This post is about a chicken that was attacked and has significant injuries. It contains a photo of the damage.
Oh boy, this one is bad. Last night Trevor heard something attacking our chickens. When he got outside he managed to scare off a critter that was on top of one of our hens. It was dark, he saw eyes, he’s not sure, but based on what he thinks he saw and on reports from the neighborhood, it’s very likely that what attacked our flock was a fisher cat.
And I hate fisher cats – they are so methodically evil.
We found Rudd (our Splash Marans who was named after a FIFA Worldcup announcer ) in very poor condition. Something had grabbed her around the head and had sheared the skin off from the back of her neck. She was terrified.
I picked her up and brought her into the house to inspect the damages. They were bad – her skull was exposed in the back and she had received a few other less severe (relatively speaking) puncture wounds around her neck and upper back. One of her eyes was closed, I couldn’t tell yet if it was injured or just swollen. There was a fair amount of blood around her head.
“Should I get the killing cone?” Trevor asked me.
Everyone here knows that I am the first person to put a very sick and critically injured chicken down. I do not believe in prolonging the bird’s life if it means agony for the bird. I recently helped put down a bird that was critically ill. There was no doubt in my mind that the most humane thing to do was to end her life.
It’s not easy, but when you believe it’s the right thing to do, it becomes easier.
But as horrible as these wounds were – Rudd was not profusely bleeding. She was alert. It looked like the sheath over her skull/neck was intact. It did not look like her throat was punctured. She could stand. She was not labored in her breathing *and* although she was clearly in shock, she did not appear to be in pain. She was calm.
Those were all very positive signs.
I held Rudd tightly against me for some time (in the same way that a parent holds a swaddled baby to calm her down) and after a bit, I told Trevor to not get the cone but instead to get a crate. I was going to give Rudd a chance.
And everyone also knows (or should know by now) that if an animal has a chance at surviving, I’m there for it.
“We’ll know in the morning, if she might make it.”
The first hurdle with a violent injury like this is heart attack. Chickens (especially standard egg layers) tend to be over-bred (good characteristics in, bad ones out.) This is all well and good however, it tends to leave us chickens that have congenital heart problems. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard of a chicken being attacked only to die the next day. Or having one chicken attacked and then others around her (who weren’t touched) dying later on. It’s not unusual for a chicken to be “scared to death.”
Heart attacks are a big consideration when you working with injured or sick chickens and unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about them. Except wait.
Fortunately for Rudd, she is a rarer breed that hasn’t been overly bred. She comes from good, hardy, stock. One point for Rudd.
We got her settled in with bedding and water and we went to bed.
When I came downstairs this morning, she was alive. Alive enough to stand up and take a sip of offered water. She’s definitely got a chance. Two points for Rudd.
This chicken is not out of the woods by any stretch. I need to make sure her wounds don’t get infected (some topical antibiotic ointment and warm water for that) and I need to make sure that she eats and drinks enough to keep up her strength.
When I have chickens that are sick enough to be in chicken ICU, I make sure that they have access to high water foods (grapes, lettuce, etc.) This type of food not only increases the bird’s water intake, but it also softens (waters down) the stool. The last thing I want my chicken to do is any kind of unnecessary straining. She’s got other things that demand her energy right now.
Rudd can have all the watery food she wants.
I’m not going to stitch her wound, it’s stopped bleeding and the torn tissue looks healthy, if we can keep her alive long enough, I’m confident that will heal over (long enough is likely to be a few months.)
For now, Rudd has a future consisting of a lot of TLC and a lot of “let’s wait and see” which is a far better future than the one that could have been.
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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