Sunday, January 27, 2013

Scuttle Buttin'

Poor, sweet little Willie (Willamina); her luck has been runnin' about on par with mine for most of her little chicken life.  Ya'll may remember when I posted this picture of her relaxing by the wood stove.  She is THE low hen on the totem pole and she always stays to herself to just avoid getting pecked so much.  Even so, she always seems so happy and had the most beautiful, upright tailfeathers of all the Speckled Sussex.  Although she was always the bottom rung on the ladder, so to speak, she never went around in a cowered position like a lot of hens do.  No sir, she strutted her little independent self around with that banner of a tail standing stock straight up in the air.  She knows she is different but she is still proud.

 Unfortunately, I think her inclination to stay by herself probably made her a target of the ol' local fox, something I had worried about and he jumped her near the wood line the other morning.  By some strange coincidence I had just opened the window on that side of the house to talk to the chickens and saw the commotion. (I had not heard anything)  Once again I started screaming and running out into the yard in my sock feet.  It must have been enough because by the time I got down to the garden Willie met me running as fast as her little 6 toes would carry her, heading in the other direction.  I ran after the fox, not sure what I was going to do since I had not taken the time to get a weapon, but I was going to scare it if I could.  After that it took about 30 minutes of searching but I finally found Willie cowering by the propane tank, a pool of blood around her.  My heart sank.  She was one of my favorites.

Luck, or something, was with us that day though because we brought her in and after quite some time of touch and go first-aid, finally managed to get the bleeding to stop for good.  She had a pretty serious gash on her cheek that would open back up if you looked at it too hard but between the liquid bandage and natural clotting it quit and I was much relieved.  She did loose that beautiful tail though.  She is practically bald on her back side and just has those 3 little crumpled feathers left.  We put her in my studio in a big pet carrier with plenty of soft towels and food but for a while she seemed so dejected.  She would eat, which is good, but she let her wings just drag on the floor and would not, or could not, say a peep to me.  By the afternoon though she was some better and holding her wings up a little, drinking lots of water and if I leaned close to her she would chatter real low to me.
I know in the homesteading world I probably failed miserably on this one.  See, Willie is kinda different in that she has never laid an egg as far as I know.  I believe she may be barren.  All her sisters are laying quite well at this point.  So, she's not worth much to most people.  Most would have put her in the freezer before now I suppose, and I guess economically that would be the best thing.  Certainly not put any effort into saving a barren, odd, little hen.  But she is messed up like me.  A peculiar little thing that is still proud to be herself and doesn't bow to the bossy hens; just gives them a wide berth and goes on her way.  I have learned that Speckles are also characteristically VERY loud, but she's not.  She is so mild and sweet and she does have worth to me because she eats bugs and poops!  Both still valuable commodities.  So, call me a softie but I'll do all I can to help her and see she has a long life here.  We moved her down to the Goober Chicken Memorial Pen where she has her own little suite and yard to go out into.  I noticed though today, that she is still a little scared to go out by herself but if I sit in the yard she will happily come out and scratch around.  She is safe in that yard because it is completely fenced but she doesn't understand that.  She understands if she sees me with her though.

To wrap up (so to speak) I did want to show a few things that I have found to be invaluable recently.  With all the crap of this month I have become more of an authority on chicken first aid, although I think this would work on many animals.  As you might imagine, doctoring a squirming chicken can be a challenge, much less getting a Band-Aid on one!  First, we keep plenty of iodine around.  It is an extreme disinfectant and if you've ever had surgery of any kind you'll know they douse you in it practically.  I also keep several very soft artist's brushes, like watercolor brushes, and it works very well to kinda mop the iodine on wounds with those.  They are designed to hold liquid and you don't have to be very accurate when swabbing a wound with one of them.  We also keep a couple of bottles of liquid bandage.  This requires a little more accuracy but you can still blob it on wounds where there is no way you are going to get a bandage on.  I've used it to stop bleeding on cut or pecked open combs, feet and Willie's cheek.  I've also used it on myself.  It does sting a little because it also has an antiseptic in it, so they will squirm a little, but if you can put a towel over their head or such that helps them be still.


ErinFromIowa said...

I think there is a few of use out there who identify with Willamina also. Right down to narrowly escaping the fox! Loved this post Annie.

Sissy said...

That ole fox sure has an eye for beauty! You may be happily surprised one day. I once had a rooster dog-attacked so badly I could see its innards, the whole back mutilated. In time he healed completely, feathers and all. The others were cruel to him though, so he went to live with another old woman, once again becoming a king of his domain. You are a kind warrior, Annie.

pamit said...

I love this story. Wish everyone who thinks chickens aren't intelligent could read it. Thank you Annie.

HermitJim said...

Willie is a tough ol' bird (no pun intended). I hope she makes a continued comeback!

Pretty little thing!

Ed said...

My parents raised hogs when I was a teen and I got to experience a lot of similar things. We had a pig born without the lower limbs below the "knees" on all four legs. A rational person would have put him out of his misery but I kept him. He grew out of the nursery and did fairly well in the finishing building. I always visited with him and scratched him behind the ears for awhile when doing chores. He eventually did get an infection in one of his legs that I couldn't stop with medicine and I did have to put him down but I was always glad that I gave him an extra couple months on this earth. I hope Willamina had more than a couple months left in her too!

Floridacracker said...

The world needs more softies.
I hope she does okay.

Island Rider said...

When we had chickens, long ago before a bobcat got them all, I rescued one from a dog. She never forgot and I believe truly loved me after her stay in a dog crate in the kitchen and I loved her, too!

edifice rex said...

Hey Erin! thanks! yeah, I imagine many could identify with Willie; I know I can.

Hey Sissy! thanks! I've always been a sucker for the outcast. I believe Willie's feathers will grow back since they were just plucked and the skin not removed.

Hey Pam! thanks! yes, chickens are much smarter than a lot of people think; some of them anyway! lol!

Hey Jim! thanks! I think she'll do pretty good.

Hey Ed! I think Willie will probably have a good long life.

Hey FC! that's me! lol! thanks!

Hey IR! yeah, I think some of them get just as attached to people as we do them.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Your devotion to Willie is a wonderful thing, Annie, and she surely knows how much you care and so do we all. Glad to read that she is doing better and glad you are as well.

Jenn said...

I don't see anything wrong with keeping a pet chicken.

You aren't so sentimental about the others, are you? She can be a pet, and you can still be practical.

edifice rex said...

Hey Bea! thanks! yeah, she has gotten to where she perks up when she sees me because she knows i have some treat for her! lol!

Hey Jenn! I'm not as sentimental with the others but I do kinda think of all the layers as pets. Willie is just special. :)