We found that Roaster was ill this past Saturday. She is one of the first six chickens and is a prolific egg layer. My wife noticed that she was not herself. She was listless, wasn't eating and or drinking and had yellow diarrhea. We pulled her from the flock and put her in the hospital pen.
We started to give her an examination. Everything was fine except her belly area. It was inflamed and hard. We thought for sure we hade a stuck egg so we prepared to do an exam of the vent and cloaca to get the egg out. We got rubber surgical gloves and lubricant. We gently felt around and she didn't move, squawk or anything. To me this was a terrible indication that and the fact that we could not find an egg stuck or otherwise.
That night we spent most of the night tracking down her combination of symptoms. Something this difficult was hard to find on the net and at any of the university sites we had. We poured over books and eventually sent an email to a poultry professor at NC State. We explained all the symptoms and what we had felt in the cloaca.
What we got back hit us square on. It was the Monday before Thanksgiving and her prognosis was dismal. He told us that it was possible she had one of two things, ovarian cancer or e-coli poisoning. The line that sent chills and made us fold was that either way she was in severe pain. He went on to say that even though she would be in extreme pain she would not exhibit signs of distress. I understood what he meant and that we needed to consider her quality of life.
In the mean time the battery on the tractor went dead and we still had to get the newly delivered water tanks moved and up righted and the big chicken house moved. I had charged the battery only to find it did not hold a charge. I took Wednesday before Thanksgiving off so I could get a battery and keep an eye on Roaster. We had started her on anti-biotic the night before in hopes of it being sepsis and getting her well.
I was feeding her medicated water by syringe and she seemed to be drinking as much as I could give her. I had read that boiled egg was good for a chicken that was not eating. I know it sounds bad but we tried it. She wasn't eating but that was secondary to drinking. She kept drinking so we kept feeding her the anti-biotic water. The next day I went and purchased a new battery for the tractor.
I put the battery in the tractor and the tractor would not crank over. I left it to check on Roaster. When I saw her I thought she was already dead. She opened her eyes when she heard me come into the stall and started to vomit blood. It was time. I could no longer let my inadequacies continue only to let her suffer. I will spare myself the re-telling of the events that happened next but she is out of pain now and I am not.
This experience only reenforced our earlier thoughts about caring for animals on a farm. There are people like myself that have a very hard time dealing with the mortality. I've heard that there is no mercy on a farm but there is. There is just no mercy for the farmer when the hits just keep coming.