Chicken ER

June 18, 2008 | By | Comments (6)

by Margo True, Sunset food editor

Alas, poor Ophelia! Why didst Team Chicken burden thee with the name of a tragic Shakespearean heroine? For thy fate seems gloomy indeed.

Okay, it was all my fault—I LOVE Shakespeare and insisted on the name. So ’twas I who took Ophelia, suddenly afflicted with a potentially deadly impacted crop, off to the Adobe Animal Hospital in Los Altos.

Here she is, in her transport carton:


She settled right down and didn’t utter a single sound on the drive to the vet’s. It was actually worrisome,  but sure made the drive easy—I had visions of her bursting out of the box and flapping around the car, banging her poor swollen crop against the windows. Nada. She was an angel.

At Adobe, the receptionist immediately got on the intercom and barked, "Check check on a chicken. Check check. Chicken check check on a chicken." I felt as though I’d just ordered a sandwich in a drive-through. Then she very sweetly asked, "And what is Ophelia’s last name?"  Last name?! Er—Sunset? (Ophelia Sunset: Hey drag queens—looking for a cool stage name?)

We had a bit of a wait, during which time we observed tragedy and comedy. The cute Airedale with a limp, still chipper enough to play with the kids and mom who brought him. The little orange cat, carried in motionless and wrapped in a towel, whose owner choked on her tears when asked his name. "Hobie," she whispered. The lizard, off in an unseen operating room; a technician told us that the doctor was just finishing up with him and would see Ophelia next. "He had a prolapsed rectum," she added. Who knew a lizard could have such a problem?

Dr. Nicolette Zarday, blonde and with an unusually kind and sympathetic face, examined Ophelia. "I’ve never dealt with a chicken before," she said. "But she seems to have crop stasis [another term for impacted crop], which we see in other birds too." 


Dr. Zarday examines the stoic Ophelia.

To loosen the mass, Dr. Zarday suggested running a tube down Ophelia’s esophagus to fill her crop with a solution of warm water and mineral oil. "You can watch if you like." Er, no thanks.


Through this door, Ophelia is being intubated.

I retired to the waiting room and saw Hobie’s owner rush out the front door. "Hobie didn’t make it," said another technician, when I asked. Poor Hobie! Rest in peace, little kitty.

Things turned out much better for Ophelia, who emerged from her procedure looking exactly the same as she had going in—i.e. totally calm—but with a slightly looser crop. It felt more bean-bag-ish and less like modeling clay. "We hope she’ll regurgitate," said Dr. Zarday. Well, good thing the box is heavily lined with newspaper.

No regurgitating on the way home, just a silent chicken. But she seemed to perk up when I set her down back in the coop, to welcome squawks from her coop-mates.

Maybe we should change her name to Olivia…

Oh, and in case you’re interested, the fee for chicken intubation is $60, which we calculated would buy at least three decent chicken dinners. Then again, Ophelia has laid delicious eggs faithfully on a near-daily basis since January; we figure she’s paid for her bill. Plus, she is a very sweet chicken.


  1. Sunset‘s One-Block Feast | A blog by Sunset

    […] we ran into some bumps in the road (like when poor Ophelia had to be taken to the chicken ER…). But we were ambitious. And for all our hard work, we were rewarded with many beautiful meals […]

    September 4, 2014 at 9:34 am
  2. Cheap Minecraft Hosting

    Hello, I read your blogs like every week. Your humoristic style is awesome, keep up the good work!

    July 10, 2014 at 8:04 am
  3. Margo True, Food Editor

    Cindy, from what we know, a chicken peters out after 4 or 5 years–although we’ve just heard of a local rooster who is 17! So, we have several egg-laying years to look forward to. We’ll be pondering the inevitable well before then. Some of us think it’s only fitting that we follow the time-honored farm practice of stewing an old hen. Others really would prefer not to. So I think we’ll be having a rich conversation, or more than one, in the years ahead.

    August 5, 2008 at 2:25 am
  4. Cindy Z

    what is the life span of a chicken? Are you going to kill them or give them to someone else or what when they stop laying eggs??

    August 1, 2008 at 3:33 am
  5. Anonymous

    Thank you, Amy–we think she’s doing better, but she sure is a chowhound. Even now, with stitches in her chest, she’s gobbling down the chicken crumble–and kitchen scraps–with abandon.

    June 29, 2008 at 12:38 am
  6. Amy

    Awww! Feel better Ophelia, hang in there!

    June 19, 2008 at 4:41 pm

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