Two Words: Vent Prolapse
Updated: Jul 17
Warning: graphic photos!
I had never used these two words together before last week. But then again, before last week I didn't know poultry could try so hard to expel an egg that they push their insides... out. That's right - the stuff that's supposed to stay in hangs out for the world to see, to drag on the ground and get shat on or pecked at. Vent prolapse.
Wendy returned from her daily morning walk with the report of a guinea fowl who appeared to have been disemboweled and yet was still running around and pecking at the ground with its flock mates. Some googling revealed that she was likely suffering from "vent prolapse," so I drove down to the enclosure with a couple of mobile fence posts (to serve as go-go-Gadget arms) and a towel.
Guinea fowl are survivors. They're the only poultry we've brought to the farm so far who've suffered no predator losses. A couple months ago we brought 16 home and we still have 16. I think this is because they emit a deafening scream in response to perceived threats, and they tend to perceive everything as a threat. So catching a guinea fowl is no small feat. I turned off the electric netting, donned long leather gloves, grabbed my arm extenders, and attempted to herd the flock. Eventually I was able to single out the wounded member, but only after she had taken a brief swim in the lake. Note to self: Guinea fowl can swim.
I brought her back to the quad and wrapped her in a towel to help keep her calm and still. Then the real work began in the barn. The kids were very interested in what was happening. Darwin took photos while Emerson served as my assistant, handing me things as I needed them.
Dr. Google said a vent prolapse is one of the most treatable issues "chickens" have and assured me that I just needed to irrigate the inside-out part, put some lube on it, massage it back in, then keep my patient in a dark room for a couple days to prevent her from trying to lay another egg while it healed. Google also informed me that it often pops out again and that once a "chicken" suffers a vent prolapse it tends to happen again. On the bright side though, I also read that it can sometimes resolve itself.
So, as I sat on the floor of the barn, accompanied by the patient and my two favorite little humans, I did my best to return everything to its proper place.
The kids and I congratulated ourselves on a job well done under pressure.
When I checked on the guinea fowl the next day, I saw it had popped out again.
I was disappointed but also viewed it as an opportunity to do a better job. The first time, I didn't understand how everything was going to fit together - what was going to go where and frankly, how the hell that ginormous thing was going to fit back inside her body. But it did, and when it did, I finally understood what went where. So in round two, I used a syringe filled with water to squirt things clean instead of just relying on a warm water soak with some agitation. I also smeared a little honey in an effort to reduce infection.
I got to see where poo comes out and where the egg comes out. I had thought it was the same place because they both come out of the guinea fowl's butt. I mean, vent. But as gross as it was, seeing the insides of a guinea fowl gave me insight into how egg production works and the two ejection sites are actually pretty far apart, even though they ultimately come out the same hole. I realize that's kind of gross but since you're still reading this despite the graphic pictures, I figure you can handle it.
I checked on our guinea fowl patient later that day and she had prolapsed again. So I decided to give it a chance to heal on its own. The next day, everything that should be inside was still inside. Same the next day. So I started leaving a light on during the day to see if she could successfully lay an egg. Nothing the first day or the second, so yesterday I reunited her with the rest of the flock. Guinea fowl are really communal animals and I felt bad keeping her isolated for so long. Besides, she seemed to be doing better on her own without my interference.
I had to catch her first though. I turned off the light in the barn stall in an effort to keep her calm but she still flapped around quite a bit - so much so, her vent prolapsed again. It wasn't as bad as the first time though, so I decided to go ahead and put her back in with the flock. I put some food down for the others and brought her close by in the towel. I laid her on the ground and as soon as I unwrapped her she raced toward the others, possibly giving me the finger as she left. There was a bit of chatter and she was immediately accepted by her flock mates again.
The kids and I checked on her this afternoon and everything looked okay. We're all rooting for her. She may not like us, but we like her. Wendy and I used to refer to the flock as "the ugly birds" but the kids took offense so now we call them "the raptors." A little thing like being inside-out for a few days here and there can't bring a raptor down.
Update: On July 16th we found a guinea fowl dead in the enclosure. She didn't seem to have been attacked and I didn't see anything "off" with the vent area, but I'm guessing it's the same one who had the vent prolapse problem :(