...sometimes even a single feather is enough to fly. (Robert Maclean)


the chicken infirmary

My partner went out to the coop yesterday afternoon, and came back panic stricken. 
One of our precious little ladies is sick!
My favorite little hen, Dominique...
wheezing and sneezing and gasping for breath, so weak she couldn't get up to the roost!!!
So we read about what to do to help her.
Everyone says to either cull or quarantine a sick bird from the rest of the flock.
We have no clue what's wrong with her.  After reading a bunch, it could be a
"chicken cold" type infectious bronchitis or air sac disease or some other even scarier thing...
Since we couldn't imagine culling her in our wildest dreams,
we had to create a last minute infirmary to see if we could help her get better.
One that would keep our girl safe from the dogs...

Behold our emergency infirmary!
Our extra shower is impossible for a dog to open, and easy to clean.

But little Dominique doesn't know she's being quarantined...
We didn't want her to panic in her weakened state,
so we told her she won a winter vacation to a spa retreat in Florida!
She likes the temperature in here a whole lot better than the 23 degree coop.
In addition to all of the petting and coddling from her crazy mammas,
And she was delighted to see that her trip came with an all-inclusive meal package.
There's an all-you-can-eat buffet!!!  
There's her usual organic feed, some rice and mealworms, oyster shells, grit,
a little medley of quinoa and lentils... some baby lettuce...
and of course lots and lots of water. 
(Little does she know we've laced the water with a homeopathic remedy!)
But no tropical vacation is complete without some coconut water.
She loves the coconut water and doesn't even know about 
all of the electrolytes it has that are helping her recover from dehydration! 
(Dommy was very sick once as a baby chick
and we had to hand feed her coconut water for a few days...
We only wish we had a tropical cocktail umbrella to put in her coconut water
to make drinking it even more fun!)

She's hardly stopped eating since she arrived at "the healing spa!"
The other chickens typically prevent her from getting as much food as she'd like
and she doesn't like to give up her spot by the coop heater to go get food and water,
so we suspect she became mightily malnourished. 
Poor little thing!
Now she has unlimited access to everything she could want. 
Her goal in life is to be a nice fat fluffy chicken, but I just don't think it's in the stars for her.
Try as she might, she's always been a tiny thing. 
We'll do our best to fatten her up a little before she goes back outside to the coop,
which may not be for several days or even weeks. 
She's doing remarkably well, though.
We're celebrating because today she started drinking on her own again...
Hopefully, no more need for the dropper!

We've also been using a vaporizer in the bathroom, steaming up the air
with some essential oil blend called VetRx (it's like Vicks for chickens)...
The more she eats and drinks, the more she perks up.
It's like magic! 
Maybe it's the warmth, the moisture, the food, the homeopathic medicine...
Or all of the above...
She's still wheezing some, but her immune system seems to be rallying.
Our hope is a) that we can get her through this  and b) do it without antibiotics...
(That way we can still enjoy her delicious eggs when she starts laying again...)
Keep strong, little Dommy! 
You can do it, girl!
In the mean time, kick back, and enjoy your tropical vacation! 
She even has her very own perch made with a small round piece of firewood,
some yoga blocks, and duct tape. 
Maybe tonight she'll be strong enough to get up and roost!
I can see that she's thinking about it...


  1. I found your blog and have been reading it. We had a chicken that developer wheezing like yours and managed to treat it with a general antibiotic -- tetracycline hydrochloride -- that we mixed with her water. We also took this stuff called VetRX and rubbed t on her beak, dripped it in her mouth/nose, and rubbed it on her feet and comb and under her arm pits. I found your blog because right now we have a chicken that molted, and its like -10 below. We had 2 heat lamps in the coop and I think the constant light stressed her out. Switched to "ceramic heat emitters" but, as always, my mind is on building a brand new isulated coop....when you go online to look there are so many "oh they can take the cold" people but we don't just want them to survive, be want them to be happy and comfortable, too...good luck and keep taking great photos!

  2. oops accidentaly posted as my wife. ha

    1. Hi Kurt!

      Thanks so much for checking out my blog, and for your comments. Our #1 goal is also comfort and happiness... our hens are our beloved sweet girls!

      We've used that antibiotic you mentioned, once as a last resort, but either it was too late and our hen was too far gone, or she had other issues going on that we were unable to figure out.

      I agree -- The Vet Rx is great! We've rubbed it under the wings and a little on the head/beak, and also dispersed it in a humidifier when we had her isolated in the house.

      It's so hard when the hens molt in the winter -- it just doesn't make sense to me!
      We're in the process of picking out a few new chicks for hatching this spring, and we're definitely making sure they're all very cold hardy types. That should help us worry a little less in the winter next time around, even if they are molting... but, knowing us, we'll probably always worry a little!

      I've read that it's important to be careful about insulating a coop, or having a coop that is built 'too tight' - some ventilation is important to keep the ammonia-levels from building up, especially in winter when they're cooped up in there for quite awhile and that's the only air they're breathing. I've also read that it's critical to protect from dampness and cold drafts. So, all in all, a delicate balancing act... to provide ventilation, but no drafts. We have vents in the top of our coop, near the roof pitch, but we're nervous to keep them fully open in the winter, so we partially cover them.

      What a winter this has been, huh?! It's been up to -20 a few times in our area, with wicked wind chills and it seems like a snow storm ever week!