The Good News
If you scroll to the pictures of the hens below, you will see that the battery hens arrived with combs that were flopping over to the side. I figured this was just how the hens would look for the rest of their lives. The hens who live in my mom and dad's coop began to have combs that were semi-erect. I thought I was just seeing things, but over the past month they have changed into beautiful, fully-erect, red combs. I learned that a chicken's comb is a easy way to find out if it is feeling well. The hens at my parents' house are feeling fantastic.
The Not-So-Great News
Things have been more difficult on our side of the farm. We lost one battery hen suddenly as a bacteria spread quickly throughout our flock. Another battery hen was laying next to her deceased pal, on the brink of death as well. Several of our chickens seem to be infected with the same bug, but all the other girls are eating, laying and acting normal. We took the battery hen to the veterinarian and he started her on an oral antibiotic. The vet told us to treat all coughing hens with the oral antibiotic twice a day. If any of you can think of a way to do this without going insane, please advise me. We have decided to treat the rest of the flock with an antibiotic we will put in their drinking water. For now we have two sick battery hens living in the house (one is still outside with the flock and very healthy).
As you may know, all chickens have different personalities. Our very sick (and rapidly improving) hen has a social and curious personality. We put the hens in the garden during the day when it is warm, and bring them in at night. A couple of times we have left the back door open to the garden. Rocket Star (I don't have to tell you who named her, right?) has found her way inside each time. She thinks the dishwasher is really cool.
She is also so sweet and patient with the kids. What other human or animal could make it through a life of pure torture, then turn around and give love to the same species who tortured them? Some may say that chickens have tiny brains, but I think they just have hearts of gold. Now if only Rocket Star could be potty trained. She makes the perfect small companion animal!