Chicken Surgery – Could You?

When I think about doing surgery on a chicken I think chicken breast filet, not sewing one up!  I have butchered (or harvested for you gentler souls) many a chicken growing up.  We raised them for food.  Our eggs did not come out of a Styrofoam container that went to the landfill.  They came fresh from the hen house every day.  I would collect them from the nesting boxes and they would still be warm.

My current brood consists of two White Leghorns, two Great Blacks and one Rhode Island Red.  The chickens were a solution to a lawn mite problem I had.  I do not want to use any harmful pesticides or herbicides that might harm my bee hives.  When my daughter asked for chickens I immediately thought, no more bugs!  My yard is completely fenced and there is plenty of room for the birds to roam and not get bored to destructive behaviors.  The chickens became my Integrated Pest Management System, sans chemicals!

My bedroom is the closest to the hen house and I can tell the difference between happy chickens and a viscous attack.  It was late at night a week ago and I had already gone to bed.  The almost newlyweds were finishing up a movie in the den.  The chickens sounded the alarm and I jumped out of bed and yelled down the hall while I grabbed my robe and flip flops.  We keep a couple of mag lights on hand for emergencies (a must in the prep department) and we grabbed them and ran out to the hen house.  My daughter grabbed a rake on her way.

The hen house is constructed so a lady of a certain age can easily take care of the egg collection and house maintenance.  The nesting boxes are in the front and the roosting bars are in the back.  The front half wall lifts up for easy egg collection.  The right side wall drops down and will slope into a wheelbarrow or 5 gallon bucket for fertilizer collection.  My daughter, who jumps and squeals at the sight of a spider, was leaning into the hen house and beating an opossum when I reached them.  The poor opossum never had a chance.  He was caught in the act of holding Emily Rose by the drumsticks and biting her back with his long teeth!

A word about opossums: they are mean and will attack anything when sick or threatened, they have long teeth and sharp claws, they carry diseases like rabies and they are blind in bright light.  You should stay away from them as they will attack you.  (And yes, I have seen a rabid opossum!)  An aggressive opossum is either threatened or sick.  They don’t normally dine on live chickens.

My timid daughter was beating the opossum off her chicken with the rake handle with all her might.  I left them to go back to the safe and pick up an opossum equalizer.  I encouraged him to meet his maker and turned around to find my daughter holding Emily Rose and crying her eyes out.  Mister disposed of the offending aggressor while I outlined daughter’s options.  Because Emily Rose was attacked by a possibly diseased animal, we can’t eat her.  (loud sobbing)  I could put her out of her pain quickly (louder sobbing).  We could take her to a vet (something I hated to say due to the cost) or, she could use that $50,000 per med education I paid for to try and stitch her up herself. (after my initial examination to determine survivability)

She voted to un-filet the chicken.  Out came the first aid supplies and the Lidocaine that I had left over from my round of strep throat.  Trim the feathers, 15 minutes.  Clean out the debris, 1 hour.  Hands shaking relief, 15 minutes.  Sewing, 1 hour.  Mister held Emily Rose down with his mighty hands and whispered sweet nothings to soothe her.  I was the surgical nurse and threaded silk thread through beading needles, the smallest I had, and made sure the area was sterile.  It was an exhausting two hours, physically and emotionally.  The surgeon had to stop and wipe the tears from her eyes occasionally. What I thought was an above-average amount of medical supplies was sadly depleted in one episode. The injury was severe but certainly not bloody. If this had been a human injury, there would have been much more blood loss.

I am happy to say Emily Rose only spent two days in the CCU (chicken care unit, aka bathtub).  She quickly moved up to a cardboard box and the third day was ready to rejoin her sisters.  Her first day outside was stressful and she needed to spend the night back in the CCU, strictly because she has no feathers on her backside to keep her warm and the hen house was looking way too scary.  The second night she decided the hen house was looking better and she put herself to bed.

Daughter has added much more bio material to the nest boxes so Emily Rose can snuggle down and keep warm.  Chickens give off a lot of heat!

Lessons learned:

  1. Don’t let any waste accumulate, it attracts predators.
  2. Don’t get emotionally attached to your food.
  3. I don’t have enough medical supplies.



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Filed under Bees, Chickens, Garden, Urban Farming

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