When I closed up the hens last night, I found Mabel in the nest box. I could kick myself now for not thinking anything of it, but I didn't. I assumed she was thinking of going broody, so left her to it. Likewise, when I found her still in the nest box this morning I just lifted her to put her on the grass and assumed she was being hormonal. Except the wood shavings under her were very wet. And she wasn't growling.
On closer inspection, I discovered that Mabel was very wet all around her vent area. The feathers were saturated. Now, chickens don't generally wee, so something was up. I popped her on to the grass. She stood still, tail and wings lowered. Oh, this was not good. Lifting her tail, I noticed that her vent was pulsating.
I hurriedly scooped her up and brought her in to the house. Mabel allowed this without a murmur, and that confirmed to me that I had a very sick chicken. I considered the possibility that she was egg bound, so ran a warm sink of water and gave her a soak. She lay on my hand looking miserable. Gently, I felt her abdomen for a stuck egg. I found nothing. After a few minutes, I lifted her from the water and wrapped her in a towel.
As usual with a chicken crisis, my first port of call was Twitter and the amazing chicken community which exists there. Several fellow chook keepers agreed with the egg bound theory, so Mabel was given yet another warm bath. Her vent continued to pulsate, but all that she produced was a thin foul smelling liquid. It was suggested that I examined her vent more intimately. Steeping myself against the horror, I oiled up my index finger and...probed. This got a reaction from Mabel. She attempted to leave the vicinity rather sharpish, so I decided enough probing had been done. We avoided eye contact and I bleached my hand. If only there was brain bleach.
With a sick hen and no obvious cause, we made our way to the vet. The vet gave Mabel the once over, and found her temperature to be on the low side. He was also unable to feel any obvious blockage in her internal gubbins. Her comb and face are red and healthy looking. There is no obvious sign or worms or parasites. Her weight and general condition seems good. With a scratch of his head, the vet decided that Mabel may have some kind of internal infection. He gave her a shot of baytril and has sent me home with more medicine to treat her with.
So now my beautiful top hen is situated in the pet carrier in the lounge next to a heater. She is sat, hunched, in her box. I managed to get her to eat some sloppy porridge earlier, but she has no interest now. She is sleeping a lot. If I knew what was wrong with her I'd feel a bit better about the whole thing.
Unfortunately, we just have to wait and see.