In her first year, she had a short but spectacular laying season. Her rich, deep brown eggs did not disappoint. But midway through the winter break I saw things had gone awry.
The feathers on Loretta’s bottom, her chest and eventually her legs disappeared. She had already gone through a molt in the late fall, so I was mystified. Fearing the other birds would peck at her bare butt, I sprayed Blu-Kote on her skin and hoped for the best.
She laid a few more eggs when the season resumed in February, then nothing.
After a move, I took her to a vet, who said she was being bullied. This was causing the feather loss and lack of eggs from stress. I rehomed the bully bird (with the vet!) and Loretta grew her feathers back and started laying again.
Sadly, everything came to a halt again. It was close to the end of laying season so I let her take a rest.
This spring she laid a couple funny looking eggs (the shell was odd but a normal egg inside) then nothing. The vet prescribed antibiotics but she developed an allergy. So we stopped the meds and took a wait-and-see approach.
A couple weeks ago at night I noticed she had poopy butt, which was unusual for her. So I have her a warm winter bath and blow dry then put her back in the coop. The next night I found her outside after the coop door closed. She no longer could walk. The next morning I took her to the vet. He felt the mass in her belly and said she had calcified eggs.
“I could remove it but I don’t think she would survive the surgery,” he said.
So I said goodbye to my sweet Loretta.
Some vet students from the local university were on hand and he asked if I minded if they watched while he did a necropsy. He also invited me to join.
After opening Loretta, he pulled out a large yellow mass. Apparently Loretta had an egg that never passed, then yolks dropped on it creating layers upon layers around the original egg.
Losing Loretta was not unexpected. Still I’m grateful to know what caused my dear chicken so much pain and to know her legacy lives on in students who will carry her experience with them.