In Real Life

Real things that actually happenned.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

More chicken sagas: The Piper story

Well, maybe 3 months ago our Buff-Orpington went broody. After letting her sit a couple of weeks, we went ahead and got 3 chicklets and snuck them under her one night. She adopted them straightaway and was doing a fine job. But as time went by the little corner we'd fenced off for them in the big coop was obviously becoming a strain, so we let them out to see if she'd really fend off the other hens and look out for her kids (she had formerly been vying for top hen, and was still one of the biggest)

Not a chance. Within a couple of days she'd basically given up the mother thing and was just hanging out with the big girls, leaving the former bottom-of-the-pecking-order hen to terrorize the chicks. It wasn't pretty, and the smallest - Phoebe, the pretty Gold-Laced Wyandotte - was getting hurt.

We took them out and put them back in the brooder cage, putting them in the garage at night to keep them warm (they were still getting their full feathers in). This went on for about a week, until Sunday night when we forgot to bring them in.

The brooder cage is about 2foot square, with maybe 1x2 in. wire mesh. But being chickens, they chose not to perch on the branch we'd placed in the middle, but huddle instead in the corner. That must have been how the racoon found them, and with nothing better to do that night he managed to get all of one chick (Pheobe) through the mesh, and a substantial chunk out of another (Piper).

Kelley discovered the grizzly scene the next morning. 2 feet lay by the cage, and inside, Piper (Rhode Island) was dragging her left wing. I disposed of the remains and we discussed Piper's condition. All the advice we had said just leave her be, she would make it or not. However we did contact a vet that treated "exotics" who would see her...

As of today, Piper is doing well. She ended up having the wing amputated, and is adjusting well. She is our "gold-plated" hen, who even if she lays her entire life will not pay off the vets bill. But these are pets, not a business, so we swallow hard, and go on. I'm glad for her sake - and her remaining clutch-mate Prudence (another Rhode Island) - who would have had a miserable time off it on her own.


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