Dorothy & The Hot Chickens

dorothy 028

Yesterday morning, I let the chickens out to free-range and all was well and normal.  Yesterday evening I let them out again but when I did my normal headcount, one was missing.  After a quick assesment, I realized that only two of the Golden Girls were within sight.  Dorothy was missing.  I figured she was behind the coop or a garden box or around a corner somewhere, but I looked and look and couldn’t find her.  Then I thought – hey, maybe she never came out of the coop.

Having read plenty of stories about how people walk out to the coop to find one of their chickens dead on the floor for no apparent reason, I prepared myself for the worst.  I mean, this is Dorothy we’re talking about – she LOVES to free-range, just like all the Golden Girls.  If it were an EE or Marans pullet, it might not have been so weird, but a Buff Orpington would never pass  up an opportunity for some fresh green grass and bugs.  When I looked in the coop, she was there, not dead thankfully, but rather just sitting on the floor, panting.  Granted, it was hot in there – about 88 degrees in the coop, but all the others were happily out in the grass, not panting at all.  Something had to be wrong.

So, I walked in to see if she would let me touch her or pick her up.  She immediately hopped to her feet and walked over to the feeder and took a couple of bites.  Then she headed back to the corner to lay down again.  Just as she was settling down, JB came in and walked up to her with love on his mind.  This made her squawk and run out the chicken door into the run.  In the run, she returned to standing and panting and then laying down and panting.

After a minute or so, JB headed over to her again and this time she ran out of the run into the grass with the others.  For a few minutes, she proceeded to graze like normal, but then she walked a bit away from everyone else and settled down again in the grass.  I’ve never seen any of them do anything of the sort.

settled down in the grass

settled down in the grass

So, I took her picture, watched her for a few minutes to see if she’d do anything, and then I tried to touch/pick her up again.  Again she hopped up and trotted away to the others and started grazing.  Then, she settled down one last time, up against one of the garden boxes.  This time she let me bend down and stroke her and then she let me pick her up with no resistance.  Clearly something was wrong.

So, I took her inside the house.  I’ve been told a million times that you need to isolate a sick chicken for her safety and the safety of the others – if she’s sick they could pick on her plus she could get them sick.  In there, I examined her as best I could and could find nothing wrong – no sores, mites, lice, nothing stuck in her crop or throat, no nasal or eye discharge, normal vent, normal feathers.  Nothing.  So, I posted her symptoms and story on the BYC Forum and waited for help.

This is what she looked like:

wings held out slightly, open mouth, panting, tail down

wings held out slightly, open mouth, panting, tail down

Well, with her wanting to lay down away from others and her panting with wings out and tail down, but no other symptoms, most all responders agreed that she is quite possibly trying to lay her first egg and it is giving her a hard time!  At two days under 16 weeks, it is very young for a first egg, but not unheard of.  The only other idea I got was that it could be a heart defect.  If that is the case, there is apparently nothing I can do and she will probably just die.  So, here’s hoping it’s not that.  Anyway, if it is an egg, it should be exciting, but instead it just has me worried for her.  Even in the air conditioned house, she panted on and off all night in the guest room.  By morning there was no change, so at the suggestion of BYC people, I felt around her lower abdomen for an egg shape… to no avail.  I don’t know what a normal chicken abdomen feels like, so I can’t tell if I’m feeling an egg.  Then I held her behind over steaming water for a while (this is supposed to relax the muscles and help the egg out).  When that didn’t work, I sat her butt in warm water for a while (all recommended by experienced chicken people and also chicken books).

warm water bath

warm water bath

Through all of this, she was an amazingly good girl.  She put up with everything virtually without complaint… just little whistles and sweet clucks when I talked to her.

When nothing worked and nothing had changed, I went to the last resort recommended by several people and also a couple of books.  I washed my hands super well and oiled up my finger and felt inside for an egg.  I did my best at this and I couldn’t believe how well she took it.  However, I found nothing.  Perhaps I didn’t look deeply enough, but she was uncomfortable and I didn’t want to hurt her.  So, I gave up.

That morning, she had eaten the yogurt and oats I brought to her with much pleasure and she seemed ok other than the panting and strange stance.  So, I put her back with the others.  She grazed with them in the grass like normal and then went insode for a big drink.  She didn’t pant for the whole time once I took her out there.  So, I went inside to work a while and then when I came back out a few hours later, I found my next topic:

Hot Chickens

hot Daisy Mae

hot Daisy Mae

That is what a hot chicken looks like – wings spread and dropped to the sides, mouth open and panting.  It was hotter today than yesterday and so now they were all hot and panting and Dorothy was fitting right in.  Though, her panting did seem faster to me… and her stance is different than this.

hot Chicken Soup

hot Chicken Soup

See how his tail is still up and his head is up?  Dorothy’s tail has been down and her head slightly forward and more fluffed overall, rather than just holding her wings that far from her body.

hot Lady B

hot Lady B

So, I still think there is something wrong.  And, I am still hoping it’s something as simple as her first egg that is difficult for her to pass.  One person told me he has had pullets act this way for up to a week before laying their first eggs.  Another person told me her pullet acted that way and then dropped dead.  Most people said she should lay an egg soon and it’ll be fine.  I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.  I don’t know what else I can do for her right now.  I will keep you posted.

On A Mushroom Note

mushroom cultivation supplies from Fungi Perfecti

mushroom cultivation supplies from Fungi Perfecti

I know, I know… you thought I had too many projects already.  That’s OK, everybody is wrong sometimes.  On a bit of a whim (is there any other way to start a project?), I ordered some mushroom-growing supplies from Fungi Perfecti and they were delivered yesterday.  This is a project I had attempted to start once before, when living in California, but it never came to fruition.  So, I am trying again.

The Pacific NW is pretty perfect for growing mushrooms as they like indirect light only, and lots of moisture.  So, I ordered “The Three Amigos” pack for my garden, and an indoor shiitake kit because shiitakes are my FAVORITE.  I could eat them every day.  The “Three Amigos” are actually three separate mushroom “patches,” as they are called – one Garden Giant, one Garden Oyster, and one Shaggy Mane.  The Shaggy Mane is on backorder.  The Garden Giant will grow on a bed of woodchips somewhere on the north part of our property where we have poor drainage because they’ll like the moisture.  The Hypsizygus ulmarius Garden Oyster mushroom (abbreviated H.U.G. – as in, give your garden a “hug”) will grow in the beds with my veggies.  They are a beneficial fungus that accelerates natural composting of garden debris and the release of nutrients into the soil, making them more abundant and readily available to the veggie plants.  The leafy veggies, in turn, give the HUG mushrooms a perfect shady location toe fruit.  So, I will have edible mushrooms popping up under my veggies.  HOW COOL IS THAT???

 dorothy 006

The shiitake kit is being cold-shocked in my fridge as we speak.  Right now, it looks like this:

shiitake kit 001

I will let you know how it progresses and how I am caring for it as we go.  It is supposed to stay in there for 3-5 days.  It’s been just over 24 hours right now.

YAY MUSHROOMS!

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3 thoughts on “Dorothy & The Hot Chickens

  1. Oh my gosh! Make sure you update please! Mine aren’t doing that, but now that I think about it, I haven’t been out there in the middle of the day. Now I’m worried. I only see them at dawn and dark. I did get a second waterer for outside in the shade and our coop is open on the 2 yard sides. I’ve noticed that 3 of them hang out under there. My marans and 2 ees. I think they are low on the pecking order and trying to stay away from Mr. Have you decreased your roos yet? I thought I could decrease the herd this winter but it will never happen. I bonded. :)

  2. Man – I have some hot chickens too. It’s in the mid to upper 90s much of the summer here and they sit around and pant all day. I have them in an outside run during the day and 1/2 of it is covered with a tarp to keep them dry when we have our daily afternoon thunderstorms and also to give them some shade. When I look in there, they just look miserable…laying down and stretched out panting. I try to give them some watermelon a few times a week, but I can’t buy them watermelon 7 days a week. Its tough to find ways to keep them cool, for sure…

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