Ruby being treated for egg-yolk peritonitis at Adobe Animal Hospital in Los Altos, CA.
Then, the night before Sunset’s biggest event of the year, Celebration Weekend, which draws tens of thousands of visitors to our grounds, Ruby puffed up again and looked awful. By the hour, she got worse. We decided (and this was not a flippant decision) that we would take matters into our own hands, and if she was truly at death’s door, we would end her suffering ourselves. Readers, an actual ax was sharpened, and our one experienced chicken-harvester was ready to do the deed, fast and clean.
I couldn’t bear it. Honestly, I was surprised by my own reaction. Looking at sad little Ruby, hunched up against the pain, all I could think of was how trusting she was of us—at the same time reminding myself that it was cruel to let her suffer.
As I remember it, 4 pm was going to be the hour of mercy. But somehow she seemed to get better in the early afternoon. Maybe it was like the toothache that disappears right before you go to the dentist. I’m not sure. But in any case it won Ruby a reprieve. She spent the afternoon and night and the entire weekend, in fact, in a box in a quiet, empty office, with water and a little yogurt now and then. It was better for her to be calm and isolated, and it was definitely better for the thousands of visitors streaming past the henhouse that weekend to see our flock. Who wants to look at a dying chicken?
Darned if Ruby didn’t get better. By Monday, she was back to her normal self. And she’s been fine ever since—until now.
The vet had warned us that peritonitis is a condition that often recurs. Two days ago, I noticed she seemed a little droopy, but I was in a hurry and didn’t take the time to really look at her. Fellow backyard chicken-keepers, do give your chickens the once-over every day if you can—because when they get sick, they get sick fast.
Today her tail was practically curled under her body, and her nether parts were, how shall I say, caked with glop. Either the peritonitis is back or she’s having a really bad case of indigestion.
Jim helped me give her a warm bath.
It’s supposed to relax the chicken and help anything inside emerge. It also allowed me to clean her up.
Then I put her in her recovery box, with a little bowl of water. She’s spent the day with me in my office, quietly sitting in the box. I have high hopes that her troubles are digestive, given her walloping but seriously squirty rear output. (Sorry. If you read chicken health handbooks, they’ll have you examining poop for health clues as though you were a detective at a crime scene.) Unfortunately I’m a bad detective and have no idea what the squirts are trying to tell us.
In the meantime, Ruby will sleep in my office tonight. I’ll be calling around (and reading around) for advice in the morning.