Maeve decided to throw me a curve ball today. While I stood at the sink, refilling the drinker, I noticed that Maeve had something stuck to her face. A white something. A white something that made her look like the 'Phantom of the Opera'. Odd. I went outside to investigate.
As I got closer, I decided that she must have walked in to some cuckoo spit. It was exactly the same texture and consistency. Moving my hand to wipe it away, Maeve yawned expansively and coughed up more of the weird white stuff. That's not good. I have never seen a hen vomit, in fact I wasn't sure that they could, but Maeve was having a damn good go.
Grabbing the small black chook, I peered down her throat. Her throat muscles were in constant motion, and her crop felt hard. My first thought was poisoning. I frantically tried to think if there was any way that she could have got a hold of any slug pellets/rose fertiliser/garden lime. I grabbed her by the legs, and held her upside down. I have never done this in two years of chicken keeping, but vaguely remembered reading it was a fast way to clear the crop. I massaged the lump in her crop, stroking it down towards her beak. More mucus was gradually expelled, getting thicker. Every few minutes, I righted her and gave her time to calm down. This wasn't pleasant for either of us. Suddenly, there was some long pieces of grass all wrapped around each other and some mashed up pellets at the back of her throat. I gently reached in and pulled it free.
All the while I was doing this, I was watching Maeve carefully. Her face got darker at this point, and I quickly righted her and soothed her panic. Deciding that enough was enough, I took her straight to the vet.
The vet concluded that her crop was only about a quarter full, and with luck the remaining blockage would pass on its own. He wanted to keep her in over night for observation, but I opted to bring her home. A vet's holding room, full of cats and dogs, is not exactly a stress free environment for a prey animal. At home, she should be less stressed and recover more quickly. He also wanted to give her antibiotics because of the mucus, but as she's just finished a course of Tylan along with the other girls, I declined.
The rest of the flock have been banished from the Palace until bedtime, and Maeve is pacing the run with only the drinker and grit for company. She is alert and active, which is a good sign, and even growled at me when I went out to check on her just now. That's my girl.
However, the vet has planted a seed of worry in my brain. He mentioned the fact that the lump in her crop might be a physical issue, such as a tumour. He seemed quite keen on whipping his scalpel out to investigate. After losing Mini to anaesthetic, I am extremely reluctant to put any of my girls through such an invasive procedure.
So now I'm hoping that this is a fluke event, never to be repeated, and not the beginning of a severe problem.
(By the way, I have since been informed that hanging a bird upside down to clear the crop is not a good idea. Far better to hold the bird upright and stroke the crop upwards. The method I used makes it more likely that the bird will choke. I am lucky I didn't kill her)