You have been warned.
One morning in July, I opened the nest box to scoop out their droppings from the night before and I found this weird kind of fleshy mass in one of the piles of droppings under the roost. Of course, I could not just toss it out with the rest into my bin, I had to take it inside and DISSECT it.
I have had chickens for over two years and had never seen this before, nor have I heard it mentioned on the various forums and blogs I read. What does this mean? All four girls seemed happy and eating and running around like healthy chickens. It did occur to me however, one of my chickens has not been laying regularly for a couple of months and that these two incidents might be related. The Rhode Island Red, whom we creatively named, Red. But she has not appeared egg-bound, nor has she been waddling or showing any signs of internal laying that I could tell. To this point, I had attributed it to age.
My hubs walked into the kitchen as I had a kitchen knife in one hand, looked at my plate full of fleshy mass and asked what the heck I was doing, and then promptly left again, mumbling something about not wanting to know.
So I dissected the mass and took photos before and after and posted them to the Yahoo group PDXBackyardChix. For those of you that love watching ER or Real Surgery or are dying of curiosity you can see photos here, but again, I warn, they are graphically gross to the max. Here is another link to a thread where people are talking about similar things, I was referred to this by someone on the yahoo group. If you are living in the Portland metro area (or not, there are a number of members from across the US) this yahoo group is a great resource. There are quite a few old hats that regularly check the boards to answer newbie questions and concerns. I have personally learned a lot from this group.
Back to the mass. It seems that this is likely the result of a chicken that is internally laying. Apparently when something is inside the hen and begins to get infected the chicken's body envelops it in flesh like material to isolate it. Hence the weird mass. These masses have been found in chickens that died for no outwardly apparent reason....and they have been found in nest boxes of internal layers that go on with their chicken lives no problem. So what I take from this is that Red may live to tomorrow or she may flop over and be gone tonight, we will never know until it actually happens. She does occasionally lay an egg, maybe every 3-4 weeks or so, that are seemingly normal and she runs around foraging in our yard along with everyone else, quite happy. I think she may be older than I was told when I picked her up from her former owner in December of 2009, and that she is likely 3 or 4 years old now and her egg laying days are behind her. The rest of my girls are just over 2 years old. I think. I got Smores from the same flock as Red, so she may be a wildcard as well.
|Red doing her chicken thing.|