Sick Chicken In the House – The Amazing Part

Resting comfortably.

Resting comfortably.

I had to take my sweet Sofia, a hen we took in from a neighbor last year, into the vet yesterday. I had been keeping an eye on her for a few days. She was not getting off the roost in the morning and was looking listless and keeping to herself more than usual.

I call her Short Beak because (you guessed it) her beak is clipped. She’s a total sweetie, but is definitely an outlier in the barnyard. Her integration into the flock wasn’t bad, yet she’s never really become “one of the girls”.

She wasn’t on the roost Sunday night at my final check.  I picked her up and she BARFED. Boy, was I surprised! When she did it AGAIN the next day I knew I had a sick chicken on my hands.

Now, here’s where one story becomes two.  I will write later this week about our medical journey, which if you’re a chicken owner, you might find interesting. (As of this post, she is resting comfortably – no worries.)

However, my favorite part of this experience is the reaction of all the other animals in the barnyard.

These animals are a family.  I am positive they know each other, they keep track of each other, they NOTICE when something is amiss. (I really, really wish I had more photos of this. But when you’ve got a sick chicken, sometimes the camera is not a priority.)

When I went to check on Short Beak after barf #2, she was alone in the back of the barnyard.  I picked her up and immediately noticed her crop was HUGE and spongy and, well, wrong.  I walked around with her for a few minutes, telling her I was going to help get her well.  As I walked to the gate, Doink blocked my exit.  He’s as long as the gate is wide.  If he doesn’t move, I’m not leaving.  I SWEAR he looked at me as if to say, “What exactly are you doing with her?”

I am a true believer that animals are deeply empathetic – they know stuff.  I followed my heart and told Doink, out loud, as if to a young child, “She’s sick, I’m going to help her get well.”  He looked at me, snuffled, and moved aside.  I SWEAR.  As I left the barnyard, I looked back and they were ALL at the gate looking at me with Short Beak in my arms.  Liberty crowed.

Short Beak spent the night in a dog crate in the house.  I put her outside mid-morning to give her a bit of fresh air and change her bedding.

Tail up, nice red comb.  I've got my fingers crossed she's gonna be ok.

Tail up, nice red comb. I’ve got my fingers crossed she’s gonna be ok.

Less than one minute later, Liberty started making a racket.  I watched Short Beak as she scurried to the barnyard fence where Liberty was standing.  They paced together up and down the fence line.

Horrid photo, I know.  But they marched up and down this fence as if a Sousa march was playing.

Horrid photo, I know. But they marched up and down this fence as if a Sousa march was playing.

I have only removed one other hen, Louise, from the barnyard into our backyard – and did it because Liberty was so abusive toward her.  I did it three times, and twice she flew over the fence back into the barnyard. That rooster has some kind of control over those hens!

Short Beak has been quiet in the crate.  A little food, a little water.  On the road to recovery, I hope.  Her vocalizations are soft, with what seems like a bit of yearning.  I’m sure she’d rather be with her feathered friends.

As I roamed the barnyard today, scooping poop, kicking around the latest snow (will it EVER stop) and realizing the grass that was growing there last year might not be coming back, I took stock of the animals.   They seemed “off”.  Is it me? Or do they know she’s missing?

(Shared at Clever Chicks Blog Hop,  Homestead Barn HopBackyard Farming Connection HopThe Country Homemaker HopDown Home Blog Hop, The HomeAcre HopLink Love Thursday, Farm Girl Blog FestFarm Fun FridayFarmgirl Friday Blog HopThe Coop Hop and TALU Tuesday!)


  1. Oh no I’m sorry to hear your Sofia isn’t feeling good. Okay I didn’t know chickens threw up !!! really… can’t wait to read your next post. I hope she is doing better.

    I’m with you, I think animals are aware when someone comes in or out. At least my guys and girls are. We are experiencing a warm up over I hope it will work it’s way east and bring you some sunshine and warmer temps too.

    Have a great day!
    A View From A Brown Dog recently posted…What’s Growin on….

    • Just got home from a while out in town. She seems to be doing…ok. I won’t say great. This has been quite the learning experience for me!

      It’s a BEAUTIFUL sunny day here. I’ve got my new scooter (VEH Don’s Christmas gift to me) all registered and insured – I’m hoping an inaugural ride tomorrow!

      • Yeah sounds fun, I hope you got to take it for a hot lap. I was just checking back in to see how your Sofia is doing?
        A View From A Brown Dog recently posted…Birthdays

        • She’s back in the coop and holding her own for now. I would have posted about her continuing recovery, but it’s too beautiful outside to sit indoors in front of a computer! I’ll have the whole saga up tomorrow 🙂

  2. I think the antics of the rooster with the hen are amazing. They really are in charge and they show it. I’m glad to hear your little lady is on the mend.
    Rachel E. recently posted…Homemade Ricotta and a Scrubby for Dishes

    • The vet didn’t say much. I was DEFINITELY at the wrong vet. She was, however, very nice.

      It was sour crop, I’m sure of it. She’s still on the mend, but back with the flock!

  3. I totally know what you mean about the flock acting up when something changes. They all know something is going on if I carry one of the chickens away. They pick up on everything!

    So sorry your hen is sick. Sounds like sour crop to me. Hope she continues to improve!
    Tammy/Our Neck of the Woods recently posted…Once Upon a Flock: Review and Giveaway!

  4. Here from the HomeAcre Hop. I have a sick chicken in my house right now but I don’t think her story will end as happily. Glad your’s is feeling better.

  5. I’m glad to hear that she is on the mend. Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick
    Kathy Shea Mormino, The Chicken Chick recently posted…Once Upon a Flock Book Introduction Giveaway! 3/21/13

  6. I believe you! You’re probably right. Isn’t that interesting. Have you ever seen Chicken Run? I had to watch to write a paper on teamwork otherwise I never would have given it the time of day. But I wonder if whoever wrote that story new chickens very well.
    Kenya G. Johnson recently posted…Tuesday Archive Link Up #40

  7. I had no ideas chickens threw up, but firmly believe animals have a sense of what is going on around them. Glad she is feeling better and you were able to see how much of a “family” the animals really are with each other.
    Rhonda recently posted…My Kind of Crazy

    • I believe it takes a village. Mine includes chickens. You’re right – they totally know what’s happening around them! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  8. Love that Doink got in on the act too. You see it all the time – different species stepping up to take care of one another. Would be nice if more people did that!! Hope she’s OK now.
    🙁 [#TALU]
    Chris at Hye Thyme Cafe recently posted…Thai Chicken Pizza

  9. Oh they know alright, they know. I’ve seen it time and time again. Hope she feels better soon!

    Sorry I’m so late getting over to read your post. Thanks for linking this up with the TALU!
    Anne Kimball recently posted…Farm Friday: KITTENS!