Sad news – Erica

April 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

Erica, 14 Nov 2011Last week we lost our sweet, funny noodle, Erica. I’ve delayed posting about it because we were waiting for the results of her autopsy. But lets start at the beginning.

Lily was still coming right after her crop problems, so when I noticed Erica looking a bit full in the crop last Sunday morning (April 13th), I brought her straight inside, gave her a dose of apple mush and a quick crop massage; and after an unsuccessful attempt to expel the crop contents into the laundry tub, I put her in the hospital cage beside Lily.

She didn’t poo at all that night or the next day, but had seemed otherwise fairly normal for a moulting hen. Interested in Lily’s food, but pissed off with me. When I gave her some crop massage mid-afternoon, she started making an annoyed noise at me, and kept on doing it. It was just a single note, but repeated over and over. Not strident, not distressed, just grumpy and protesting. I went out to do some stuff in the garden, and came in about five o’clock. And Lily was making an alarm cry.

When I went in to check Erica was still making noise, but it seemed almost like involuntary verbal ticks. More to the point, she was having these strange, slow spasms, with her head stretching right back and over onto her back, and around. Really hard to describe, but the scene from The Exorcist comes pretty close. The movements weren’t random or violent. They seemed to be controlled movements, just not under her control. I phoned Stewart to come home, and we took her in to the vets as soon as we could. By the time Stewart arrived I was pretty sure she wasn’t going to make it – no pupil reaction to my finger, and although she seemed comforted by being held, she was still doing these huge, slow spasms, and making this unearthly repetitive noise. But whatever was going on was so strange that we definitely needed to see Auntie Pauline.Erica, looking like Erica, November 2011

She died in my arms before we were halfway there. We took her in anyway, and asked Pauline to autopsy her and find out what the hell had happened. To cut a long story short, Pauline found tumours on her reproductive organs and in her intestinal tract, with lots of lesions everywhere. She sent off samples to a pathologist, but as one of the possibilities was something like avian TB, we weren’t allowed to bring Erica’s body home – she had to be incinerated there.

At least it was a fittingly Viking-like funeral for her. So we went home in a state of shock and worry regarding the others – I whipped out all the bedding from Lily’s cage and wiped everything (except Lily) down with alcohol, and put everything through a hot wash. All drinkers got scrubbed and had a crushed clove of garlic added to them, and I spent the next few days listening closely to breathing and watching everyone for any strange movements.

A week or so after she died, we got the results of the lab tests. The lesions were just tumours, but spread all through her body. In many ways it’s really strange that her death was so quick, and so essentially painless. Traumatic for us to witness, but Pauline thinks Erica wouldn’t have even been aware of it happening to her. She was herself; then she wasn’t; then she was dead.

Strange not to have a tree or something to go talk to as part of the grieving process. Nowhere to go to say goodbye. Dear, sweet, funny Noodle. We will miss you..


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