Thursday, November 20, 2014 • 6:40 AM Comments ()

Sick Chicken

posted by Caleb Rounds

Last night on the bus I was thinking about my chicken. That’s not against the rules on a PVTA bus, though “failure to meet minimum standards for public health and hygiene” is. I will assume that either I have met the minimum standards for public health and hygiene or have been grandfathered in.

My chicken on the other hand probably couldn’t come aboard. The regulations permit service animals, but ban pets. They are silent on livestock, but I’m thinking that the spirit of the law is no livestock, even if carried in an approved container. It’s a shame, I’ve ridden on buses in other countries where chickens were all but encouraged.

I was thinking about my chicken not because she wouldn’t meet the “minimum standards for public health and hygiene,” which at this point she wouldn’t, but because she appears to be hurt. Unfortunately, like Bush II, chickens “don’t do nuance” (GW Bush 2/15/2004 in Time), so I’m not sure exactly what is wrong. All I’m getting from her is the fact that she doesn’t want to move around much so she poops all of herself.

My mother picked up on this injury while she was visiting a few days ago. In her unmistakably subtle and gentle way she asked “is that chicken dead?” The chicken’s head was moving. My first thought was of some sort of fowl-zombie, but I realized that the chicken was probably not dead. I told her the chicken was just resting.

Later that evening when I went to shut the coop, said chicken hadn’t made it in. I picked her up to send her on her way and she limped in. One of her colleagues immediately set upon her, pecking viciously. Again, chickens don’t do nuance. It’s not so much, “Aw Molly you don’t seem to be feeling well, come have a spot next to me on the roost.” It’s more like, “Are you feeling poorly? I will kill and eat you.”

This sort of behavior is one of the reasons that chickens in confinement “farms” must have their beaks cut back: otherwise they’d kill each other.

I donned my chicken-doctor hat. I think even in Northampton taking a chicken to the vet is a bit much, so I set about trying to diagnose the issue myself. Real farmers have been doing this since chicken keeping began and most of them didn’t have google.

It quickly became apparent that the hen had probably hurt, possibly broken, her leg. The first aid for this, like the first aid for just about anything with a chicken, is to isolate her then give her food, water and time to recover. It brings to mind the Far Side cartoon showing one of Larson’s people eyeing the “equine medicine” chapter in a book. “Broken leg: shoot; infected eye: shoot; hearing loss: shoot; bad breath: shoot.”

I’m not going to shoot my chicken, I’m going to do everything I can to prevent her suffering, but in the end she’s a chicken. So she’s sitting in a box big enough to allow her some movement, but not enough to encourage her to use the leg. She has water, food and a little yogurt. She seems perfectly happy when I visit, even making the little happy chicken trill when I take the top off the box to check on her.

So it turns out my mom was sort of right. There I said it.

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