Beatrice the Hen is a resident at the Triangle Chance for All Microsanctuary in North Carolina. Recently, she was taken to the vet after she showed decreased energy level and heavy breathing, as well as a distended abdomen. We wanted to share her story not only because it shows one example of the care that is required for rescued hens, but also because it illustrate very clearly how reproductive illnesses plague domesticated hens, most of which are directly related to their unnatural laying rates.
Beatrice was X-rayed to make sure she did not have an egg stuck in her oviduct, something known as egg binding. The vet found fluid filling much of her abdomen, which he drained out to relieve pressure on her lungs and other organs. This may be a “sterile” version of peritonitis, which is another common affliction and leading cause of death among laying hens.
The X-rays also revealed strange spots on Beatrice’s bones, as well as some malformations, something our vet had not seen so extensively before. He believes that these signs may indicate a metabolic bone condition, which would be either caused or exacerbated by laying the number of eggs she has been bred to lay. (Eggshells are so calcium rich that calcium is typically leached from hens’ bones during the laying process.) The vet also thought the X-rays might indicate some form of bone cancer.
Beatrice is being treated with antibiotics for any possible infection that could be causing inflammation, although no bacteria was found in the fluid from her abdomen when it was examined, as well as pain medication/anti-inflammatories. While under anesthesia, Beatrice also received a hormonal implant that will stop her egg laying for several months, in hopes that this will decrease the general stress being put on her body and may help with any potential metabolic calcium conditions. We have had great success using an implant with our darling hen Bibi, and we are hoping it will have the same positive effects on Beatrice.
She is home now recuperating and will be spending a few days inside, being monitored and pampered. She will be rechecked by the vet in six weeks.
Beatrice’s situation is yet another illustration of the fact that there is no such thing as an ethical egg. Hens have been bred to lay unnaturally large numbers of eggs, and their bodies typically break down at a young age as a result.v