Chickens are amazing creatures. They are really tough in many respects and really fragile in others. A chest infection or eggbound oviduct can kill them quickly, whereas grave wounds can just seem like an annoyance and they pull through.
Take, for example, one of our beautiful, big Light Sussex girls. In the morning, as they burst out of the chicken Falcon to have breakfast, I didn’t even realise anything was amiss. Everyone ran around and had their breakfast in a frenzy of food gobbling excitement, I gave them a cursory glance over to see if anyone looked mopey, dull feathered or otherwise untoward and then headed to the Big Shed to help Stace with some stuff.
About half an hour later the chickens ran past in their excitable hurry to find the next tasty grub. There is usually one particular hen, or sometimes it’s the rooster leading the charge to the next feeding spot and everyone hurries along after, fearful of missing out or being separated from the flock (leaving them vulnerable to attack by our resident Magpies). The main group passed and then hobbling along behind trying to keep up was one of the big beautiful Light Sussex hens. With blood pouring out of her foot!
Stace and I raced over and grabbed her and were horrified to find that two of her toes were missing! They had been sheared clean off! Perplexed how it may have happened – perhaps she got her toes caught in the wire floor of the car as they all jumped out…I raced her off to the house for emergency medical treatment. For me it was an emergency…to the chook it just seemed like an annoyance because she wasn’t eating with the others!
I bathed the foot and inspected the wound closer. Two of her toes had been cut off from the first knuckle. She patiently let me bathe her foot in a warm saline solution, then treat her with antiseptic and bandage the would. We set up a clean and dry hospital cage outside the back door and although perplexed by her new bandage, she settled in well.
We inspected the chook Falcon but couldn’t work out exactly what had happened. No toes remained…likely they were gobbled up by an over eager breakfast eater! Eeew.
Each day I would change the dressing and ensure that the wound was healing well and she was bestowed with the name Peggy…short for, you guessed it, Pegleg. It looked horrific, but the healing process was amazing, with the skin growing over the exposed bone.
Eventually it was healed enough for the Great Outdoors and Peg had taught herself how to balance on her limited number of toes. She is going great now, with no hint of a limp or disability – you can’t tell her from her Light Sussex sister. She has adapted her scratching technique and forges on in her chookie way. What a trooper is our Peggy!