Tuesday 23 October 2012

Birds do not have a Diaphragm

Did you know that birds do not have a diaphragm?  That lovely body part which allows people to overeat at Christmas, women to carry lovely, big, unborn babies - all whilst expanding merrily to allow for it.  The absence of a diaphragm prevents birds from overloading their system with ridiculous and unnecessary weight, very important when you are made to fly.  But it also creates havoc when they have 'cargo' on board - such as an egg.  No diaphragm basically means no room for expansion.  So with an egg in residence, the vital organs have less room to function, the hen less capacity for breath and in the case of my beautiful hen Mya - agonising tummy aches. 

Mya was unusually small for her breed.  Actually she wasn't a pure bred at all.  I bought her at 5 weeks old under the impression that she was a Pekin Bantam - but she grew up to be part Pekin and part unknown.  This genetic fruit salad also resulted in a nasty legacy - huge eggs, from a tiny girl. 

This is a photo of a typical Mya egg, shown next to a standard egg of a hen about 20% larger than her.  Obviously Mya's egg is the larger of the two.

36 hour labour

Mya would generally lay every 2nd to 3rd day during her laying season (August to February approximately).
This was the typical cycle;
1 day prior to laying - wander around slowly, wings and heads slightly drooped, barely able to eat or drink, face slightly blue due to lack of oxygen, abdomen very uncomfortable when pressed - best soothed by sitting on my lap to keep her warm and sometimes by lighting rubbing her abdomen for relief.   
Day of lay - symptoms at full peak, barely able to walk, eyes closed, breathing extremely shallow and labored.   
During lay - effort appeared to be excruciating, face blue to purple in colour.   
After lay complete - usually a hen will spring back physically within moments or minutes, Mya took more than an hour to get back on her feet with any confidence.  She would then appear lively, hungry, relaxed and radiant.  Until late morning the next day, sometimes the day after that - when the cycle would commence again.  

What I wish I knew then...

Had I known back then that Mya could have had a hysterectomy, the removal of her ovary (birds only have one) and could have gone on to lead a happy, busy life - I would have had the procedure carried out in a heart beat.  But I didn't know and so Mya valiantly and bravely battled her egg monster for every one of her 5 years.  Aren't animals amazing!

Here she is, having one of the hugs that she seemed to enjoy so much.

1 comment:

  1. Beth's colleague23 October 2012 at 12:28

    Bethlehem (aka Beth) shared your link.
    It would appear to me that the genetic mix may include Faverolle. My family and I have one in our mix of chickens and ducks, I'm fond of the duckswhilst my wife Teresa loves the chickens, that looks very similar to your Mya but not like our Peking at all.
    check out this link if you haven't seen it already; http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/chooks/chooks.html
    My favourite is the Cayuga duck - very beautiful