It's been a sad week for Althea....she has become ill from what initially appeared to be worms, a fairly common problem in chickens.
It began a few weeks ago when I noticed some droppings stuck to Althea's feathers around her vent but I didn't think too much of it at the time. But when my neighbor, Andrea, also noticed it I looked more closely at Althea's droppings and saw they were somewhat loose. I cleaned her up and kept an eye on her and overall she seemed healthy, though maybe a little less active.
As the week went on Althea seemed to hang back from the others when in the yard and was less verbal. She's always the one who squawks the loudest in the morning to be let out of the coop but she was quiet every morning. She stopped running in the yard though still picked at bugs and ate and drank normally. Over the next few days she really became less active and spent more time on her roost in the coop, coming down only occasionally to eat and drink.
I finally called a local vet who can handle birds and made an appointment for the following Monday.
Fortunately, my daughter Sharon, resident family chicken expert, was also coming for a visit and she immediately went out to Agway and picked up antibiotics and vitamin supplements. Apparently, there are any number of ailments chickens can get that are cured with these over the counter antibiotics. We brought Althea into the basement and fixed up a recycling bin with wood shavings. She took her medicine like a good chicken but there was no real change.
The following Monday we saw the vet, Dr. Bradt, at 'All Creatures' in Salem who was wonderful with Althea and found from her stool sample that she had capallaria worms, a fairly common ailment. The treatment was to 'worm' all the hens with medication for 5 days. Althea also had lost weight and seemed to have fluid in her belly. I used an eye dropper to give the medication which the hens tolerated quite well. Althea went back out to the coop during this time at the vet's suggestion.
The amazing thing to watch was how the other hens treated Althea. They seemed to know she was sick and stayed close to her. On that miserable rainy afternoon after seeing the vet, with a cold wind blowing, when all the hens would normally have been hunkered down inside the coop, they instead sat outside in their run, soaking wet but all close to Althea until I lifted her back into the coop. Only then did the other three go inside.
After the course of medication was complete Althea still did not bounce back but instead got weaker and began falling. It was so sad to watch. By then it was time to bring her back inside the house. The vet had already checked in but didn't have any suggestions but to keep her comfortable.
So now we have Althea in hospice...it sounds corny but I feel like Naomi and I are trying to keep Althea comfortable as she probably is close to the end of her life. I put the heat lamp on her bin and covered half with a towel so she can rest in the dark. I'm feeding her rice with asparagus which she seems to like but she's not drinking much and I have to hold the food and water right to her beak. She can't stand for long. This is very sad...