A post in our message boards reminded me of one of the major problems that comes with raising poultry and livestock in the city. I once had a duck with an injured leg that wasn’t getting better and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t fractured so I set about calling vets for an examination and an x-ray.

The gist of the conversation went something like this:

Me: I have an injured duck – she can’t stand on her leg – and would like to make an appointment for an x-ray.

Receptionist: What?

Me: I have a pet duck with an injured leg. Could the vet examine her to see if it was broken or fractured?

Receptionist: A what with a broken leg?

Me: A duck.

Receptionist: A dog?

Me: No, a duck. You know… like … a bird — one that swims in a pond?

Receptionist: A swimming bird dog?

Me: No, no – duck! A duck! As in a “quack-quack!” DUCK!

Every phone call ended with me quacking into the phone like a deranged lunatic. I eventually got my x-ray after paying for the examination of an exotic animal. Turns out, the x-ray showed nothing and several months of physical therapy solved the problem. Every vet I have encountered in the City of Pasadena has referred to chickens and ducks as exotic. Yeah, go figure. I can imagine you country folk howling with laughter.

Anyhow, the same problem of finding good help can arise when you need someone to take care of your exotic animals when you head out for a trip. This post from our message board by Susan Rudnicki shares the frustration (and pain) that can happen:

My family and I returned from 3 weeks in Greece and learned from the “very experienced” petsitter I had hired that one of my hens had died very quickly, with “no apparent illness or strange behavior” This woman had taken ‘Peggy’ to my vet on discovering her dead in the hutch in the morning, and the vet had kept the body in his freezer for me. I was horrified on opening the bag containing Peggy’s body, to find a huge mass of maggots at the base of her vent area. Indeed, a hole an inch wide allowed me to look into the body cavity, the tissue of her rear being completely gone! I think she had a condition called “fly strike” sometimes found in rabbits and sheep, wherein filth flies lay their eggs in manure or a wound, hidden by the fluff of feathers or wool, and the maggots hatch and begin eating into the animal. A google search found some poultry keepers have found this condition on birds they kept who had a “messy bottom” condition, and found live birds being invaded by active colonies of maggots. The birds did not exhibit any abnormal behavioral symptoms, even when quite infected!!

Please, this is a horrible way to die and so preventable. My little Domonique was a dear lap hen, past laying age, and sometimes still passed a poorly formed/shelled egg. I would sometimes find the residue of this egg remnant protruding from her vent, pull it out, and give her a good hosing with the sprayer wand at the kitchen sink. I do not think the caretaker I hired was observant, for Peggy must have had this invasion for at least a few days before she expired. Since Peggy had to be lifted into the hutch at night (she had only one good leg, which was over-developed and strong, but precluded such a high jump into the hutch) I can not imagine how the woman could have picked her up with all those maggots and failed to notice SOMETHING!!

Any birds in a flock which may have a tendency for “poopy bottom or a hen that has had diarrhea as a result of sickness needs close attention to the vent area, cleaning thoroughly with warm water and drying with a towel. Needless to say, this petsitter will not be on my list anymore. She also failed to secure my other hens in the henhouse each night as I discovered on the night we returned and found them roosting in the trees in my yard. I spent 90 minutes rounding them up in the dark with a flashlight, and on calling her the next morning to find out why she didn’t follow my EXPLICIT instructions,, she blithely said “oh, it was so hot in the henhouse, they were in the trees!”

I suspect this happened more than once, as each evening they are still trying to roost in the trees and I think they got habituated. This has never happened before. It has been a nerve-wracking and sad time—one of my house bunnies also expired in somewhat mysterious circumstances during this time away.

Word to the wise, be VERY CAREFUL of people who say “don’t worry! Everything will be fine!” and yet looking back, I now detect that I did not pay attention to a certain arrogance of comment and seeming lack of close attention when we walked through the daily routine with the petsitter. I had prepared EVERYTHING to be carefully laid out and clear, both written and verbal, and she still gravely messed it up.

Original forum thread: http://barnyardsandbackyards.org/community/forums/topic/18/holiday-horrors-with-maggots/view/post_id/51 by Susan Rudnicki

So, as we come upon the holiday traveling season, I hope those of you in the city who have chickens, ducks, goats, or whatever exotic animal can find good and responsible help in your area.


  1. You bring up an excellent and important topic, Jordanne.
    I’m so sorry to hear about your sweet Peggy and your house bun.
    My two geriatric house bunnies are totally dependent on me. Hubby and just cannot travel unless it is by car and we can find a hotel/motel that will allow pets. I’ve raised them since babies and they saw me through some very difficult family situations when they were young and healthy. They brought much joy and comfort during some dark days. They still do. Their cuteness and affection never cease to amaze me. Any vet would tell me to put them both down. They are happy ol’ bunnies, snuggling, kissing each other and me, eating well, pooping fine. They’re just disabled. Obviously, I would never let them suffer if their condition resulted in any kind of pain. By the Grace of God, they will go peacefully when their time comes.

  2. I find myself in the same plight, not having found someone I trust to take care of our 10 backyard chickens. My solution so far has been not to leave for more than an afternoon, but I realize there will come a time when I don’t have a choice–a family wedding, funeral or the like.

    The only idea I’ve had is possibly trying to befriend a high school kid in the neighborhood, who perhaps I can interest in helping me in the garden, slowly but surely entrusting them to take on some chicken duties. Our block corner is the bus stop, so the kids getting off the bus every afternoon have to pass our home. I’m trying to engage the kids as they stop and ask questions about our front yard vegetable garden, and hoping that someone shows some interest.

    Anyone have any other ideas?


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