Monday, April 12, 2010

Good-Bye Sophia

A sad week here on the farm for sure. A couple days ago we lost a hen to a fox, I know it was a fox because I saw it running from the direction of the barn like the next day, I think it was still hungry..... Five of the fertilized eggs have been eaten and last night we lost another hen. I noticed a few days ago that she was a bit droopy and thought like another hen she was egg bound. I had to help another hen a while back who was clearly 'stuck' but this was different. Saturday night I spent quite a bit of time with Sophia doing what had worked with the other hen ...............and nothing. Sunday morning came................and nothing. So I hopped back online to see if there was something else I could do for her. I read a number of suggestions but one that kept popping up was to but her in a warm soapy bath to help relax the muscles.

Let me say here that I was pretty certain she was going to die, I just had that feeling, but wanted to try to help her, I don't like to see suffering. I am a caretaker of creation, I am responsible for the lives of the animals I have been blessed with and felt like I had to try if for no other reason to ease her pain. A word that I don't use to describe pain is excruciating, the reason being is the literal translation means out of the cross. His pain was so bad there was not word for it they had to come up with another word to describe it. I've been in some serious pain, an all time high was running to the bathroom to vomit a few hours after my second c-section, but will not call that pain excruciating. What was experienced on the cross was unfathomable and for which I am grateful. Knowing what I know now I would say my poor hen was probably in excruciating pain.

Sunday night I put her in a warm soapy bath and saw her physically relax. I raised chickens for 4-H and showed them at the fairs, in order to do well it is suggested that you bathe them. I'll tell you there is a reason for the expression "madder than a wet hen." Sophia did not kick, fight, flap or try to get out, she honestly seemed to enjoy it; in fact she even cooed a couple times. After a while she did act like she wanted to get out, so I lifted her out and towel dried her as best I could. I kept her in the house so she didn't have to go back to the barn and catch a chill. I brought in a cat carrier lined with clean hay, placed her inside and checked on her frequently. She was alive when I went to bed about midnight, I know it may sound crazy but I prayed for her last night. My prayer was for her suffering to end, that her egg/eggs would pass or He would take her home. My prayer was answered, when we checked on her this morning she had passed.

Please note: The following may upset some readers, it is graphic. (no pictures)

While researching ways to help my poor little hen yesterday I came across some graphic pictures. I'll spare you the details of what I saw, suffice it to say they were of the reproductive system of a hen. Today after discovering our hen had passed I needed to know why. I cannot explain why, maybe it was because what I tried failed, maybe it was morbid curiosity, maybe it was pure frustration of not knowing, who knows, I needed to see for myself. I'll tell you I'm glad I did. I donned a pair of rubber gloves, laid a thick pile of newspapers on the floor and opened up my hen. What I found was shocking. Clearly she had been egg bound for a while. I knew they were not laying well, but figured that it was because of the molt and winter. What I found was a mass of eggs in various stages of development smashed together and completely filled both of my hands!!! It likely weighed close to two pounds or so. I felt so bad for the hen I nearly cried, the pain she must have been in and for how long? The mass of eggs were too numerous to count and too smashed together, but if I had to estimate I'd say well over thirty! I'll tell you it was awful! As awful as it was I'm glad I had the chutzpah to do it and put my mind at ease. I'll also mention that I did see a few spots in the sack that held the mass that were reason for concern. I don't know if they were cancer, gangrene. infection or what, it just didn't look right. My hunch is cancer, and I would not be the least bit surprised. But that's a soapbox for another day.

I apologize if you are grossed out by this post or if you find it disturbing, I just wanted to be honest and truthful about the good, glorious, bad and certainly unpleasant side of things on a farm.


  1. Thank you for sharing this- I hope one day to have chickens of my own and this kind of information is very useful, and not the sort of thing you read in mainstream media. I'm sorry that you lost her, but glad that she is in peace and is no longer in pain.

  2. I'm so sorry! I just had to take four of my chickens out of the main flock. They were getting badly pecked. We saw some blood today but I'm hoping by separating them they will heal up rather than get infected.

  3. try spraying them with blu-kote. not anything red, thet'll keep pecking at it.

  4. I'm so sorry to hear about your hen. They give us so much and it is very heart wrenching to see them suffer. We lost a hen a little while back and had to try to explain death to our 6 year old for the first time. I hope you are your kids are ok.

  5. I'm catching up on some back posts of yours that I haven't had time to read on a daily basis and while this makes me VERY sad that you lost Sophie, it also is, as the other commenter says, VERY helpful. I have a few hens right now, but am expecting 30 more in May, and I need to know these things. I don't know if I would have had the stomach to do what you did, but I think it is necessary and useful information, so I'm glad that you did. I'm sorry for you, and your hen, but thank you, sincerely, for taking care of her and finding that out.


So what's the view from your world about that? I'd enjoy hearing it.