So you know that one neighbor whose garden is flush with edible landscape, where noises come from animals and kids everyday when they are outside, and whose chicken tractor moves every week to a different location to start the growth of new grass? Yup, that’s me. Hi, I’m Kristy, and I am a proud crazy chicken lady.
I decided that since there are a million posts about chickens all over the inter web, I’d share with you all a personal story about how I found out that I care very deeply about my chickens.
It was an amazing early summer evening, the kind where the nights are still semi chilly and humidity hasn’t plagued us with it’s relentless wet blanket effect. We had spent the day outside, ate dinner on our deck, and had just begun to doze off to a cool breeze from the open window when we heard the noise…
The horrible sound of a chicken distress call. Which, if you are so blissfully unfamiliar, is a saucy mix between a fog horn and what I would imagine would be the Blair Witch stubbing her (does this particular haunt have a gender?) long and writhing toe.
“Holy S$#&, the chickens are getting attacked!” I jump out of bed screaming to get the flashlight to shine down while my husband rushes to get on suitable clothing for saving the day. That is when we see its ringed tail dragging my favorite chicken towards the fence.
“It’s a BLEEP BLEEP BLEEPing Raccoon” This is where I feel like I must have sounded like an old lady in curlers and nightgown in a 60’s western with only a couple teeth and a shaking fist “Get that sumbitch, babe. It’s got my favorite chicken!” The flashlight scared the beast off, thankfully, and we trudged outside to see what was left of the rest of the flock.
I heard my husband shout, shouted “She’s still alive!”. Much to our surprise, a little tan Buff Orpington was crouched down by the fence. This is amazing if you’ve ever had chickens and a raccoon attack has plagued your coop. It rarely ends well for the fowl if they even can be found. Anyway, my husband picked her up and tried to put her back in the coop. She flailed and flapped, clearly in distress. (ummmmmmm, duh) In hindsight she was probably thinking,
“Holy crap, dude, that’s literally the scene of the crime and you’re asking me to just waltz right back in there! NOT COOL, tall guy, not cool.”
When I reopened the door, she jumped right into my arms. I knew something wasn’t right. We made her a “coop” in the garage where she would be safe from looming mischievousness, and from her coop-mates that love to pick on an injured chicken. Assessing her injuries, we noticed a huge bite taken out of her side and her thigh with layers of muscle, fat, and skin missing. Her left side had been literally skinned down to the breast and of course, feathers were everywhere. My heart just sank. I knew there was little to no chance that she’d make it.
The next morning, I vowed to her (Natalie is her name), that I would do everything in my power to help her. I got the cat crate out, and hauled her to the only vet in town that would see her. I got antibiotics and pain medicine and had to administer them every 8 hours for three weeks. Say What now? The vet told me it was her only chance.
A little backstory here. When I got Natalie (she was the only chick I named) she had a broken right hip. She was a hatchling that I assume got injured during transport. Normally, these chicks don’t survive. But Natalie did. She was small, hobbling, and loyal to her “sisters” from day one. She thrived despite them leaving her alone at night by herself under the heat lamp. She pushed her way into that flock, and climbed her way into the middle of the pecking order. She was a fighter, and I was gonna be damned if I was gonna let a dumb ole raccoon take away all she worked to establish.
So, I did it. Every eight hours, pain medicine and antibiotics. Getting a chicken to swallow one, let alone TWO big pills may have been the hardest part of it all! Each day, Natalie started to show signs of progress. The wound was drying up and scabbing over. I’d talk to her and syringe her some water to keep her hydrated. She eventually began to nibble on some food.
After about a month, we introduced her very delicately back into the brood. Chickens can be the meanest of mean-girls when it comes to re-inclusion, so we would let Natalie graze next to the coop, and visa versa. To our surprise, the other hens came running to her, seemingly as amazed as we were that she was alive. When it was finally time to move her back in, they had all accepted her and she was right in with them up on the perch during bedtime.
She is now the most vigilant hen I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning. She, long necked and eyes peering, is the first to call out to her sisters when she thinks there is danger. Although she keeps her distance from me, she always shoots me an eye while the others just devour their food as if to say, “I see you lady. And thanks”
The moral of this story is two-fold.
Even though most people told me to give up on her, I wouldn’t. We don’t give up on those we love. No matter what form of life they take, life deserves at least a chance to keep going.
Even when you least expect it, however you hobble yourself back into your “people”, trust they will love and welcome your broken self back with open arms and a warm nesting spot they’ve been saving for you.
Who’d a thunk such great life reminders could come from a chicken?
Kristy is a certified massage therapist, doula, homesteader and mother to 2 human children and 5 chickens in Virginia.