After taking Harriet to the veterinarian, Robb and I now own the most expensive hen in all of Oakland. It may seem strange to rush a chicken off to the vet, but I knew that once birds show symptoms of illness you have to move quickly.
Thankfully, Harriet is not egg-bound. Instead, she seems to have some kind of dire digestive problem. She has lost interest in eating, and it terribly boney. (Don't let those fluffy feather fool you, her keel bone feels like a knife's blade.) We're told that she has a lot of gas in her gut. She has stopped laying eggs, which is probably normal for a sick bird.
So, for the next ten days, she's on antibiotics. Robb and I have to administer medicine twice a day. We give it to her with an oral syringe, which is nerve wracking. Harriet hates the whole rigamarole, and is not afraid of biting. The truly scary part is realizing that we could accidentally shoot the medicine into her trachea and kill her. I hold Harriet's beak open (easier said than done) and Robb squirts the raspberry flavored liquid as carefully as he can. This is one of the more terrifying medical procedures we've done on our animals.
We won't be able to eat Harriet's eggs for the next thirty days, because of medicine residue. We can cook the eggs, and feed them back to Harriet, but not the other hens. I know this sounds like some particularly grisly form of cannibalism, but these eggs are unfertilized and will never develop into baby chicks.
Because some of our chickens are so rowdy, we kept Harriet away from her sisters for most of the day. She hunkered down under a table in the back yard, looking miserable. The skin around her eyes lost most of its color, and she had almost no appetite. She barely moved, and spent the day dozing, which looks a lot like chicken death. It was hard to see her like this.
In the afternoon, Robb and I went cycling, so we closed Harriet up in the backyard "chicken tractor" with our least spazzy hen, Isabella. I wanted Harriet to have a bit of company, so that the pecking order wouldn't be too disrupted. Although Harriet had little interest in food, Isabella dug right into the buffet we had prepared.
When we got back home, we let all the girls out for a bit of free-ranging. Harriet seemed a bit perkier, and actually ate.
So, we're cautiously optimistic about Harriet's health. So far so good.