It is with a broken heart I have to share with you that Emily passed away last night at the vet.
As you know Emily suddenly became ill on Sunday morning. We discovered her with a swollen vent (the area where both eggs and feces pass) with discharge and scabbing/necrotic tissue. We followed our pre-established medical emergency protocol, starting with an assessment of the emergency, administration of pain management medication we had on hand, followed by seeking veterinary intervention.
Most veterinary clinics do not see farmed animals. Even less are open on weekends. That leaves a very select few which see farmed animal emergencies “after hours”. We called every single vet within a 3.5 hour radius to see if we could be seen. Absolutely none had a veterinarian who would see a chicken. A couple of vets tried to give advice over the phone. One recommended a cream that was, in fact, toxic to birds. Another shared that we knew more than he did and “could probably just throw a stitch in there”. The lack of access to veterinary care and knowledge for rescue chickens is a huge issue in eastern Ontario. Most chickens are not kept as rescues. Most are farmed, and thus to the agriculture and farm vet industries they have very little value in being kept alive. You can purchase a chick from a hatchery for $2. They are killed in the hundreds of millions. Most are never named.
But we see Emily’s value as a unique individual and we are so thankful you saw her value, too.
Emily didn’t have it easy. She was surrendered to us in November. Her owner stated she were moving across seas in January. However, in late October we received a message that Emily and her sisters would be killed if we did not take her before the first frost. She was living in a 2x2 box that was not prepared for winter and would have frozen to death. When she arrived she was infested with lice. She had a case of bumble foot which is an infection on the foot pad, likely because she didn’t have any perches in her box, and she required weekly bandage changes on her feet. She would get pool noodle disks on the bottom of her feet that we always called her space boots. She never complained once about having them on and just went about her life. In a quick four weeks she was healed. An absolute champion.
Emily and her sisters were named "The Henmaids" because of their girl-gang mentality, always sticking close together (they actually developed a habit of sleeping in a pile because of their upbringing). Because of how she was discarded to us, Emily is one of the reasons why we advocate so strongly against backyard hens. Luckily we could be there for her, and also lucky for us she came to us. She was a sweet little girl. Even though she was a bit skittish at first, she quickly warmed up to us and became comfortable enough to dust bathe and relax while we were in the run together. Her gentle nature was beautiful to witness. Her excitement at orange lentils was so pure. I wish we had more time to explore life together.
All day on Sunday and Monday we continued doing everything we knew how. We gave administered pain meds and syringe fed her every few hours, we gave her warm butt baths to help circulation of the necrotic issue making sure to warm a towel in the dryer and give her cuddles after every bath to dry her off. We applied Matsuka honey which acted as an antibacterial lubricant which also helped reduce swelling. Mid-day we noticed she wasn’t able to pass an egg and so shaking and crying I helped massage the egg out (if an egg breaks inside a chicken it is very very bad). We consulted in over a dozen chicken-owning groups, with vet techs and fellow sanctuary owners leaving absolutely no stone unturned.
We were finally able to secure veterinary care with an appointment on Monday at 5pm. At the veterinary clinic Emily had a thorough exam. A second soft-shelled egg with a a crack was discovered. Her vent was cleaned, she received subcutaneous fluids and an injection of calcium. Because of the second stuck egg a medication was given that would mimic contractions, allowing Emily to pass the egg. Sadly, within a couple of minutes of this medication Emily passed away. Her frail body could not keep up with the challenge of passing an egg. We are thankful her passing was very quick.
Emily’s veterinary & after life care came to $1027.94.
Thanks to you we raised $720 of that.
Receiving donations, even when the outcome is the complete opposite of what we hoped for, is so important to our microsanctuaury. When we accept surrendered chickens we are saying yes to ensuring they will be treated with the same dignity and respect a beloved companion animal would. You helped us make sure she had the best possible chance, that she was pain free and cared for every second of her life with us. It’s hard to not see her recover from this. We are absolutely heartbroken, but we will uplift her memory through this blog post, sharing her life and her struggles so that others can learn the value of a chicken’s life.
I wanted to share some information about egg-laying chickens from Open Sanctuary's website:
A modern “egg-laying” hen has been bred to lay between 250 and over 300 large eggs in a year. Considering that it takes around a day for an egg to be formed, this means that these hens could be in the midst of producing an egg year round- a highly taxing and potentially dangerous process; egg overproduction can lead to fatal reproductive tract diseases such as cancer, egg yolk impactions, peritonitis, egg binding, and malnutrition and osteoporosis. Although a domesticated chicken can live on average between ten and fifteen years, hens bred for heavy egg production typically live closer to five years due to health complications related to egg production. In the commercial egg industry, hens are killed when their egg production or health declines, typically between one to two years old. Male offspring of “egg-laying” hens are killed shortly after birth as they hold little value to commercial egg production.
Despite what you’d think given her ultimate passing, Emily is lucky. 83 percent of hens raised in Canadian egg farms still spend their entire lives in wire cages. Emily was 9 months old. She lived 4 short but beautiful months with us. She was loved from the second we met her and she will be loved through her memory, through us continuing to advocate and care for her flock until the day we meet her again.