I would love to share with you the story of my neighbor’s chicken or as we call it here down under ‘chook’. Jesse has two pet chooks in her well enclosed backyard. It is a hobby farming area with homes back to back. I was driving out to work one morning and my neighbor came running towards my car holding a chook wrapped up in a towel.
She was very distressed and felt terrible to ambush me.
She explained to me that her chooks had been attacked between 2 and 3 a.m. and she had awoken to the sound of her barking dog. The poor owner had witnessed the whole thing and only just managed to scare away the fox. This was the second time in that same week that the fox had attempted to kill her chooks.
I took one look at her chook and knew we were in a lot of trouble. I got her to hand me her chook and recommended taking her in with me to the clinic to offer immediate supportive treatment. I still warned her that I may opt to euthanasia her chook on humane grounds if her injuries were too severe. The poor thing had a very bruised neck and bite marks all over its body. She could not lift her head and her eyes were shut and she had laboured breathing. I gave her two injections, an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory and then put her in a dark cage with an electric heating matt underneath her.
I reassessed her every hour and she was hanging on and so that gave me a little bit of hope.
By the end of the day, I called my neighbor and gave her a guarded prognosis but explained she may pull through but would require intensive care which includes crop feeding her. My neighbor was not game on crop feeding her as it is a tricky procedure and you can easily kill your bird if you push the food down the wrong tube (airway instead of oesophagus). I explained I would happily crop feed her myself every day. I mean for pete’s sake, she only lives right next door! I just wanted her to be aware that I can’t guarantee a successful outcome if she decides to go ahead with treatment.
She kept insisting she could not impose on me any longer but I would not have it. I said let us take it day by day and if her chook is going downhill and not showing small improvements each day, then we should pull the plug. The picture below is a couple of days after treatment. The chook was more balanced by then but she could only muster up a small amount of energy to open up her eyes briefly.
For 10 days, I would wake up early each morning to go crop feed my dear chookie and help medicate her before I head to work and repeat the whole process every evening after work.
She was showing very tiny progress each day. Her eyes started to open up then she was able to lift her head slightly. She still had a lot of balance issues and would fall on one side after a few steps. We pressed on and one day, while I had her outside her box and was waiting for my lovely neighbor to warm up the soft food we were going to crop feed her, she looked at the floor and attempted to peck at something. I can not tell you how excited I was. It was still a big effort for her to do so but it was a huge step forward.
At that stage, my very dedicated neighbor started to hand feed the chook since she could lift her head and swallow appropriately. Before we both knew it, this chook was nursed back to full health. I think it took her about 4 weeks to regain her full strength. It would not have been possible if my neighbor was not so loving and dedicated. My neighbor gave in to my incessant demands and realised it was about time to name her chooks; she called one twice (the one with no injuries) and the survivor of the fox attack (lucky) so together they were twice lucky!!!!!
The moral of the story is we often assume that a fluffed up chicken indicates a BAD PROGNOSIS and so many owners thus opt to euthanize their pet chook because they do not want it to suffer.
I believe that every pet should be given a good chance to recover and the power of appropriate basic supportive care should not be underestimated.
Chickens are much more stoic and resilient that what meets the eye!