I knew this day would come, but was hoping she'd last a few more years. Poor Rosemary at four and a half years old has bit the dust.
I had noticed several months back she had been a bit sluggish and breathing was a bit heavier when she was roosting at night but I thought maybe it was just due to old chicken age. I saw she had a trail of flies following her bottom and when I examined her that she had flystrike. I won't go into the details of this condition (because it is super gross and I don't want to cause you to lose your last meal) but I cleaned her up the best I could and have been treating her, gave her some antibiotics, wormer, etc. I noticed when doing this her abdomen below her bottom is HUGE and swollen. It is squishy and likely filled with fluid--apparently this condition is called ascites.
Apparently for ascites you can drain the bird with a needle syringe and they may last months or years longer. However, a lot of times it's caused by liver disease, cancer, congestive heart failure, or some other serious illness :( I had isolated her in a pet cage with food and water on the screened in porch so she could live out her last few days in peace and quiet and it would keep the flies out. We drained her some and wasn't sure if she would make it. She improved with the isolation and we were able to put her back outside with the flock for another three or so months. However, she fell back into the same predicament and unfortunately we had to put her down to end her suffering.
I will miss dear Rosemary, as she was the last living hen from my original first flock that I acquired back in the spring of 2010. She was an old-timer and had survived many a predator strike. She was not afraid to try new treats and goodies that I set before the flock (unlike some of the other chickens) and during her lifetime she hatched out and mothered one brood of chicks. She was indeed the matriarch of my flock.
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