Sunday, January 27, 2013
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.