Monday, June 14, 2010

The joys of animal husbandry

Last night I sent G-man to the drug store for Preparation H and latex gloves.  No, this is not a typical Sunday night chez moi.  I had spent most of the weekend working in the garden, during which time I had plenty of occasion to observe the hens.  I noticed that Beaker, our white crested polish, was squatting in a strange way.

That's never good.

The diagnosis

I picked her up and checked out her vent/cloaca.  For those of you who aren't familiar with bird anatomy, you might not know that that only have 1 hole "down there". 

I saw a small protrusion from her vent.  It looked like a small, red marble.  I knew immediately what it was: a prolapsed vent.  A prolapse is when part of the vent turns inside out and protrudes from the cloaca.  If left unchecked, it can kill the bird.  The other hens can start picking at it, making it worse and killing the affected bird.  Fast intervention is necessary.

In Beaker's case, her prolapse comes from the fact that she's so small (roughly 60% of the size of the production birds) and yet has been laying eggs that are just a gram or two smaller than the bigger girls.

The cure

First, I washed Beaker off.  She's been dustbathing a lot lately and was filthy.  After she was clean, I dried her with a hair dryer.  Chickens can't regulate their temps very well so it was important to get her dry and warm again. 

Next up: the Preparation H.  Thank God for latex gloves.  I put a good-sized gob on my finger, rubbed it on the prolapse, and gently pushed the little "marble" back into her vent. 

This did not a happy bird make.

We left her in the bathroom for about an hour, where it was dark, dry, and isolated.  I wanted her to be by herself for a bit while the Preparation H started to work as well as give her the chance to finish preening.

Around 9:30 I put her back in with the other birds for the night and made sure that her prolapse was tucked inside again. 


This morning when I let her out of the coop it appeared that her prolapse was still inside.  She's not out of the woods yet. 

I'll keep you posted on how she does, the poor thing!


  1. Oh no! Poor Beaker. This is helpful to read though as we consider getting our own chickens. We're clearly not prepared yet if we don't even know this can happen.

  2. Carbzilla, I read religiously for about a year after we got chickens but it took me several months to be able to read the "Emergencies" section. That's where I learned how to treat our girls and where I've turned when we've had emergencies.