Three months ago I went out to the coop following what I thought was a bit of excessive ruckus over a hen laying an egg. At the time I always headed to the coop with a bit of trepidation, as one or two of our black sex-links seemed to have it out for sweet Dove, and were always nipping at her. Nothing excessive, but it was constant. We kept hoping they would get over it as she grew larger. That did not happen. Even before I got into the coop I was already scanning the run for Dove to make sure she was OK. I could not find her. I checked the sleeping quarters, but she was not there. I finally made it over to an old small recycling bin filled with sand that the hens use to dust bathe in. It was there between the bin and the fence that I found her.
With a huge, bloody, gaping hole in her neck about the size of a quarter, and one bird running over to me trying to get more shots at her, I scooped Dove up and quickly took her into the house. I was quite upset to say the least. After getting a good look at her wound I figured she had a 25/75 chance of survival, with the odds against her.
This had never happened to us before, as our hens always got along great. For some reason though, Dove brought out the worst in a few of our BS-Ls (jealousy?) and they were determined to make her pay. We had never had any medical issues among our birds; and with such a deep wound, we had no idea what to do. We decided to stick to the basics, because as much as we enjoyed Dove, we are not ones to take our chickens to the vet.
|In the picture there is a lighter section running from closer to her head straight down towards her back in the very center of the wound. I am not positive, but I believe that to be her spinal cord. One more peck and it would have been severed.|
After gently and carefully trying to clean off some of the dirt with a damp rag, Jason poured Hydrogen Peroxide all over the wound. This was followed by a thick coating of Neosporin. Into a storage tub she went to wait out the next critical hours in our living room. She would not eat, but did drink a bit. I think she was probably exhausted from the stress of it all. She slept through the night, but by morning she was extremely antsy, and we made the decision to put her back in the coop in a completely separated area with her best bud, Leopard. I really worried that Leopard would see the wound and pick at it herself, as I've read that is fairly common. Plus I didn't want Dove in the coop getting dirt all in the wound. The nursing student in me wanted to keep it as sterile as possible. But she was so upset being separated from Leopard we figured she'd have a heart attack from being stressed and lonely, so we made the move back to outside.
Our friends Tracy and Sebastian over at Little Farm in the Big D gave us some Blu-Kote spray to apply to the wound. It is an iodine based solution. I figured it couldn't hurt. So about every other day for a week or so I would try to clean off the dirt and grime from the wound, spray it with Blu-Kote, and then cover it in more Neosporin. Thankfully Leopard never gave it a second glance.
Slowly but surely the skin began to heal. I assumed Dove would never be able to grow feathers there again, but within 5 weeks she was mostly feathered out at the site. Three months later, except for a few purple feathers around her neck (Blu-Kote stains everything - so be careful!), you would never know anything had happened to her. We have found chickens to be a mix of strength and resiliency coupled with fragility. Fortunately for us, Dove fell on the side of strength. We ended up selling the main bird that had it out for Dove. We are now finally down to a happy mix of 14 hens of varying ages and varieties, and they all get along great. More details on that in a few days! -Carrie