I’m still standing

Big Vet doesn’t want you to read this post.

Chickens, famously, do not have teeth.

Instead they have gizzards, A gizzard is a kind of bag betwixt beak and stomach in which foodstuff is ground by little bits of stone and the like that they pick up from their surroundings—grit. Gizzards are muscular organs, as they need to be able to grind items as hard as wheat and sweetcorn kernels. This is probably why they were the source material for the production of a protein that was the subject of a certain thesis.

Gizzards, or more commonly ‘crops’, are subject to a range of disorders, and in particular, “pendulous, or spastic” crop, which “occurs when the crop muscle becomes stretched and the crop will fill to a massive size“.

We got our first three hens in February 2020. This was an undertaking totally unrelated to Covid, although you might be forgiven for thinking we were going into survivalist mode. One of the hens suffered from a massive gastrointestinal tumour and had to be put down in the first week of 2021.

We got two more hens in the February. One came into lay and then 2 months later had a prolapsed vent and died. The other, Artemis, developed a pendulous crop. After that, we changed our supplier.

But Artemis (Arty to her friends) is still alive today, and that’s what I want to talk about.

A pendulous crop is, according to the veterinary profession, a death sentence. Without being able to grind her food, the affected hen will starve to death in the midst of plenty.

I took Arty to the vet in Maidstone—a 25-minute drive away. Poultry vets are few and far between because chickens are not really kept as pets, and commercially, if a chicken gets sick it’s goodbye chicken, thanks for all the eggs.

However, an hour and about £150 later I came away with little hope and seven syringes of an intramuscular injection, the name of which I forget, that the vet said might (might) stimulate the muscles of the crop to contract properly and save Arty’s life.

Yeah, learning how to give i.m. injections into the breast of a chicken wasn’t on my bucket list but here we are.

And, you know what, it worked.

For about a month. And then the pendulous returned, and I thought that’s it, thanks for all the eggs.

Until we came across the concept of chicken bras.

There’s a little place that makes these things, just for this sort of condition, and Arty has been wearing one (or two, because she keeps snagging them off on the various branches in the run) for the last 3 years, almost.

And the damn things work, and she’s been laying eggs like a normal hen, but with a natty blue and white bra.

Arty (left), trying to avoid me

Arty (left), trying to avoid me. Rhea’s cool.

Okay, so she hides from me when I have to go into the pen to readjust her over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder (see ‘snagging’, above), and her crop is still pendulously huge if you take it off, but it works.

Big Veterinary does not want you to know this.

About rpg

Scientist, poet, gadfly
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