The Indomitable Rosie
Story and photos by Marina Killery.
I AM DELIGHTED TO TELL YOU a bit about The Indomitable Rosie, a grey
cochin whom I raised from a 3-day-old chick and is part of my small backyard flock.
In June of 2020, I noticed an area of red skin under her tail. I thought she was plucking her feathers out, but when I picked her up and examined her more closely. To my horror, I found a mass the size of a fist dangling down between her legs.
There also seemed to be necrotic tissue present. I called a chicken friend who said that the necrotic tissue was a bad sign, and the hen should be put down. I looked online and found a couple of posts on poultry forums by mystified owners reaching out for information, having discovered, what seemed to be the same condition in their own hen.
Like Rosie, in all other respects, the bird appeared to be perfectly healthy,
eating, drinking, and socializing. But on further reading, the poor hen was found in the coop with the skin of the mass split open, and the other hens feasting on it. A more horrible end is hard to imagine.
As Rosie’s mass wasn’t coming out of her vent, we investigated a possible
internal egg problem. This wasn’t the case either, so we suspected a fluid filled mass or a cyst of some kind. Our vet came over, and under sterilized conditions in our kitchen, made a small incision. What he found were lovely, healthy internal organs. Rosie had a massive hernia.
There was nothing to be done; everything in that bag of skin was working parts, which Rosie needed, and there was too much of it to try and push it back in without attempting a much more serious surgery. The vet
simply sewed up the small incision, dressed the wound, and we fashioned
a face mask to support and protect it while it healed.
Since then, I have made Rosie a series of hernia supports out of my husband’s old socks. Supporting and protecting the hernia has been key;
if left hanging, it’s likely that more “tubing” will fall out of the abdominal
cavity into the skin pouch, and the skin itself becomes very thin and fragile
as it is stretched by the weight of the mass. In Rosie’s case, not only did the
incision heal up, but the necrotic tissue fell off, leaving healthy tissue in its
place. She was able to move around more easily and live a normal life in
the coop. The sock also protected her hernia from inquisitive hens. We even
found the occasional egg in her sock.
That was two years ago. Rosie is now 11 years old and still with us, with her
sock holding up her hernia.
Recently, she came back into the house to recover from an eye infection. I gave her a bath and set her up in a corner of my studio where she
seemed content eating, drinking and preening.
She is definitely slowing down and she doesn’t see too well, but this bird is
full of personality!
I suppose the point of Rosie’s story is that she’s been living with a condition that’s not often encountered, and when it is, it results in a horrific death. The vet says I have saved her life by coming up with the idea to
repurpose the humble sock in such a way. This would be a remarkable age
for any hen, let alone one with Rosie’s condition.
MARINA KILLERY is a designer, portrait painter, and poultry lover living in Cold Spring, New York. You can find her work at: