Today in Chickenland

If you’ll recall, way back in 2012 we were losing chickens at a maddening rate to foxes, and we had a particular group of free – rangers who would NOT stay in their pens, despite our many efforts.  We built them a Fort Knox-style enclosure and dubbed it “the chicken prison”.

We still call it that.  The residents are still “the prisoners”.

We had one mishap there shortly after the prison was put to use: a fox had reached through the wire, dragged one chicken out and slashed another’s throat.  Her crop had been torn open and food was contaminating the entirety of her wounded breast.  But after many hours it became apparent she was not ready to die and I ended up getting my hands on some sutures and sewing her back up.

That chicken’s name is Fleur, and she is still with us.

Which brings us to last night.

Around one this morning, Emily heard a disturbance coming from the front coop (lots of squawking and thumping), so she ran out; but cautiously.  Two weeks ago the same thing had happened and she discovered a giant possum.  This time, something large was heard crashing away through the trees, dogs barking wildly after it.

No intruder was discovered inside the coop, and no one was missing; but Lenore was suffering a deep gash in her throat.

I was in no condition to perform hen surgery at one am.  And the wound looked significantly worse than Fleur’s had been.  I told Emily to put her back in the coop, close it up, and if she lived until morning we’d sew her back up.

Not only was she still alive, she was full of piss and vinegar.  She gave Emily a terrible time trying to catch her.  She was also still scratching and clucking around, nibbling on food and bugs.

It turned out that though the wound was much larger, it had missed the crop entirely and had only torn the skin open.  We thanked our (or Lenore’s) lucky stars and I cleaned out the area with saline, cut away some of the feathers, and sewed her up (I have a supply of sutures now, thank you very much).

It wasn’t the prettiest surgical job, nor even the most complete, but at least it will make healing more likely.  She got a nice spray down with Blue Kote to protect it from infection and flies, and a good shot of antibiotics for good measure.

12.03.13a

See what I did there?  I spared your sensibilities by not offering a “before” picture.

What happens from here is up to the great poultry gods.  I’ll keep her wound clean and give her meds to fight infection, but that’s about all I can do.

From now on, that front coop gets secured at night, guard dogs or no.

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