable to eat was saltine crackers.  I fed them two sleeves of crackers, over the course of the next week.

The man at the feed store claimed that the chickens probably got sick from the chicken feed I was giving them.  I don’t know why he thought this, and I’m not sure I agree, but I didn’t give them any more of their old feed, just in case. I’d fed them nothing unusual prior to the onset of their illness, and their feed is always kept cool and dry.

After seven long days, “the girls” finally began to feel better.  Their diarrhea gradually stopped, and I was so happy when I could finally stop using newspaper in their chicken house! The bottom of their house is always covered with a plastic mat, and I normally just sweep it off every morning.
chickens 008

my chair~still one of their favorite roosting spots!

It’s been two weeks and two days since illness struck “the girls”, and I still miss the one who didn’t make it.  A second hen came pretty close to joining her sister, but somehow managed to pull through.  All of the hens lost about one half of their body weight during their illness, so at the moment they are known as “my skinny girls”.  Every day their appetite continues to get better, so this will probably change soon.

Believe it or not, my poor girls continued to produce eggs, even while they were so ill!  I felt so sorry for them!  (Can you imagine giving birth while being sick with the stomach flu?)  Worse yet, I had to throw their eggs away while they were taking their medication!  That made me feel even worse for them.  Fortunately, I had six dozen eggs in my refrigerator when illness struck, so I haven’t had to purchase any eggs during all of this!

*Speaking of eggs, in one year’s time, their current egg count stands at…1354!!!

*An interesting note here: as the chickens have gotten smaller in size, so have their eggs!

*Another interesting note: our bank account has gotten smaller, too, since adding “the girls” to our family!  Taking into consideration the cost to build our chicken coop, the cost of the all of the feed they’ve eaten, plus the treats I’ve purchased for them, each one of those 1354 eggs probably cost us well over a dollar each 🙂

Hopefully the saga of six sick hens will rapidly become a thing of the past.  I have no idea what happened to them, but I hope it never happens again!  I’m very thankful that only one hen died during the whole ordeal.  Ed buried “our girl” in a spot, over-looking our vegetable garden.  He thought she’d like that 🙂

We plan to add to our existing flock next spring.


Published in: on July 2, 2013 at 9:32 am  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Oh my! I’m so sorry you lost a hen and that the others got so sick. Your story made me sad… But, I’m glad they are doing better now. You (and I) learned something about chickens! I hope they stay healthy now and keep producing! .

  2. Sorry you lost one. Glad you caught and treated their illness before they all passed away. My mom used to have chickens and one of them was a rooster who often attacked the family. Soon we shot that rooster and had it for dinner. The hens and pet turkeys were fine afterwards!

  3. I’m so glad they are feeling better. Poor things.

  4. The cause must still be a worrying mystery to you and Ed. Did your research happen to include contact with your county’s Cooperative Extension Service agent. If the local agent isn’t a poultry guy, he can give you contact info for someone who would have some answers.

    So sad about the sis who didn’t make it.Glad the others are on the mend.

  5. Glad they’re better. That must’ve been so sad to have to bury the one, but thank goodness you didn’t lose any more!

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