Monday, September 30, 2013

More Sad Chicken News

This year, we can't seem to catch a break. While our speckled hen Spotty was going downhill fast, we realized that apparently our newest hen, Miss Delaware (of the rare breed of the same name), had a lame wing. I was wondering if she'd once again gone to hide inside the feeder and gotten herself stuck, since a superficial inspection didn't show me much for injuries.
Sadly only a few days later, I noticed pus oozing down her feathers. She must have been grabbed by an animal of sorts, I think, to have caused the injury? I'll never know. I didn't think I could 'right' the wing itself.

The only things I did was I waited til just after sunset, when the hens are still awake but subdued, and in the coop. I grabbed her, and wrapped her in a towel. Whenever you want to immobilize a hen, it's a good idea to wrap her feet and wings into an old towel.
Then I washed out the affected area with a warm, wet washcloth. After that, I sprayed her with some antiseptic aerosol. This is the only time the hen was clearly startled and trying to break free. My middle child wisely observed that she was likely reacting to the cold wetness more than anything else.

I used blunt tweezers to pick out obvious dirt and old scab, while the middle child pointed a flashlight at my hands. Chickens stay much calmer in the dark, and this technique worked for her and for me. Then I slathered the whole area liberally in antibiotic ointment and gently put her back in the nest box she had chosen to rest in. I really hoped to see some progress in her healing.

But only two days later, I found her lying sideways on the floor of the coop. I prodded her a bit, and then carried her to the waterer. No dice. She couldn't put weight on the foot on her injured side. The infection must have progressed internally. On top of that, the other chickens had clearly started pecking at her comb and she was in miserable shape. I called it a total loss at this point.

Between the last two fatalities, I can summarize for those of you who may find yourself in the same predicament , that a hatchet works much better than wringing the neck, mostly for the sake of the human. There is an awful lot of after-twitching which is dreadfully hard to watch, and using the latter method, you're at least sure the hen is dead, which makes it emotionally easier. Same strategy, do it after dusk, when the hen is subdued. If possible, have a kind spouse on standby with a flashlight and a stiff drink. I know I needed one that night.

Enough of the chicken disaster year already! Time for some extra light in the coop, and for the ladies to finish their molts and resume the normal rhythms of egg laying, bickering, scratching and pecking.

Oh, there ain't nobody here but us chickens
There ain't nobody here at all
So quiet yourself and stop that fuss
There ain't nobody here but us
Kindly point the gun the other way
And hobble, hobble, hobble, hobble off and hit the hay....


  1. so sorry to read this. I've not been in any of these situations myself but am steeling myself. You're doing your best, that's all one can ask of oneself. Courage!

    1. Thanks Kaat. This year has not been 'normal' for us. We've always had losses but somehow not as bad as this.