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!
Caught by the River Calder: Sunday
1 hour ago