I have replaced the five hens that were killed by an untrained (and untrainable) dog; in fact they have been replaced with six new hens that settled in quite nicely with the one hen that had the luck or sense to run and hide from the dog, and survive to lay another day.
I say lay another day but yesterday when I came home from work at the National Wildlife Crime Unit my wife told me it had not laid for three mornings. That was easily worked out since the new hens are not due to start laying till next week, so there were no eggs at all. I had a look in the hen run and saw the original hen at the far end. It was sitting with its bum up in the air and it was certainly not too well.
My first thoughts were that it was egg-bound, with a monster egg inside that it could not get out. I lifted the hen and felt for an egg and was surprised that there was none there. I left the hen for an hour to see if there might be any change, but when I returned it was still in the same place, still with its bum in the air and still looking under the weather.
Being egg-bound is not common but can be fatal within a relatively short time. It was now time for action to see if we could help.
I filled a tub with hot soapy water, placed the hen in the water so that the water was about halfway up its body and my wife and I took a ten minute spell each massaging its nether regions. It seemed very content standing there in the water with not the slightest inclination to try to exit the tub. The hen was then dried with a towel, and had the luxury of ten minutes with the hair drier to ensure it did not catch a chill.
After the ‘treatment’ I put the hen in the henhouse and closed the door to give it peace and quiet from the other hens. I checked 15 minutes later and it was still standing rather dejectedly where I had placed it. After a further 15 minutes I made another check and this time there was a very wet yellow patch on the shavings on the floor of the henhouse and the remains of the skin of an egg. The hen had managed to pass a shell-less egg. I have no way of knowing whether the shell skin broke when it came out or whether it had been broken inside her, though I suspect the former.
The hen looked much perkier and I let her out. She had a drink and a feed then mingled with the other hens. I could hardly believe the change in such a short time. Today she is completely back to her old self, though no egg yet: that may come tomorrow. I’m not sure how many lives a hen has but if she were a cat she’d definitely be down to seven remaining.