On Friday morning, I went up to the coops to let my chickens out, and to fetch my Australorp pullet so that I could get off to an early start with her training for the show bench. I went into the coop and did my usual head count, and short period of observation of the hens which I do every morning in order to ensure everyone is present and in good health.
Right away, I noticed that something was 'off' about the Australorp. She stood off in a corner, alone and had the dreaded 'downward tail and ruffled appearance' of an unwell chicken. I let the other hens out to forage, released the rooster from his nightbox and then picked up the pullet, who submitted, unresisting to being handled (another red flag) and carried her down to the patio where her training pen was set up.
I set her on the table where her pen was, and commenced to gently examine her, prodding and feeling all over for any sign of injury or disease. My heart sank at the discovery I made.
I will be placing the rest of this post behind a cut as some of the photographs are somewhat graphic.
On first sight of the problem, I felt a dreadful hollowness in the pit of my stomach.
I ran inside the house, calling out to Sandra: "My little girl is done for!"
Chica had suffered a prolapse.
The following is from "The Chicken Health Handbook" by Gail Damerow ISBN: 0-88266-611-8.
"Prolapsed Oviduct, also called "blowout" or "pickout" is a condition in which the lower part of the hen's oviduct turns inside out and protrudes through the vent. Prolapse occurs most often when a hen starts laying at too young an age, is too fat, or lays unusually large eggs. Caught in time, the prolapse can sometimes be reversed by applying a hemorrhoidal cream (such as Preparation H) and isolating the hen until she improves. Otherwise, the other chickens will pick at her vent, eventually pulling out her oviduct and intestines and causing the hen to die from hemorrhage and shock."
In Chica's case, this was her first egg ever and she had prolapsed in trying to push the egg down through the oviduct. My pullet is not over or under weight, nor do I think she came on lay too young. The egg she laid after the prolapse happened was not overly large, either. I think that in this case it was because of the other reason for prolapse, which is sheer bad luck.
Sadly, the other hens had discovered the prolapse and has picked at it, causing a small tear in the lining of the oviduct which was bleeding. I was so worried that because of the bleeding, Chica was going to die, or need to be put down.
Sandra, being the calm and pragmatic one of us, suggested that I should call a friend of mine who is an experienced poultry breeder. I agreed that was a good idea, and called my friend, apologising for disturbing her on a holiday. I explained the situation to her, and she calmly advised me on how to clean up the area and then gently push everything back inside where it belongs.
Once I got off the phone, I prepared a warm bath for Chica and added cooking salt to it so that the water tasted mildly saline. Then we gently lowered her into the water and I spent about 15 minutes washing blood, faeces and urates away from the area. Chica was very calm and relaxed throughout this process and seemed to find the mildly salty water quite soothing.
Having cleaned her up as best I could, I gently lifted her out of the bath and set about 'reducing' the prolapse by gently pushing it back inside the pullet's body.
My first attempt was not successful, and the oviduct prolapsed again shortly afterwards and we had to 'rinse and repeat' the entire process. We didn't have any preparation H so had to just do the best we could. I reinserted everything a second time and stayed with Chica this time, holding everything in place for about 30 minutes.
In the absence of Preparation H, a sugar syrup or even honey (messy!) can also be used to help bring the swelling down on a prolapse in order to reduce it enough to push back inside.
We then moved her to a resting pen, and left her for about an hour, only to find on checking her that she had partially prolapsed once again!
Again, I gently reduced the prolapse, noting that there was less bleeding at this stage, and that some of the inflammation and swelling had gone down, which was a relief.
Third time's a charm and this time all the innards stayed put much to my delight. As an extra precaution, I started Chica on a broad spectrum antibiotic to prevent infection because of the torn oviduct and also because the prolapse had to be reduced multiple times.
Immediately after the third reduction, there was a slight ooze of urates which was a bit of a concern. I decided to cut away the feathers below the bird's vent so that the area would keep a bit cleaner and be easier to observe for signs of infection, but after a couple of hours, the oozing had stopped.
made by other hens.
Today (Monday) Chica is doing well. She has some slight diarrhoea which I am attributing to the antibiotic, but her colour is good and she has not prolapsed again.
I am keeping her isolated at present, in a dark pen on only wheat and water as I wish to try and induce a moult which will stop her from laying and give her system a chance to recover as she will not lay when she is in moult. She has not laid again since the prolapse happened, because we have kept her in the dark deliberately to prevent laying and give her body time to recover.
So far, so good. The real test will be though, when she lays again.