Swollen Hen's Body

One of my hens, Edith, became more and more swollen over about a week. She looked healthy, but she was barely breathing, her body was swelling up, and could barely move around. I thought it was another egg bound situation, so I tried using the method for helping her pass an egg (check out my "egg bound" post)--at least three different times. But there was no egg and she kept getting worse. Unfortunately, I was leaving (out of the country) within a few days, and didn't have the time to try to fix her. So I had to put her down. Then I proceeded to do an autopsy on her, and as soon as I inserted the knife, a whole bunch of fluid flooded out and her body totally deflated. The liquid was yellow-ish and watery. Her organs looked perfectly healthy. So her lungs and every other organ were still working, but were slowly being suffocated by fluid build up. So I looked around online and in my books to find out what was wrong with her. I don't know specifically what it was, but I have two similar diagnostics. It was either Ascites or a type of egg yolk (EYP) Peritonitis.
Ascites-Fluid pooling in the abdomen
Sterile Peritonitis-Fluid in her abdomen that is not filled with bacteria or caused by internal infection
Septic Peritonitis-Fluid with bacteria

I found a very detailed forum entry (scroll down to the entry by "crazychick"): http://www.thepoultrysite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=4340 
describing the diseases and how to fix it. I recommend reading the whole thing very thoroughly. 

The idea for fixing this is to drain the fluid out of the hen using a catheter. You will need to buy supplies, and set up a sterile area since you will be performing surgery.
Although I don't believe it is inhumane or unfair if you decide to put your hen down and not do this procedure (since it is very time consuming, and risky) I will definitely try it next time this happens. I think that if you're new to chickens, then it might be a good idea to get another chicken owner/expert's advice or help before trying anything.


Pellets or Crumble?

I use organic layer pellets for my hens. I prefer pellets over crumble for many reasons:

-Less messy. Crumble spills all over the ground because the chickens will dig the feed with their beaks while eating. They will do this with the pellets too, but it is easier to eat it off the ground than the crumble.
-Easier to eat. Sometimes crumble can be powdery. Before a chicken pecks something, they look at it with their left eye first then their right eye to be able to pinpoint the thing they will peck. If the crumble is powdery, then it is harder to eat because the powder is so fine there isn't really anything to see. Pellets are much easier to see. (A solution to the powder/crumble is to put it in a bowl and mix in water to make it chunky).
-Not wasteful. Crumble will get all over the ground, and sometimes won't get eaten, so much of it will get wasted. You can put the wasted crumble in your compost if you have one.
-Better nutrition. (At least in Santa Barbara) chicken crumble usually doesn't have enough calcium (and other nutrients to encourage egg production) for laying hens because it is meant for chicks. So for calcium deficiency, you can either buy crushed oyster shells or grind their egg shells and mix it in with the feed (I do this for the pellets anyway).
-Lasts longer. In my experience, pellets last longer than crumble. When in storage, the crumble clumps together and gets moldy more quickly, especially if it's in a humid atmosphere. 

I store the pellets in a metal trash can (with a lid) in our garden shed. I think it is good to store the feed in a cool or room temperature place to avoid it spoiling too quickly. I buy organic because we are eating the eggs and don't want chemicals in them, and of course it is much better for our environment and hens. But it is more expensive. I also get safflower seeds (and spread a cup around in the run) for extra protein-and they love it.