Monday, 23 September 2013

Our hen has died

But it isn't the one you would think!  Our lovely Australorp hen Matilda has passed away.
After she came out of her broody state, she seemed happy enough to be the second hen.  But within a couple of weeks we noticed that she was doing some strange head rolling. At first she seemed to roll her head when she first entered the hen house or if I shone a torch into the house at night, so I thought it may be something to do with the change of light to dark that triggered her behaviour.   Then I thought it may be wry neck so was giving her water additives for strength. (Polyvisol Enfamil, vitamin E with selenium)
After a month the head rolling behaviour turned into complete fits.  She would flap and flail around in the house going backwards and stumbling around in circles.  One morning as she was about to come down the ramp she took a fit and rolled down the ramp.  I could pick her up and gently stroke her neck and it did seem to settle her quickly.  One evening I was peeking at them through their window so that I wouldn't disturb them and all of a sudden without any warning or reason Matilda flapped and flailed around in circles on the floor of their coop out of control.  I googled this condition but came up with nothing apart from electrolytes added to their water. (electrolytes are recommended for epilepsy)
We really hoped that these fits were related to an injury of some sort and that they would soon pass.  We were also intensely looking after our white hen Didee, so the sudden change from head rolling to full fits has shocked us.
After a few of these fits Matilda soon became demoted to third in the pecking order.  Due to all the flailing inside the coop her primary wing feathers gradually broke off and some of her other feathers were jutting out at odd angles - indicating a lack of grooming.  

She looked very sorry for herself with a shrunken comb and hunched down, although she always stayed with the other hens and was keen to be a part of normal foraging and scratching routines.
Matilda, top left, still part of the gang

The hen house is reasonably close to our bedroom window and one night we could hear her flailing around.  She had four fits that night which is just too many to be considered something that will soon pass, so I took her to the vets the next day.
The vet checked her over and found a small egg stuck inside her, but as the surgery was busy said she'd try to get it out after the others had all left and would phone us to collect her.  We did get a phone call but the vet said that the egg was impossible to remove and was obviously causing Matilda a lot of pain.  Along with the mysterious fits that the vet couldn't account for, the vet suggested she wasn't having a very enjoyable life and suggested putting her to sleep.  So we agreed.  We never saw our darling Matilda again.
Matilda in good times

She was a loving and kind top-hen.  Always personable and interested in her humans.  She will be greatly missed.


  1. So sorry to hear about poor Matilda.


  2. Oh no, I am so sorry about your Matilda. I just hate to hear this. It sounds to me like there was something neurologically wrong, but I don't know what. I would have suspected wry neck like you did and gave vitamins, but since she didn't get better after that I don't know what could have been causing her fits. I am so sorry :(


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