I walked out into the coop this week to find one of our leghorns in bad shape.  She was roosting very early in the evening when all the rest of the birds were still underfoot squawking away.  Recognizing this as strange behavior I took a closer look at her and saw that she had a prolapsed vent and had soiled herself.  It was bitter cold out and the poor thing had ice on her tail feathers.

I immediately brought her inside and started a warm bath.  She didn’t struggle at all when I put her in and the warm water seemed to relax her.  When I got her all cleaned up and dried off, she was set in a nice clean cage in the dining room to rest.  I hopped on google to find some answers, answers I didn’t really want to find.

A prolapsed vent can be fixed temporarily but will likely continue to be a problem for the chicken for the rest of her life. After talking with my husband, we decided we would attempt to save her, but knew that we may have to make the tough decision to put her out of her misery. We kept her cage dark for the majority of the day to try to keep her from laying eggs and doing more damage, the tough old girl laid one anyway.  For several days we bathed her then attempted to push the vent back into place. Each time it would get a little better, then a little worse.  It seemed her body wasn’t able to bounce back from this.

Today we made the tough decision to put the poor girl out of her misery.  She was suffering and if we didn’t cull her, she would have suffered further until it killed her.  This is the part of farming and homesteading that’s so hard.  There’s nothing nice about having to take an animal’s life.  It’s sad and I cry every time.  I’m trying to remember that she lived the best life a chicken could possibly live and we are doing her a favor by ending her pain.

I don’t think it will ever be easy to cull an animal, but it’s a necessary and unavoidable part of this lifestyle. It’s a good thing that it’s not easy.  It shouldn’t be easy to end a life.  We have the utmost respect for our livestock, they are treated with dignity in life and in death.  It’s not easy, but it’s the most painless, quick, and respectful death anyone could ask for.

It’s strange that on the very day that we had to end her life, life begins for the 29 hatching eggs sitting in our incubator.  When raising livestock, the life cycle is always right there, in your face, quick to end and eager to begin.