It is hard to be in a good mood with the wind howling in an arctic fury and worry for the animals facing it's bitterness in their barn stalls, hijacking my thoughts. It is difficult to keep the house warm in this kind of weather, even with the wood stove pumping out heat full tilt. The unheated barns provide some relief for the animals, but not enough to ease my thoughts. And, if dealing with prolonged cold snaps were not enough to contend with, we've had a bit of a terror this morning.
While freeing the chickens from their house and feeding them their warm breakfast, I discovered the huddled mass of a cold and bloody Buff Orpington hen laying, barely breathing, in the corner of the hen house floor. I called Sean to scoop her into his arms and carry her into the kitchen. While he headed that direction, I made a bee-line for an empty metal crate folded and tucked away in the barn. It didn't look good for Miss Orpington. Her head was covered with blood. Her eyes were crusted closed with it and she was having difficulty breathing through the blood in her nostrils and throat. It was hard to tell if she was coughing up blood or trying to clear her nasal passages of blood that had run down her beak and clotted around her nostrils from her mangled comb. I wanted to clean her off to assess the damage, but my first priority was to staunch the flow of blood so she wouldn't bleed to death on us before we could even get her warmed up. Sean went to finish the morning chores, while I held her in my lap and carefully used a clean cloth to put pressure on her comb areas until they clotted and stopped bleeding. With her head and shoulder feathers soaked in blood, I was uncertain that Miss Orpington could live through this and considered for a moment whether we should try. If it wouldn't be the kinder course to end it and be done. But, that thought was fleeting. Miss O. may yet die of her wounds, but it won't be because we didn't, at least, try to save her.
Sean returned from feeding the other animals and we discussed what to do. Topical and oral antibiotics were going to be a MUST- thankfully we had some on hand. But, the immediate needs of getting her body temperature up and assisting her ability to breathe came first. Antibiotics to fight any infection that might start are sorely wasted on a chicken what cannot breathe. I swabbed away the blood from inside her mouth and around her nostrils and Miss O. began breathing more regularly from her nose. She also stopped shaking violently as I held her. We decided to settle her in a nest of hay beside the wood stove to warm up. Now that she was breathing more normally and the bleeding had stopped, we thought it best to allow her some rest before we cleaned her up and attempted to bandage her properly. Miss O. slept a while. Around noon, she stirred, stood and gingerly poked her beak about in the hay some. I offered her some water by dipping just the tip of her beak into a cup of warmed water. She drank a few drops, but not much. She remained standing for some time and was alert to my movements around the kitchen and she slept off and on through the afternoon.
It is 3 o'clock as I write this. Miss O. swallowed a few drops more of water and she walked a few steps around the inside of her pen. I just took her out and held her gently in one arm while I dripped a few drops of water over her eyes and softly blotted the area. I am hoping to soften some of the caked on mess, so she might be able to open her eyes to see. I am leery of prying them apart and won't do that. The drops did clean away some of the dried blood, but not enough for her to open them. Or, at least, she didn't open them- so I assume that she cannot yet. I don't want to stress her more than necessary, so after a few minutes of gentle cleaning around her eyes, I stopped to allow her to rest more. When Sean gets home from work tonight, together, we'll work on cleaning her wounds properly.
So what caused this? I am certain that it was the simultaneous attention of several roosters. It looks as if they ripped her comb open, grabbing it to hold her steady. With 10 randy roosters strutting about, this conclusion seems the most probable. I have been looking for good homes for our lads, but the time has just run short for them. We CANNOT and WILL NOT allow them to reign terror over the hens, injuring our young layers. So, they will be going- one way or another. I hate to see them end up as dinner. Mating with the hens is what roosters instinctively do. But, when you have a young group of them, fighting over mating rights happens more frequently and when they start causing injury, enough is enough.
I did not pause to snap pictures of Miss Orpington when we first found her or while we were working on her for obvious reasons. I did capture a few shots of how she looked at mid-afternoon before I cleaned her up a little and after that, while she was resting. I will update on her progress later tonight and through her hopeful recovery. But, it is now time for afternoon meals and to thaw the water for the chickens, piggies and goats for the 4th time today. Sometimes, I don't think I will ever be truly warm again.
Thanks for stopping in for a visit today, friends.