Just when I thought it was safe to go back to the hen house, a whole new chicken problem slaps me in the face.

Apparently, trimming a chicken’s toenails with a Dremel or sticking my finger up a chicken’s butt just wasn’t enough.  Now I’m dealing with a condition called Vent Gleet.  Yes, it’s as disgusting as it sounds.  But I’m actually relieved that it’s Vent Gleet and not Egg Peritonitis.

The girls have been laying really well, but this past week, egg production suddenly dropped.  We went from getting two or three eggs a day, to one egg every other day.  The last three-egg day I can remember was a week ago today.

This evening, while we were playing outside after supper, I grabbed Barbra (or Judy, I can’t tell them apart anymore) and realized that she had a soft, swollen abdomen.  Also, they’ve both got dirty butts.  I immediately consulted Doctor Google who told me it was Egg Peritonitis and there was no cure and great suffering and death were imminent.  Egg Peritonitis, from what I understand, is internal laying.  The chicken ovulates, but instead of the yolk going through the proper process all the way to the shell, it gets deposited somewhere in the abdomen, where it usually causes a great infection, and the hen dies.  The end.

There is a reason I am not a vet.  I cannot emotionally handle a sick animal.  It sends me into a tizzy.

Well, I thought, if they’re going to die no matter what, the least I can do is give them a warm bath to clean their butts and maybe soothe their muscles and help them to absorb all those unlaid yolks deposited in their abdomens.

I got Barbra (or Judy) inside and into a warm bath.  She didn’t put up too much fuss, but at one point she tried to jump out of the tub, and must’ve broke off her toe nail too close to the quick.  I noticed she was bleeding after I put her back in the coop.  Sigh.  I just want happy, healthy animals.  I treated the broken nail with some antiseptic and put her back to bed.

I returned to Doctor Google to see if there was anything else I could possibly do.  Then I remembered my favourite chicken website – Fresh Eggs Daily.  Maybe Lisa had some advice for treating this condition.  That’s when I read her description of Vent Gleet – soft, swollen abdomen, dirty butts, diarrhea, whitish discharge – usually caused by an imbalance of bad bacteria in a chicken’s digestive tract.  Although not contagious, it can, obviously, show up in multiple flock members since they have experienced the same conditions.  A flood of relief washed over me.  This is what I could not understand about Doctor Google’s original diagnosis – how could two of my hens have Egg Peritonitis at the same time?  It seemed really improbable.  But Vent Gleet makes total sense.  This I can treat.  Vent Gleet is not a death sentence.

I think I know what may have caused it as well.  I recently made up a batch of Breakfast of Champion layers for them, and they love to pick through it and fling their food all over the ground.  Then poop on it.  Then eat it.  Hmmmmm . . . bad bacteria in a chicken’s digestive track, you say?

Solution?  First, scrape out the run and fill with new dirt/sand mixture.  Second, offer chickens a “molasses flush” (1/2 cup of molasses per gallon of water) for several hours, then water with Apple Cider Vinegar in it, and one tablespoon of yogurt per chicken per day.  Also, add probiotic powder to their feed.

Honestly, I’m going into my fourth year of keeping chickens, and every time I think, “This is it.  I now know everything about keeping chickens,” a new problem arises and knocks me upside the head.  Silly me.  I’ll never know everything about raising chickens.  Homesteading is not for the faint of heart.