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Tulip the Ameraucana Has Passed Away

27 April 2012

Queen Tulip 2009-2012

Tulip, the Ameraucana, also called an Easter Egger because she lays green eggs, has been sick for six months now and passed away yesterday afternoon. She had what is called egg yolk peritonitis, also called “internal laying”. It is something that backyard hen owners struggle with because our hens provide us with eggs but are also our pets and live longer than commercial egg producers so are susceptible to organ malfunction.

Egg peritonitis is the result of an egg yolk initially moving into the abdomen rather than being “captured” by the fimbrae at the top of the oviduct. In a normal egg cycle, the ovary releases a single ovum (yolk) which is picked up by the fimbrae at the top of the oviduct. Birds have only one oviduct. The egg passes down through the oviduct picking up albumin (egg white), the egg membrane, and then the egg shell, before being passed out through the cloaca. The cloaca also has the ureters from the kidneys and the rectum passing urine and feces through the same exit point.

We knew Tulip had problems when she began laying those huge rubber eggs (shell-less eggs) several months ago. She was treated with antibiotics but showed no improvement. Oh, it was hard to watch.

Husband Don and I made a “no vet” agreement when I got the chicks but I broke down and made an appointment to see one. We never got there. Because prognosis for this disease in chickens is poor, I pretty much knew that Tulip would be euthanized. There was the possibility that the vet might suggest major surgery to remove her “egg maker” but I don’t think I would have agreed to that.

Yesterday, she stayed inside the little coop until late morning, then joined the others who were scratching around in the garden. She stretched out on her side, absorbing the sun. When I locked the other hens back in the run, I put Tulip in a little crate in the garden shed with food and water. She lay down, and never got up. By nightfall, she was dead.

We buried Tulip near Rosie who passed away two winters ago. She is no longer in pain but Husband Don and I are sad. I didn’t sleep well last night. Our original flock of six is down to three. Three really wonderful hens that are now over three years old. There will be decisions to make but I’m not in the mood to make them. Loving and caring for animals is both joyful and heartbreaking. I’m experiencing the latter now.

 

Hatchery Chicks or Breeder Chicks for Your Backyard

3 February 2016
Six hens raised from hatchery stock.

Here are our six hens. All raised from hatchery stock.

Adding chicks to your backyard flock is no easy task. First you need to decide on the breeds you want. Then you need to decide whether to get hatchery chicks or breeder chicks for your backyard.

Seven years ago, I bought six hatchery chicks from a farm supply store. All looked healthy but all but one developed “egg-making” problems during the first five years of life. The Silver-laced Wyandotte (SLW) and the Golden-laced Wyandotte (GLW) both laid eggs with thin shells. They also had “personality problems” and were problem chicks. The Buff Orpington (BO) had a problem with eggs breaking inside her. The Rhode Island Red (RIR) just plain old laid down and died at 1 1/2 years. The Easter Egger (EE) had egg peritonitis.

The two I got as replacements came from a local farm and have been much healthier. no egg-laying problems at all. I’d like to get my three new pullets also farm raised or from a breeder but I’ll have to wait until they have the breeds I want. I am determined to not get hatchery chicks. I don’t need hens to lay huge eggs every day of the week. It means more to me that they are healthy and and live longer. Perhaps breeder chicks are best for your backyard flock.

Perusing “Backyard Chickens forum” I found this advice and I’d like to pass it on to you:

Answer from Speckled Hen (moderator):

“Take it from someone who has had 10 or 11 hatchery hens, plus one daughter of a hatchery hen, die of EYP and/or internal laying: Get better stock. None of my good quality breeder stock has died from this malfunction, not one, at least so far. That tells you something. And I mean quality stock, not just someone who bought hatchery stock and is propagating it and calling themselves a breeder.
Hatcheries do not breed for longevity. I mean, why would they? Add that to the fact that chicken hens are the only animal on the planet that suffer from spontaneous ovarian tumors just like human women and it’s a wonder any live past the age of two.

None of my BBS Ameraucanas have died from it. The oldest is going on 5 now. None of my Delawares have died from it. They are over 3 now. None of my breeder Orps have died from it, only one hatchery Buff Orp hen did. In fact, none of my breeder type Orps, both BBS and Buff, have had any egg issues whatsoever. These all came from really good breeders. It’s not the actual breed, but the quality of the stock, from my experience.

The further you get from the first generation hatchery stock, the better, IMO. Even mixed breed chickens may be better than “purebred” hatchery hens. I haven’t had any trouble out of my crosses except one, though I’m watching one right now who may have an issue.  No hen is immune, of course, but your chances are better away from the common hatchery stock.”

This make sense to me. I’m going to start looking for a breeder here on the Central Coast. Not just one who raises hatchery chicks and then sells them at a later age but one who actually hatches them. Know of one on the Central Coast? Let me know by leaving a comment. I will be grateful and so will others.

Hatchery hens on roost.

Six good breeds going to roost in the evening. These beautiful hens were raised from hatchery stock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six Hens

2 February 2010

“Daisy” is a fluffy Buff Orpington. A big, beautiful blond. Sweet, tame, the first to greet us, the first to be on our laps when we sit nearby. She is somewhat “motherly” to the other hens, although she’ll never hatch eggs and be a mother because we have no rooster. She was the first to lay an egg and has laid an egg every day for the first three months of her adulthood. If I had to pick one breed of chicken for a backyard hen project, I’d pick Buff Orpingtons. Daisy died at the age of 5 1/2 years. She remained sweet, friendly, and calm her whole life. We miss her.

 

 

 

“Sweetpea” is just as her name implies. A cuddler by nature, she’s the only hen who will sit still for any length of time, sometimes closing her eyes and enjoying the lap of a human as her coop-mates hop off and on human knees. Her breed, Barred (or Plymouth) Rock, are known to be good layers of light-brown eggs, steady and quiet hens. If you look carefully at Sweetpeas’s comb, you can see a chunk missing in the back. One of the other hens became annoyed with Sweetpea, pecked her, and tore off a piece of her comb. We encourage Sweetpea to stand up to the Wyandottes but it is not in her nature. At age six now, she is still friendly and gets along well with her two younger companions, Penny and Ginger.

 

 

“Poppy” is strickingly beautiful. A Silver-laced Wyandotte with black and white feathers, she is also the most temperamental of our six hens (see story “A Problem Chicken”). Poppy likes to have her back scratched by humans since there is not rooster around to do it for her. She is still high-strung and has a tendency to chase the chickens that are lower on the “pecking order”. Poppy lays beautiful light-brown eggs. She passed away at the age of five.

 

 

 

 

 

“Rosie” is our little Rhode Island Red. No flock is complete without this standard breed. She lays eggs that are medium brown in color. Rosie is our little “chow hound”. When we are in the garden, she watches our every move, hoping we’ll find a tidbit such as a snail or a potato bug for her to devour. She grabs food away from the other hens and if we carry in a bowl of treats to the hens, she will jump into the air to reach for it. She reminds us of our “late” Chocolate Labrador Retriever who would do anything for food. Rosie is now “late” herself. She died in early January 2011 (see “Rosie Passed Away”). I can’t bear to take her picture off this site because she was so much a part of our flock. We miss her. I would like to get another Rhode Island Red. They are consistent layers and good pets.

 

 

The name “Petunia” sounds so sweet and Petunia looks sweet. But Petunia is not! She is the most timid of all the hens and is quick to run if we reach to pick her up. The pretty Golden-laced Wyandotte is quick to snap at other hens and can be downright cruel to Rosie and Sweetpea, pecking their heads if they come too close. Petunia could best be described as “edgy”, but she is a part of the flock and remarkably beautiful. Petunia was one of those chickens that caused such chaos in the coop that we made the difficult decision to re-home her. See the story of Petunia’s new home here.

 

“Tulip” was one of the first three chicks we bought. She was (and still is) an observer. She watches the other hens, the humans, and is ever alert to danger. Her Ameraucana breed is known for laying blue or green eggs. Tulip’s are a light olive-green, very subtle and “tasteful” in color. Tulip usual lets the other hens eat first. She is in no hurry to grab a snack. She is the first, however, to dip her beak into the yogurt bowl. Tulip loves yogurt and cottage cheese. Tulip passed away on April 26, 2012, after suffering from a common disease of hens called egg yolk peritonitis. She was very pretty and very dear.

 

 

Penelope "Penny" and Ginger

“Penelope”, who we call “Penny”, and “Ginger”, came to us at about five months of age. Our neighbor, Jacob, raised them as a school project. Jacob did not know that they were laying eggs because they were “free ranging” in his yard and were good at hiding them. We were down to two old hens so I was glad to have these wonderful young layers. It was hard for Daisy and Sweetpea to accept these two young “upstarts”. The young hens had to sleep on a lower roost and wait until the two older hens had finished eating at the “treat bowl” before they could approach. It took about three weeks before things settled in.

 

 

 

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