As 2015 drew to a close, so did the short life of our sweet and social hen Oviraptor. We have been treating her for partial leg paralysis for a few weeks now, with the knowledge that things might continue to decline. Up until yesterday afternoon, she had maintained her spunk. At my last checkup with her yesterday evening though, she showed little interest in her food, didn't offer her usual conversation, and wouldn't stand up. I suspected the end was near, and this morning my suspicion was confirmed.
When we first got our chickens in the Spring of 2014, they were 11 weeks old, an age when it is virtually impossible to identify the gender of the bird. When the other four chickens would run away from us, the white one, Oviraptor, would charge toward us. We would shoo her away with our feet. We thought for sure we had an aggressive rooster on our hands, with a future in our crock-pot. (Roosters can not legally be kept in the city limits of Fayetteville, and with small children, aggressiveness isn't to be tolerated either.) In time though, our "rooster" started laying eggs...the charging, however, continued. One day, before we learned the art of wing-clipping, the chickens had all escaped the yard. While the other four evaded capture, Oviraptor charged right toward me as usual, then stopped just short of my feet, squatted down and held perfectly still, allowing me to scratch her between her wings and pick her up. It turned out, she wasn't aggressive at all, she was social! Every time we would visit the chicken yard, she would run up and squat to get her scratches and cluck at us. She was gentle and easy to pick up and handle. She endeared herself to us with her sweet and social antics, and she will be missed!
Because the exact cause of her condition wasn't established (we have a shortlist of possibilities), we want to verify that the rest of our little flock (or other area birds) are not at risk of contracting something infectious from their association with her. We are keeping her chilled (not frozen) until the diagnostic lab at the University of Arkansas Center of Excellence for Poultry Science reopens after the holiday early next week, so some postmortem diagnostics can be completed. We are deeply grateful for all of the expert advice that the UA Extension Poultry Health Veterinarian, Dr. Dustan Clark, has been able to provide us along the way.