News from the Chicken Infirmary

Despite her various ailments, Petunia has been perfecting her mountain climbing skills on our recently delivered pile of wood chips.

Petunia popped out another egg sans shell last weekend, and we finally decided to take her to the vet. Long story short and one avian exam and blood test later, we have learned that Petunia has a number of potentially serious health issues.

We were a motley crew of four at the vet appointment. Kelly and I, equally anxious and ignorant, grilled the vet on every detail. Luma also came along for the ride to help avoid chicken attachment anxiety. She stayed in the crate throughout Petunia’s exam, clucking indignantly at not being able to come out and visit with the rest of us.

The vet discovered a pea-sized nodule just inside Petunia’s vent, though he was unable to get a look at it. Possible explanations include a benign growth that may or may not grow to obstruct her vent, a cancerous growth, an area of walled-off parasites, or an abscess.

As soon as the exam was over, Petunia flapped up to Kelly’s shoulder for reassurance and a better view, while we discussed options with the vet.

We ended up opting for a blood test so as to be better informed in deciding how to treat Petunia. The test shows signs of an active bacterial infection for which the vet prescribed a two-week course of Baytril (you were right, Jackie!).

In addition, the blood work showed evidence of abnormal hormone activity in the form of elevated levels of triglycerides (fat). Petunia also has more than twice the normal level of calcium in her blood. The vet speculates that the high calcium level is due to an infection in the oviduct, which may be causing Petunia to lay eggs prematurely and without fully formed shells.

Poor Petunia! It never fails that we come by the most endearing and physically troubled animals. As with the bees, we have to pause at a certain point and ask ourselves where we draw the line with vet procedures. But, of course, we love her.

Petunia is being a real trooper about taking her quarter tablet of Baytril twice a day. I kneel over her with a knee on either side to gently pin her wings, open her beak and drop the pill in. She swallows it right down.

Besides the vet bills and concern for Tuni’s health, we are also disappointed to learn that we won’t be able to eat Petunia’s eggs for four weeks after she finishes her antibiotics—a full six weeks of only one egg a day. We haven’t purchased eggs since the girls started laying in July, something that greatly pleases my inner would-be farmer (sure, we spent a fair bit of money and countless hours building a critter-proof coop and run, but look at all the money we’re saving on eggs! Not.). Now we’d better get an Araucana ASAP, or suck it up and head to the grocery store.

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