Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Monday, 16 February 2009

The patient patient

WARNING: If you're of a squeamish disposition, you're advised to not read any further.

The grande dame of the senior under-gardeners, Ruby, was looking even more matronly than usual. Her proud bosom (I know hens don't really have a bosom) stuck out as if she had a Christmas pudding stuffed under her breast feathers. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw her hiccup – oh dear, something was up. Hen-keeping is jolly fun until one of your flock is off colour, then it can get very stressful. Help is at hand in the form of books, friendly fellow hen-keepers and the very, very useful website Poultry Chat. A quick look in the 'Feeding and Healthcare' section confirmed my suspicions . . . Ruby has Sour Crop.

The recommended treatment is described in graphic detail here. A gentler alternative treatment can be found on Wendy's blog. Ruby's crop felt very squishy and when she burped the smell was foul (sic) – I held her upside down by the legs and from her beak spewed a lot of very smelly liquid :-O When back on her feet she shook her feathers and looked at me; I apologised. I then gently placed her in Ward 1A . . .

Ruby's usual diet is varied and experimental, as well as her ration of layers pellets and mixed corn she eats large quantities of grass and other vegetation, worms, any passing amphibian and mice she grabs from the jaws of the studio assistants – no wonder the delicate balance of flora in her crop has gone wonky and the content is fermenting like the IPA vats at the Green King Brewery. I needed to get some 'good bacteria' into the mix – but how was I going to persude her to eat yogurt?!

Into Ward 1A I placed a sturdy soup mug containing water to which I'd added that universal dicky-hen panacea Apple Cider Vinegar and garlic and alongside a small glass pot of live organic yogurt, I sat this within a larger plastic tray so Ruby couldn't kick it over or fill it with bits of straw and sawdust.

Ruby walked over to the offerings and eyed them suspiciously, then she ate all the yogurt! She woofed down the lot and didn't burp. I gave her a reassuring pat.

Ruby's being such a patient patient. Let's hope the yogurt does the trick!


  1. Oh dear! I hope Ruby feels better soon!

  2. Poor Ruby! Fortunately I gather it's one of the 'least worst' things a hen can suffer from. Yoghurt's usually enjoyed by hens that DON'T have sour crop too. I've heard of hen-keepers having to beat the others back (metaphorically) so the poorly one can get at the medicine!
    Here's hoping she's soon out of sick bay.

  3. Poor old Ruby - that does sound rather nasty (and for you too Celia - ee). Eating frogs and rodents? Gracious - that is a varied diet for a hen! = Clever girl to gobble up her medicine with such gusto though. It sounds as though she'll soon be better. Emma x

  4. Oh poor Ruby! That sounds absolutely horrid - for both of you.

  5. They do love their yoghurt! If it gets serious you can get Nystan/Nystatin from the vet - it's generally the children's oral suspension and they hate it, but it does the trick. You can mix it into their water but I prefer to syringe it down them neat as penance for worrying me...

  6. I hope the patient is on the mend-it's always a worry when our creatures go sick.

  7. Good girl, eating all her yoghurt (my girls LOVE it but they don't get it often). I agree that it is very stressful when they get sick. She sounds like a very good patient and hopefully will get some treats when she is bright eyed and fluffy tailed again. Get well soon Ruby - the Under-Gardeners need you back!

  8. You and Wendy, hen witches that you are, give wonderful, if occasional whiffy, experiences of hen keeping, and how I envy you. But reading the blog is a good second best, sans the beautiful taste of egginess, of course! What a shame this process of yoghurt, apple cider vinegar, garlic, and sour crop does produce a drinkable Indian Pale Ale, now that would be perfect hen!
    How long will she be Nil By Mouth? Many regards F

  9. Ruby will probably come right in a few days.
    And for the readers who think hens can't eat mice - in the wild they do and even my old girls chased down, caught, then squabbled for a mouse once.And woe betide unwary skinks.

  10. Ruby's grateful for all your kind thoughts.

    This morning she's tucking in to porridge oats and yogurt. Her symptoms have definitely improved. I think she'll return to the hen-house tonight and join in with the under-gardeners 'digging-up-the-lawn project' tomorrow!

    Wendy - thank you for the tip about Nystan, she may need some if the symptoms come back.

    Hen-witch Celia
    (good one Woodland Fay!)

  11. Oh Ruby,
    Get well soon. What a dedicated owner you are. xx

  12. Tell her to keep her pecker up! Hope she is feeling better soon.

  13. good girl, ruby! who needs a cat when you have chickens? :)

  14. Get well soon Ruby! You learn something new evey day!

  15. Oh poor Ruby. I do hope that shw's better soon.


I love reading all the comments (except for spam and advertising which I will delete) and I'll reply here in the comments under each blog post, it may take a few days if I'm busy.
You don't need to have a blog to leave a comment, you can select the name/URL option and fill in just your name instead of a blog link.