Monday, 7 April 2014

Not a pretty sight

If you're squeamish, look away now. I have two words for you, one is "pus" and the other is "chicken". Here's another word, "yuk". When you're squeezing pus out of a chicken's eye it becomes "yuk, yuk". I did warn you.

We've had a bit of a time of it with our six new chickens. Things didn't improve after my last blog post - for the first few weeks they wouldn't leave the house without supervision. If a big tall Mother Hen with two legs and a pair of wellies stood in the run they would put on a show of bravado, come out of the house, peck around, eat and drink (provided that I squatted by feeder then drinker in turn). The moment Mother Hen moved away and watched from a sneaky hiding place you could almost see the panic take hold as first one, then another realised Mother Hen had gone, and in a flurry of feathers they all rush back to the house and up the ramp. Form an orderly queue ladies! Shutting the door of the house only sent them scuttling under the house. This is how we ended up taking the chickens for walks. At first the trips were short forays into the grass outside the run - oh how they loved that first taste of green, green grass. We would take them a little further from home each time, perhaps up the steps to the yard, maybe across the yard to the bird feeder, bolder still how about up the steps from yard to front garden, and then quick as a flash they were up the steps, through the front door, pause in the porch, hop over the threshold, across the hall, into the living room. Our rug has seen many a dog or cat related accident, but chicken poo, never, until then.


The happy consequence of this Mother Hen role playing is that we now have five friendly, easy to pick up, fearless chickens. The unhappy consequence is that just occasionally they can be a little bit over-friendly, running to greet us, running behind us, running in front of us. The faster we move to keep ahead of them, the faster they flap to keep up the pace. Gwen is the worst. As soon as she see's me come out of the house, she lifts up her frilly knickers and heads in my direction. Moving the car is a blindspot nightmare. Carrying logs into the boiler room is a high risk activity. I've taken to hiding behind the wall, peeking round the corner to see if the coast is clear, then making a dash for it. Obviously such behaviour is for her safety and not just my sanity. On current form she will be spatchcocked alive under a wellie boot before her first birthday!

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that six became five. This is where the pus comes in, or rather out. This isn't a story that ends well. Du is no longer with us. About two weeks ago her early snuffles and occasional nostril snot bubble became something distinctly nastier. One side of her face puffed up, hot and swollen, her eye gummed shut. People round here tell me to toughen up, and think I'm a fool for taking a chicken who cost me £8 to see a vet who charges me £12 just to say hello. But when it comes to animals, I'm a softy, a melted marshmallow of a softy. Yes, I'll admit to feeling slightly foolish as I sat in the waiting room, surrounded by puppies, cats and rabbits, holding a chicken in a box (not a basket and not with chips). I honestly didn't expect to be bringing her home, but she had an antibiotic shot and her and the rest of the flock had a three day course of antibiotic water. A week later we had five perky chickens starting to lay and one very sorry for herself chicken with a face like a boxer, breathing like a snorkeller and a pus oozing eye. Could be an infection. Could be a peck in the eye gone bad. Maybe she'd pull through but always be blind in one eye. Maybe she wouldn't. I lied to a pharmacist to get her some eye drops. Twice a day we emptied her eye and dripped in the drops. She stopped hanging with the flock. She hid under the house. She lost interest in corn. It broke my heart just to look at her. It was time. One of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make, but the right one. And she never even got to lay her first egg. Rest in peace, Du.

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