Hello and welcome to The Compost Bin. I'm Compostwoman and I live with my family in rural Herefordshire. We have nearly four acres of garden and woodland, all managed organically and to Permaculture principles, which we share with Chickens, Cats and assorted wildlife. We also grow a lot of our own food, run courses in all sorts of things and make a lot of compost!

I am a Master Composter and have spent more than a decade as a volunteer Community Compost adviser with Garden Organic and my local Council.
I'm a self employed Environmental Educator so I run workshops and events where I talk about compost, veg growing, chicken keeping, cooking, preserving and sustainable living. I also run crafts workshops and Forest School/outdoor play sessions in our wood.

We try to live a more self sufficient lifestyle here, as best we can, while still having a comfortable life and lots of fun.

To learn more about us click on the About Compostwoman tab and remember to click on the photos to make them full size!

Thursday 2 April 2009

Sad news about Cathy Hen

Unfortunately my trip to the vet with Cathy did NOT have a good outcome :-(
Cathy had been suffering from Sterile Egg Yolk Peritonitis (EYP) This is something she has had for some time, it is something which is sadly common in ex battery hens due to their egg laying equipment being damaged by the excess number of eggs they are stimulated to lay. It is also what eventually led to the demise of Genghis Hen:-(

Cathy had been on antibiotics for a week, and had been kept near by, but separate from, the other hens for another two weeks. She was allowed back in with the rest of the hens a few days ago and seemed very perky and happy, as I detailed in my post showing her indoors with us.
But on Sunday evening she looked puffy in the abdomen, and hunched up, which is NEVER a good sign in a chicken. She also didn't want to move around or eat much. I had to take Sid down to the Vets on Monday (he has a poorly eye) and I decided to take Cathy also as I was worried about her. On examination she had a swollen abdomen and a temperature again. The prognosis was not good for her, but after establishing she was not in any real pain the Vets and I decided that they would try to draw off the fluid, to ease the discomfort and to get her back on some antibiotics. We all knew this might not work and if it did might not be a very long term help, but we were all wanting to try to save her. I left her at the vets for the procedure and when I went to collect her, was told that 350 ml of nasty fluid had been drawn off! Poor Cathy, no wonder she felt poorly.

I took her home Monday afternoon and started her on the antibiotic again and yesterday she seemed to perk up and came to see us in the house and had a few worms from where Compostman was digging

and seemed much restored

BUT today I was worried, she didn't look bad, exactly,..... but chickens mask how poorly they are (as a protective move) and so I just trusted my instincts that she looked wrong, somehow... Her comb was turning purple whenever she moved and she felt very cold so I took her to the vets this afternoon. On examination it was apparent she wasn't going to recover from all this. So I very sadly held her and stroked her whilst Tamsin the Vet gave her a lethal injection and she went to sleep for good.

I came home with her body and she has been buried on the edge of our woodland, next to Genghis Hen, with some flowers placed on her grave by Compostgirl.

We shall all miss Cathy very much, she really WAS a pet to us, wanted to be with us all the time, was gentle and friendly and sweet natured to all. She followed me around and chatted to me as I dug the garden or hung out the washing or worked in the polytunnel. I shall miss her waiting by the door to get into the kitchen, jumping up on my lap for a cuddle and purring when I stroked her neck. Compostman is also very sad as Cathy was his favourite hen and he chose her name, and she liked to come and see what he was doing in the garden also. She was the only hen to be really friendly to Compostman and Compostgirl as well as to me.

RIP Cathy Hen, you will be missed by all of us, but especially me.


  1. How sad but as much as we love our pets there are times we must love them enough to let them go...
    ((hugs)) to you and your family

  2. Thank you for the comment on my page with our own recent hen loss. What kind of chicken was Cathy Hen? She was beautiful!

  3. So sorry to hear about your loss. You treated Cathy with the respect and love she never got as a young hen.

  4. Oh how heartbreaking...
    Nothing could be worse than seeing her continue deteriorating though,
    It was a good thing you knew to follow your instincts

  5. Oh I'm shedding a tear for you as I read this - I've had a rough week with my hens too - both poorly, one with EYP as you describe, and one 'recovering' after an egg broke inside her last week. They've both been to the vet and are on antibiotics, but I know all too well from experience that they probably won't survive much longer. It seems they use all their energy getting through the cold winter, then don't quite have enough reserves when something like this happens. Anyway, am just trying to enjoy some days in the sunshine with them for now - very sad though, as I only have two and that may be the end of my hen-keeping for now.

    Many (((hugs))) to you and the Compost clan for the loss of lovely Cathy Hen.

    Willow xxx

  6. (((HUGS))) for you all. How sad, but never was there such a loved chicken, right?

  7. How sad fro you all. I admire so much folk like you who take on the rescue of these tired and damaged ex battery hens. Their lives are in the main just an unending life of pain. But Cathy was one of the fortunate ones - she got to live out her days in these best place possible. I have never before heard of a hen who jumps up for a cuddle and purrs when stroked. RIP Cathy, you taught us all a lot.

    Hugs to you all


  8. Sad news about Cathy but you gave her the chance to be a real hen for a while.

    Here in France, vet's don't treat hens as a rule - on mass in large production houses then yes but individual ones, no.

    RIP Cathy

  9. I'm so sorry to read about Cathy Hen but you can feel proud because you gave her such a wonderful life after the Hell that is bettery farming. {{Hugs}} for all.

    Rosie x

  10. Hello all

    Thank you for the lovely comments about Cathy, we are all a bit sad here and it seems that we just keep having to take loved animals to the vets at the moment.

    I am sure you are right about the ex batts getting through the winter and then not having the strength to keep going willow, I also think the spring surge of hormones must have an effect and perhaps make non layers start to try to lay again?

    Anyway, we are considering getting a couple more ex battery hens, but not for a bit, I feel a bit too emotionally bruised at the moment.

    But yes, this IS a wonderful place for them to recover from being in prison and we WILL give some more a chance to be "proper hens" in the future.

  11. How very sad, she looked like a lovely vivacious hen in the previous pictures - which indicates to me that you gave her a good and enjoyable life for the time that she was with you :) I hope your little 'run of bad luck' with having to take animals to the vets is over now.

    Best wishes

  12. Sad news :( Sorry to hear about that.
    Take care. Xx

  13. Am so sorry for your loss, rescued animals get it so hard, we have had many animals (you name it we had it) and only had them for a little while due to what was done before hand. Hugs and thoughts to you.

  14. Sad news. I wonder if she was extra close to you and your family because she 'knew' she wasn't well. We had a budgerigar that was so cranky he would bite you as soon as look at you. One day he was looking poorly in the aviary so I carried the small cage in and he actually hopped right up to me and let me put him in. All the fight was gone out of him and he died the next day.
    I'm sure your Cathy knew that she was safest with you, that you were looking out for her.

  15. Oh no! I just read your last post (I'm behind....) and was hoping that there would be good news. I'm sorry about Cathy. :-(

  16. So sorry to hear about Cathy, so soon after Genghis Hen too, did you say they were a similar age?

    It's a good job you are experienced with hens, and can pick up quickly when they're not themselves. I hope I have such good instincts, although I hope I never have to find out. I'm not convinced my local vet knows what a chicken is.

  17. Oh no. So sorry to hear about Cathy.

  18. Very sorry to hear that, but it didn't sound too good in your last post.

    How old was Cathy? I wonder how long the oldest ex-bat chickens manage to live or if they all die a year or so after being rescued.

    I've started to look more carefully at labels and check that if a product contains eggs, it is free-range eggs. I've been buying free-range for years, and now have my own eggs, but hadn't really thought too much until recently that what is keeping the battery hen industry going is all the 'hidden' eggs in sauces, pasta and other foods we buy ready-made.

    I wonder how battery chickens are stimulated to lay more than they are meant to.

    Our chickens are the same kind of breed and have been bred to lay an egg nearly every day for the best part of a year before they moult, and their moult should be short and not interrupt their laying much, so I wonder if we have bought the best breed, although there are advantages for beginners like us.

    Of course we feed them properly and they have exercise and access to grass as well as various leafy veg I throw in for them, so they are better off than battery hens in many ways, and so hopefully will remain healthier and live a lot longer.

  19. I am very sorry for you and cathy hen. She was loved. that is certain.

  20. How so so sad. poor cathy. My thoughts are with you all

  21. Im so sorry to read this, the battery system is so bloody wrong.

    She had a wonderful life with you, rest in peace Cathy xxx

  22. oh thats carp news :O(
    Hope you cheer up soon x
    GTM x

  23. So sorry to hear the news CW. RIP Cathy.

  24. Just to let you all know I am SO touched by all your lovely comments and I WILL respond to all the various questions you have posed, in a few days!

    It is a "bit" busy at this time of year here, and I still have various poorly animals and now people to deal with, as well as a two week holiday to amuse COmpostgirl in!

    so please be patient and I WILL get back to you all...

    much love, Cw xx

  25. I'm so sorry to hear about Cathy Hen. You take such good care of your hens. They are all so lucky to have you, especially at times like these when your very good instincts help them ease out of this world with much less pain than they might otherwise have to suffer through.

    Only a very big spirit cares so deeply for such little ones.

  26. Ah thank you ICQB, I try my best to do right by any animal I care for, whether wild or tame...

    Unfortunately the cats seem determined to test my ability to mend damaged wild creatures THEY have injured, at the moment!

  27. oh no. I'm so very sorry about Cathy. She looked like such a great chook. She couldn't have had better or gentler care during her last days, and she certainly would have felt that too.


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