Two Sick Chickens: Juniper

I haven’t published a blog in a while, and it’s because I knew I would have to write this one next. Even trying to write this now, I’m not really sure what to say, so I’ll just say what happened. And maybe, someone somewhere will be going through the same thing and won’t feel alone.

Jujube/Juniper/Mini-chicken was the last to hatch, and the first to get a name. She quickly started to stand out amongst her hatch-mates because she wasn’t growing. She was eating, chirping, didn’t have pasty butt- everything checked out. She was just TINY. She also never ran from me when I would reach down into the brooder to try and snuggle with a baby peep.

The chicks had been in the big coop for about a week when I heard Jujube sneezing at the waterer. The sneezing soon turned into coughing, so I immediately isolated her, gave her some poly-vi-sol without iron, scrambled eggs, gave her Tylan 50, and then I started Googling.

I researched possible respiratory issues that would cause this constant, wheezing, drawn out coughing that shook her tiny little body; I can hear it even now. I had read typically by day 3 of Tylan, the less concerning respiratory issues should be showing signs of improvement. Well, that wasn’t happening. Thats when I started researching the more serious issues.

I treated her for a fungal infection, because it had been raining a lot so maybe their hay got wet and moldy. I would cover her crate with a blanket and run a cool mist vaporizer with an Oxine dilution for about 15 minutes, 3 times daily. That seemed to help initially, and then stopped helping. I then treated her for gape worm. That didn’t help. That’s when we went to the vet- Jujebe and Cosmo went together.

[In fact, they were both filmed for a reality show- Dr. K’s Exotic ER. Because Jujube didn’t pull through, they weren’t featured on the show.]

The vet gave her an exam and said her lungs sounded clear, so it wasn’t respiratory. They also did a fecal float test that came back clear. She was sent home with antibiotics and we were asked to come back for x-rays if she doesn’t improve. Well, she didn’t improve, and I waited too long to bring her back- 10 days after her initial consult. I was almost elated that day because the night before I had watched Jujube walk over to her food, peck and scratch and eat on her own for the first time in 5 weeks. I finally allowed myself to believe she’d be ok.

I made the hour drive to the vet on Saturday, July 14th. While there, she was given a physical and the vet made note that her abdomen felt strange; she described it as feeling like she was full of rocks. We took an x-ray, and the vet said she had never seen anything like it before. Jujube’s entire body cavity was filled with tiny, solid blips. We scheduled surgery for Monday.

After that vet visit, it was clear to me that we didn’t have much time. Knowing now that she wasn’t contagious, I brought her outside to the yard to peck around, eat bugs, and see her big brothers; and am I ever glad I did. Cosmo and Willow both ran right up to her and started to nuzzle and talk to her. They were so happy to see her. I sat on the ground and watched her be welcomed back into the flock. She slowly pecked at the dirt, surveyed the yard, stood close to her brothers, and laid down in the sunshine. I was hoping she’d take a dust bath, but alas.

She was filthy from being hand fed, so I decided to give her a warm bath. I lowered her into the water and she seemed to relax instantly. After several minutes of gently trying to work the food off her feathers, she began to cough uncontrollably, and she died in my hands.

Admittedly, I did not handle it well (I’ll spare you the gory details). I fought alongside this tiny little chicken for 6 weeks. We were in the trenches together- both of us cast in the light of my laptop while I read yet another article on chicken anatomy, covered in egg yolk, baby bird food, and [her] poop. I was so determined to get her well. I still had ideas; I still had some fight. She didn’t- and that’s ok. That little chicken fought a good fight. She was a just baby, but she was as tough as they come.

I still miss her very much; I didn’t expect it to hurt as badly as it did. Time has shown me that Jujube was so young, she likely hatched with the much-despised “failure to thrive”. I was probably licked before I started, but I did it anyway. It broke my heart, but I am so happy I got to know her.

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