Today’s post was meant to be a celebration. A way to announce that Violet has been fully integrated into our flock with little or minimal damage. It was going to be a post celebrating the power and tolerance of the flock.
And up until last night, it certainly looked like that was how it would turn out.
Yesterday was Mother’s Day and our family spent much of the afternoon in our backyard surrounded by our foraging chickens.
After several days of being kept caged in the hen house in order for her flock mates to get used to her, I thought it was time for Violet to join the flock. Oh sure, the larger and older birds would occasionally peck her but being the very clever bird that she is, she would run over to me and hide from the others behind my feet. Violet knew that this mama hen was looking out for her.
Violet was so very sweet that one of our visiting neighbors even got down on the ground to play with her.
“That’s one nice bird,” he told me while gently stroking her chest.
As the afternoon wore on and the sun started to set, I felt very comfortable putting Violet in with the others to roost together for the night.
“How much damage can be done overnight?” I thought to myself.
I put her in the coop and I know I put her in because I remember her standing in a corner fending off what looked to me like very normal pecking behavior from the seniors.
But this morning, I couldn’t find Violet. I checked the rafters, I checked the corners, I overturned boxes and twigs.
I checked the exterior of the hen house to see if there was a tunnel and maybe a predator had gotten in last night.
I checked the yard for a suspicious clump of feathers.
It was like she had simply disappeared. Our little Violet was gone.
I turned the chickens out to the fenced-in yard for the day and I went back into the coop. Like you do when you misplace something in your house, I kept going back to the spot where I had last remembered seeing Violet.
“She’s got to be here,” I thought.
And then I saw it. A few black feathers poking out of a cinder block, this is a dramatic re-creation –
I had found Violet. I scooped her up and held her against my chest. She was trembling and was not trying to get away.
That should have been my first clue.
After telling Marc that I had found her, I set up a safe area for her outside in her old play pen. But when I put her down, I realized that my arm was wet. I inspected Violet and that’s when I saw this.
Our Violet had most definitely not been accepted as a member of the flock.
All of the sudden, this little chick went from being what I thought was a very frightened chick to being a critically injured bird. Right now, Violet is in our chicken ICU with a severe, life threatening injury. She needs all the help we can give her.
I found her wire cage and immediately put her inside it. She required more than just playpen protection, Violet needed 100% protection from the others until she has healed.
I filled her water dish and added a few crystals of electrolytes for added healing support. I then went to the Tractor Supply to get more medicated Chick feed (she’d been on regular chicken feed for about a week) and I’ve put her back on the medicated food until things get (much) better. I also got a concentrated seed cake, high in fat and vitamins, for her to pick at to ensure she gets a constant supply of high value calories.
All of her lovely tail feathers are gone and the skin around her vent has been pecked open very deeply. If I can keep any infection under control she might have a chance. But if there is significant scaring around her vent, it might impact her ability to push put an egg. Only time will tell.
For now, Violet is isolated and has protected access to her own food and water. I’m going to let her wounds heal a bit and then will begin her on warm butt baths in an effort to clean the area. As soon as I put up this post, I’m going to go out and spend some time with her.
This should have been a happy Mother’s Day post where I talked about how all of my chicks are tolerating each other and are getting along.
Instead, it is not.
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
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