I know, it’s been a while.  There’s actually plenty going on around the Domestead to report: the potato box we built last month now has lots of cute potato plants in it.  My other seedlings are coming along, and the garlic and onions and kale I planted in the winter garden are huge. Spring is in full explosion here in Nevada County, and the world is green and flowering and full of bugs. The goats are losing their winter coats and beginning to look svelte again.  I’m even getting ready to begin an exciting new project with my sister involving a cottage food business selling fancy cocktail mixers made from seasonal organic produce. Oh, and the Freedom Rangers are 8 weeks old and weighing between 3 and 4 lbs a bird.

But all that good stuff just cannot cure my blues, because all I can think about are those three new layer hens with the pasty butt problem. You see, they are not getting better. Not really at all.

Here’s the regimen I have been employing: Regular (not daily but nearly so) epsom salts baths; topical treatments of iodine and Gentian Violet; unfiltered apple cider vinegar in their water; a daily mash of organic oatmeal mixed with raw coconut butter and heavy-duty probiotics.  They get to spend their days foraging in what can only be described as a chicken wonderland, full of fresh spring greens and grasshoppers and worms, and their nights in a freshly cleaned coop stocked with scratch grains and layer crumble and fluffy fresh straw.

They’re living at a spa, basically. And they are not getting better.

They’re happy as clams, mind you. They’re laying, they’re eating voraciously, and even getting along pretty well with the other chickens, who don’t seem too interested in bullying given that they all have plenty of food and space and diversions. Feathers are starting to grow back on sad little tail knobs and the smell is far less offensive. But they aren’t getting better. Pasty butts and constant watery discharge are unabated.

I am switching to the big guns now. The natural remedies are not working, so it’s time to get some drugs. I’ll be picking up some Monistat cream AND suppositories today, and starting tomorrow they will get all of the above plus some cream up their hoo-has and a dose of suppository down their gullets. Yes, that’s right. You actually feed them 1/3 of a suppository daily. Goes without saying we won’t be collecting eggs for a while, which is a shame given that the forage is especially fine at the moment and the yolks have been coming in bright orange and big as saucers. But no, I’ll be chucking eggs for the next few weeks until the drugs are out of their systems. And, because it’s very hard to tell which egg belongs to which hen (somehow even the sickies are laying clean, fresh looking eggs out of those nasty bottoms), I won’t be able to keep any eggs.  Just in case you’re keeping score, that’s going from 4 beautiful eggs from 4 healthy hens each day a month ago to NO eggs after acquiring 4 new chickens.

And if they aren’t better after that? I think it will be time to admit defeat. So you see, even with all the promise and life and abundance surrounding me at moment, I am feeling the gloom that comes from contemplating one’s defeat.  The possibility of having to wring the necks of three otherwise perky hens with incurable vent gleet has got me in a deep-winter funk even as I sit among the lilacs and butterflies.  And so, to you on this glorious spring day, I bid you a bah, humbug.

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