It’s been a few weeks since one of the chickens fell sick. Seth and I noticed that she was sitting on the ground all of the time, either unable or unwilling to move around all that much. She got herself from the henhouse to the feeder in the mornings, and back again at night. Once it became clear that she wasn’t doing so hot, we isolated her in the spare bunny hutch and christened her Buttercup. Because after all, you can’t call an animal Sick Chicken all the time and expect her to get better. As one of the animal-feeding volunteers said, “Let’s put that good energy out into the universe!”
Buttercup couldn’t walk without propping herself up using her wings on the ground. It looked like she was dizzy, or maybe her feet hurt, almost like she was walking on tiptoes. The vet suggested Marek’s Disease, a viral infection that causes neurologic symptoms in chickens. Some research told me that the normal course of treatment is to euthanize the chicken. There are no treatments. There is no known cure.
Well! We’ve had enough death this year to last me a long time. The vet told me to try some aspirin for Buttercup to counteract any pain, and to go ahead with any herbs I want to try. Music to my ears, friends.
I had just finished infusing a batch of St. John’s Wort in vinegar and thought I would give it a go. St. John’s Wort is known for its muscle-relaxant, pain-relieving properties. It’s also a potent anti-viral (which, by the way, doesn’t exist in modern medicine). Sounds like a good shot.
Twice a day, Buttercup got a piece of bread onto which I added five drops of St. John’s Wort. And slowly, slowly she started to improve. At first, she began perking up energy-wise. Then she was more willing to walk, still using her wings as props but walking. Then she progressed to walking mostly without using her wings. And finally, she’s begun laying eggs once again.
She seems pretty steady on her feet. She’s still isolated so that I can make sure she gets her medicine, and I’m going to keep her separate until I’m sure she can fend off the other chickens pecking her. Chickens are notorious for pecking outsiders, and Buttercup has been isolated for so long that she’s now an outsider. But when it comes time, I’ll wait until all the healthy chickens are in the henhouse and pop Buttercup in with them. Then in the morning when they all come out, it will be like she’s been there all along.