Posts tagged accidents

Another Close Call

With bald eagles and sharp-shinned hawks making regular passes over the Queendom these days, our rooster, Stryper, has a heavy workload. He tirelessly leads, follows and gathers the girls together, ever watching the sky and assessing the level of danger. At the end of the day, when he finally roosts for the night, he is the first to sleep, exhausted by his task.

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Stryper is the most attentive rooster we have had. He chatters away all day and the girls love what he is dishing out.

Some of our older girls ignore his constant pestering and choose to wander in the other direction. They are probably content that the new young beauties hold his attention so fixedly. But everything has a cost.

Today, FM found a pile of gray feathers in a shed bay, behind the snowblower. He had noticed that the flock was hunkered down, out of view, under the front porch when he arrived home so he went back to see who was there and who was missing. We currently have six gray hens and it turns out that beautiful Ash was missing.

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What a beauty Ash is. She looks like a Robin Red-Breast with her rusty highlights.

Ash is an experienced hen – probably five years old – who growls at the slightest danger and continues growling long afterwards to remind the others to be careful. She also loves a snuggle and spends time each day with her sickly mum, Sprout.

With headlamps on, FM and I headed over to the pile of feathers and began searching.

Feathers everywhere – even a thick pile under this wire shelf. She was found under the right hand shelf. Afterwards I collected them all and could easily have stuffed a pillow.

Expecting to find a lifeless body, I was elated to find her bright eyes looking at me. She was flattened down under the gardening shelf, between a bag of grass seed and another of peat moss. She was totally invisible. In fact, FM had just searched this same area ten minutes earlier with no luck. She seems relieved to have been found and easily came into my arms but was still on high alert to danger.

We carried her back into the house and checked her over for injuries. Most of the feathers on her back are broken off at the base and she has a scratch which cut through the thin skin between her wings. One of her claws is broken, deeply split and bleeding. She is missing most of the feathers on her belly and on her left leg.

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She just looks fluffy from this angle but you can see that the outer feathers from her leg are all gone. Those downy under-feathers are covering up her bare-naked patches.

But, she is alert, has all her internal organs intact and hungrily devoured some pear and hemp seeds. She must have put up the fight of her life before finding safety under the garden shelf. She is now back in with coop, probably telling horror stories of her getaway to the young chicks.

After losing precious Speedy to a bald eagle last month and after finding Gandalf hunkered down in a similar hiding spot six weeks ago, we are keenly aware that losing hens to birds of prey can happen any day. I’m just glad that today wasn’t that day.

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Ash and her only chick, Ace, about 2 years ago. Ace was never kicked out of the nest and now, a few years later, they still hang out together.

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DIY Vet – A Broken Toe

Just like any chicken-keeper with a backyard flock, medical issues come and go on a fairly regular basis. In the seven years that we have kept chickens, we have dealt with roundworm outbreaks, respiratory issues, impacted crop, bumblefoot, possible wry neck, eagle attack, internal laying and a few other unknown, undiagnosed problems. We have only taken a chicken to the vet once, figuring out all the other issues through ‘Dr. Google’ or common sense. We have lost a number of girls to medical problems over those years but we have also helped others survive and thrive.

Chickens are stoic in their pain and discomfort and, despite all my efforts at chicken whispering, they rarely tell me the root of their problems. It takes keen observation of their unique chicken-alities so that you can quickly notice a change in behaviour or physical wellness. The word on the street is that once a hen shows weakness, it is too late to help.

Benedict is our top hen despite her 6.5 years.

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Me and Ben have a special bond. She comes to me most mornings for a snuggle, a chat and a game of beak (which she invented)

She is boss of the coop and boss of the Queendom. She is usually one of the first out in the morning and contentedly ignores our rooster to forage where she chooses. So, last week, when I found her sitting on the coop floor, it struck me as odd but I wrote it off as weather-related since we had 20 cm of fresh snow on the ground and it was still snowing. A day later, she was still sitting on the coop floor and again the following day.

Finally on day 3, I went to pick her up and was shocked to see that her foot was bright green at the base of the middle toe and that toe was dangling loosely. I carried her into the house where FM and I analysed it more carefully.

Strangest bruise I have ever seen, but apparently normal.

A quick internet search taught me that chicken bruises are bright green and typically show up 2 days after an injury. It appears that there is a break somewhere in her middle toe, probably the bone closest to the foot. I found a website which discussed helping wild birds (mostly songbirds) who have injured their wings, feet or legs. It suggested making a whole foot splint out of pipe-cleaners or popsicle sticks and vet wrap. Somewhere else, I found a suggestion to use a styrofoam meat tray as the splint.

With a bit of creative ingenuity and a very patient bird, I managed to cut a splint for the one toe out of a foam tray. I made it fit the whole base of her foot and extend the length of the injured toe, ending before her claw. I made sure the splint had smooth edges, and I wrapped it with gauze.

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The Chicken Kit his always at the ready and has all sorts of supplies for every eventuality

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Her middle toe is about the same length as my finger.

With Benedict laying on her side against a pile of towels, I used vet wrap to fix the splint in place. With one piece of vet wrap, I wrapped the toe onto the splint and used a second piece of wrap to fix the splint around the base of her toe, her foot pad and her thumb. I finished off with electrical tape just to keep the vet wrap edges from peeling up. The electrical tape doesn’t touch her skin.

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Here is the only photo I took of the splinting (one week later). Her middle toe is splinted straight but her three other toes are all able to flex and bend. She’s always flipping me the bird.

One week later, the splint is still on and in place. Benedict has not left the coop but has progressed from hopping on one foot to gently putting weight on her injured foot and limping from the food to the water and her favourite sleeping spots. Last night, she even hopped up onto a roost bar for the night!

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She has managed to get up and down from the roost over the past couple of days and is pretty adept at limping around the coop. I imagine it will be a solid three weeks before she free-ranges again.

Most forums I found suggest keeping an injured hen separate from the flock until she can fend for herself but I didn’t do this with Benedict. She doesn’t bear confinement well, calling and crying whenever left alone in the ICU dog crate, and would probably injure herself further in trying to escape. Also, since she is the Alpha, no one would dare mess with her. So far, this has proven true.

We still don’t know what could have broken her toe. Nothing in the coop was out of place – no signs of a struggle. Perhaps the ‘snow day’ caused some crazy cooped-up chicken antics in the coop. Their lips are sealed.

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So Long, Stumpy

Blacktail Deer are a daily sighting out here at the Queendom. In fact, I would dare guess that the deer population of the Courtenay/Comox area is equal to the human population. Some people lament the damage that deer do to their flower and veggie gardens, spending exorbitant amounts of money on deer-fencing. But most people don’t mind the deer and even catch themselves smiling when they spot one in the woods or by the road.

The Queendom is a deer haven and we like it that way. Our property is an open clearing which allows our  hoofed buddies to roam around and graze. But if danger is sensed, the deer easily hop our 4 ft fence and are able to disappear in the thick forest that surrounds us on three sides.

On our first morning as new caretakers of the Queendom in April, we met three of the permanent residents. We deduced that this was a mama deer with two of last years fawns.

Mama Deer with her two yearling fawns in April

Stumpy and sister and mama

We could spot these three every morning at first light and every evening at twilight. They were initially frightened of us but, over the months, they became only slightly wary of our presence.

We play a daily game of Where’s Waldo with our deer

Soon we could see the personality of Stumpy emerging. He was definitely a young buck and he spent much of the early summer tormenting his sister and playing ‘king of the castle’ with the dirt piles during our excavation work. He would tirelessly chase and run and kick before collapsing for a snooze under his mama’s watchful eye.

Stumpy earns his name with his mismatched, two-prong antlers

Soon enough we could see his fuzzy antler buds and noticed that his left antler was stunted. The name Stumpy seemed fitting and it stuck. More and more throughout the summer, we saw Stumpy on his own, as his mama distanced herself and forced him into independence.

In September, things began to change. We spotted Stumpy standing at the edge of the pond, glassy-eyed and foaming at the mouth. He stood in the same spot, statue-like, for hours and his stance was awkward. His belly was bloated and his rear-end was tucked under. You could almost feel his abdominal pain just by watching. He had a racking cough. It was a wet, mucus cough that made his whole body convulse. It was terrible to watch.

Stumpy’s painful stance with his distended belly, glassy eyes, foamy mouth and heavy head. We have named this section of the pond ‘Stumpy’s Beach’.

For about two weeks, we surveyed him and the only change was for the worse. Soon, he began to bed down at the very edge of the pond so that he could drink without having to get up or move.

Not knowing what to do, I made some inquiries with the local animal rehabilitation centre  After describing his symptoms, a veterinarian wrote to me with a diagnosis of ‘high lungworm loads and pneumonia’. She said that there was no treatment for this and that he needed to be put down. She told me to contact the local Conservation Officer who would come and euthanize Stumpy.

Feeling absolutely sick, I called the Conservation Officer. When I described the situation and the diagnosis, he laughed at me. He told me that one sick deer was hardly a concern for him with a local population of +/- 50000 deer. He wasn’t going to come all the way out to the Queendom unless the animal was practically dead. “Call me when he can no longer get up and no longer has a fear of humans” he said. I asked him, if Stumpy dies, would his department come and collect a dead deer. “Nope,” he said.  “If he dies on your property, then you would be the proud owner of a dead deer”.

And so. Let nature run its course. We kept a daily watch on Stumpy and occasionally we would walk close to Stumpy’s Beach. Each time, Stumpy would slowly get up and hobble away from us, showing that his fear of humans and his will to live were both still strong. He even hopped (ungracefully) over the fence once when I got too close.

About a week later, I noticed that Stumpy had moved to a different area and he was grazing! He started to bed down in different areas and returned to his regular pattern of early morning/early evening visits. His body stance changed back to normal and he was far more alert. He had survived his illness and was on the mend!  I felt such relief, knowing that winter weather was around the corner and he needed to be strong to survive this first winter on his own.

Stumpy sightings became scarce. I always kept an eye out for him but only saw him once or twice over the past month.

Yesterday, FM told me that there was a deer lying on the side of the main road into town – about a kilometre from our place. As we returned from some errands in town, we stopped and had a look at the road-killed deer. It was Stumpy.

The two-pronged antler and the stumpy antler were enough proof for me. Recovering from a terminal illness doesn’t mean you’re invincible.

It is a sad day indeed. Stumpy has lived on the Queendom longer than we have. He was probably born there and spent much of his youth playing there. He could have waited out his sickness anywhere but he chose the Queendom as a safe place that had all he needed with no imminent dangers.

FM and I have never had pets together. Although we each had a dog when growing up, our spontaneous travel lifestyle and FM’s allergies have prevented us from jumping on board the pet owner train. This is the closest we have come to taking on a pet.

Peace Out, Good Buddy!

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Hospital Visit No.2

If you’ve been following along, you will have recently read about the battle with the log splitter. (log splitter 1; me 0) I was still on prescribed R&R, taking it fairly easy around the Queendom and adamantly avoiding sneezes. On the last day of school, I was hustling around the house, unsuccessfully trying to do too many things at once, and I tripped over the ottoman at high-speed. In mid-air, I valiantly tried to contort my body to avoid landing ribs first on the glass coffee table. Although I successfully missed the coffee table and did no further damage to my lung, I managed to land with full force directly on my pinkie finger.

I lay on the ground for a minute and tried to assess my situation. As an adult, I don’t fall very often so it is kind of a big deal. This was my chain of thoughts:

Am I okay?

Yeah, I think I’m alright.

Is anything broken?

No, although I may have bloodied my shin when I landed.

Hold on. My pinkie finger feels odd.

Lookie here. It’s at a funny angle, but it doesn’t hurt.

Maybe I’ll bend it and see .

Whoa!  That felt strange.  Kind of creaky!

I studied my hand for a minute but I could no longer move my pinkie at all. I thought about just ignoring it and carrying on with whatever I had been doing. But I realized that I was probably in shock and that I should do something about it before the onset of pain.

I went outside and spoke to the foreman of our excavation crew. I asked him if he thought my pinkie was broken. He had a look, nodded and offered me a ride to the hospital. I declined and said that I would drive myself. I have never broken a bone before. Somehow I thought it would hurt more.

Nothing is far away here. I was at the ER before 15 minutes had passed. It turns out my pinkie was only dislocated and, with some slight-of-hand magic, the ER doctor easily popped it back into place. (Yes, there was time for a ‘pull my finger’ joke).  Besides a fat knuckle, my only souvenir is this x-ray.

Pull My Finger!

As I walked with the x-ray technician, I made a comment about probably being back soon since accidents happen in threes. She told me that no one in the emergency department believes that old wives’ tale.  I guess time will tell.

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