Saturday, August 1, 2009

How My Dining Room Table Turned into a Chicken Infirmary

Llewelyn should have been a rooster. She was sent with our order of chicks as a “packing peanut” Barred Rock (or Dominique?) rooster. We found homes for our roosters one by one but couldn’t seem to part with Llewelyn, our smallest and spunkiest rooster. Finally when our rooster Carlos began developing his waddle, we knew Llewelyn was a hen. And what a fine hen she has been. She is by far the best flying insect catcher and the most comfortable around humans. She will often lounge with me on the back deck or sit with me on a bench near the coop. Yesterday, when she jumped directly on my lap, I knew she wasn’t feeling well.

Last time we had a sick chicken (about a year ago) our local veterinarian thought we were crazy to spend money trying to save a chicken. The chicken ended up dying and we realized the vet visit, while expensive, did not help at all. After our chicken passed away, Glenn found a website that reviewed chicken examinations and treatments for sick poultry. We did an exam on Llewelyn and found that she was dehydrated and seems to have lost her balance. I took her inside and began feeding her an electrolyte solution with a syringe (which she will happily drink). It was during one of her feedings that I happened to look out the dining room window and see a fox running toward our chickens.

“FOX, Glenn, FOX,” I screamed as I ran out the back door toward the chickens. Glenn was right behind me as we reached the chickens. We were able to see the fox stop and stare at us for a moment before he started running into the bushes, one of our chickens in his mouth. Glenn ran toward Pumpkin’s enclosure to let him out as I continued after the fox, screaming like a maniac. Before Pumpkin could even begin chasing the fox (Pumpkin is not fast enough to actually catch a fox, don't worry), our chicken Ethel stumbled out of the bushes and ran past me toward the house. I couldn’t believe the fox dropped his prey, our oldest and sweetest chicken, Ethel.

Once Glenn was able to catch her, we recognized that Ethel’s injuries were grave. She had three large lacerations and we could see her muscles and bones. I immediately called our local emergency vet clinic and was told that the veterinarian who sees chickens was about to leave, sorry. I called another emergency clinic and was told that the veterinarian did not see chickens.

Desperate, I decided to fix the chicken myself. We drove down to the clinic where I work as a midwife, and I gathered a few supplies. Glenn and Oliver were my assistants and we slowly put Ethel back together. She was amazingly brave and never struggled.

We have two chickens on the dining room table, one injured, one sick. Please send healing vibes to Llewelyn and Ethel, two wonderful hens.


  1. What a story ! I hope both chickens come through ok ! Your kindness towards animals is so special.

  2. I'm glad I bumped into your blog!

    I have found that birds, in general, are about as tough an animal as any. With external injuries they seem to have remarkable healing abilities. Illnesses though, can decimate a flock in no time.

    It is important that y'all take the time, as you already have, and learn everything you can about illnesses, veterinary medicine and injury treatment as possible. I've made a continuous study of it over the years, and I have become quite adept at patching animals up. Folks tend to tease me about it, I spare no expense to go hunting, and I spare no expense at saving a baby mockingbird, armadillo, or gopher tortoise.

    You're emergency treatment looks very well done.

    I'll put together a small list of household and farm store things that I consider indispensable. I'll let you know when I post it.

    Best regards,
    Trophy Merriam’s Turkey
    Feeding Baby Mockingbirds

    PS I keep bees also, but unless they get me but good, I rarely write about them! AAR

  3. Awww...what a story - what a life! You are so kind to animals, it brings tears to my eyes. I will definitely pray for your two wonderful chicken friends and hope they will make it. I love all creatures great and small. I am filled with hope and joy that there are people like you around who feel the same...

    My Oma (grandmother) had a pet chicken when she was a girl. She lived in the city and tied a string around its leg when taking her for a walk. Can you imagine?

  4. Our local vet will see our chickens (he is an old ranch vet), but it is very expensive so we usually end up doctoring them ourselves. Our biggest problem has been the staph infections the chickens often get from wild animal bites (including feral cats). It is hard to get the antibiotic doses right by yourself. Hope your girls both heal well!

  5. Thanks, Julia!

    Chicken Update:

    Ethel- doing well, laying eggs, eating, drinking and trying to heal.

    Llewelyn- Eating and drinking, but still has no balance and can only stand for a couple of minutes. We think it might be an ear infection so we may start her on Bactrim. ~Jess

  6. What a day for you and your hens! I'm thinking positive thoughts for them both. I know what it's like to have a really wonderful hen. I've found that I've become attached to them. And Barred Rocks are definitely full of personality! Good luck Llewelyn and Ethel!

  7. Very interesting post, I wish the best to your chickens. We had a rescue chick when I was little that we took on our boat trips, he liked to ride on the front of the row boat and peck for bugs on the beach. Also had a hen Emmy Lou that we had till she died of old age.

    People think I am nuts for taking our gerbils and hamster to the Exotic vet nearby. Just because they only cost 8.00 does not mean they don't deserve good care. Just posted today about one of my gerbils (my son's but I love them too).

  8. I am trying to looking for a house which have a great dining room, once I saw a beautiful house through costa rica homes for sale
    I think those houses are very wonderful. I am really interested now because they are very wide and beautiful.