I had to take my sweet Sofia, a hen we took in from a neighbor last year, into the vet yesterday. I had been keeping an eye on her for a few days. She was not getting off the roost in the morning and was looking listless and keeping to herself more than usual.
I call her Short Beak because (you guessed it) her beak is clipped. She’s a total sweetie, but is definitely an outlier in the barnyard. Her integration into the flock wasn’t bad, yet she’s never really become “one of the girls”.
She wasn’t on the roost Sunday night at my final check. I picked her up and she BARFED. Boy, was I surprised! When she did it AGAIN the next day I knew I had a sick chicken on my hands.
Now, here’s where one story becomes two. I will write later this week about our medical journey, which if you’re a chicken owner, you might find interesting. (As of this post, she is resting comfortably – no worries.)
However, my favorite part of this experience is the reaction of all the other animals in the barnyard.
These animals are a family. I am positive they know each other, they keep track of each other, they NOTICE when something is amiss. (I really, really wish I had more photos of this. But when you’ve got a sick chicken, sometimes the camera is not a priority.)
When I went to check on Short Beak after barf #2, she was alone in the back of the barnyard. I picked her up and immediately noticed her crop was HUGE and spongy and, well, wrong. I walked around with her for a few minutes, telling her I was going to help get her well. As I walked to the gate, Doink blocked my exit. He’s as long as the gate is wide. If he doesn’t move, I’m not leaving. I SWEAR he looked at me as if to say, “What exactly are you doing with her?”
I am a true believer that animals are deeply empathetic – they know stuff. I followed my heart and told Doink, out loud, as if to a young child, “She’s sick, I’m going to help her get well.” He looked at me, snuffled, and moved aside. I SWEAR. As I left the barnyard, I looked back and they were ALL at the gate looking at me with Short Beak in my arms. Liberty crowed.
Short Beak spent the night in a dog crate in the house. I put her outside mid-morning to give her a bit of fresh air and change her bedding.
Less than one minute later, Liberty started making a racket. I watched Short Beak as she scurried to the barnyard fence where Liberty was standing. They paced together up and down the fence line.
I have only removed one other hen, Louise, from the barnyard into our backyard – and did it because Liberty was so abusive toward her. I did it three times, and twice she flew over the fence back into the barnyard. That rooster has some kind of control over those hens!
Short Beak has been quiet in the crate. A little food, a little water. On the road to recovery, I hope. Her vocalizations are soft, with what seems like a bit of yearning. I’m sure she’d rather be with her feathered friends.
As I roamed the barnyard today, scooping poop, kicking around the latest snow (will it EVER stop) and realizing the grass that was growing there last year might not be coming back, I took stock of the animals. They seemed “off”. Is it me? Or do they know she’s missing?
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