As you may know, I have chickens. Five big, feathery, squawking, clucky chicky girls, and I adore them.
I am still amazed and thankful that every day these lovely, comical creatures give me the gift of eggs, and I am very grateful to them for this. Well, for that and many other things. The calm, centered and secure feeling they give me when I look out the back window and see them waddling about, stopping here and there to scratch and peck a bit. The laughter they give me when they dizzily chase a fly, and the comforting sound of soft clucking traveling in through the window on a breeze. Yes, I am certainly fond of them. And they truly help satisfy the farm girl in my heart.
A few months ago, the thing that strikes terror in the hearts of every chicken mama happened. One of my buffs, Lily, was attacked in the middle of the night by a possum. Or at least I think it was a possum.
One of my dearest friends and soul sisters, who writes for a local magazine called The Great South Bay Magazine...
wrote a column about it, and since she can tell the story much better than I, I'd love to share it with you...
THE BRAVEST CHICKEN
by Antoinette Maiorini
I just can’t get away from my feathered friends. Perhaps it’s my secret desire to sprout wings and fly that makes me feel a kinship with birds. I have accepted the fact that when disaster strikes I am usually called upon to help. After getting Walter Pigeon and his gang happy and healthy, I made a new set of friends; or perhaps I should say hens.
Helena, my friend and kindred spirit, decided to raise chickens. I visited her shortly after they were delivered. The tiny little chicks arrived at the post office and immediately a call was placed to their new "mother hen." Helena picked them up and they were brought home to live in comfort. There were three Buffs, one Australorp and a Barred Rock. They were properly named, Rosie, Penny, Stella, Lily and Rita the Boss Lady. Her daughter Jamie loved them at first sight and even her four cats did not seem to mind the newcomers.
Her husband Jim is very handy and was able to meet all the needs of the new arrivals. Within weeks he had a coop with an automatic door, a brooder, laying nests, feeders and anything else the "girls" would need for their new life. The first time I saw them I was mesmerized. What can be more endearing than a tiny, baby chick. Visiting often, I got to watch them grow. There interactions with each other and their humans was most entertaining.
I’ve heard some people say that chickens are dumb. How untrue! They are extremely intelligent and social. If you pick them up they will tell you all their troubles; "cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck. . . One might imagine they live in a "soap opera" with all the stories they have to tell. It took some time before they started laying eggs. When they did, it was as if they were giving tiny gifts as a thank you for the love and care they were receiving. Their voracious appetites were met by all sorts of delicious chicken feed, insects and corn. These girls will never see a roasting pan, when their laying days are over they will continue to be family pets. Meeting them made me proud to be a vegetarian.
As with most family pets, we are often faced with unexpected chaos. One morning Helena called and I could tell that something was wrong. She went on to explain that during the middle of the night she heard terrifying screams. Jim was away on business so she had to go out to inspect the noise by herself. Flashlight in hand, she searched the yard only to find feathers all over. At night when the sun goes down the automatic door to the coop closes and keeps the chickens safely inside until morning. Helena could not understand why one might have gotten out or not made it inside in the first place. Thinking something had carried away her beloved pet, she returned to bed. Minutes later the mournful sound came again. After running out this time she found Lily bleeding on the deck. The bird dragged herself home looking for comfort.
Inside Helena tended to her wounds that were very grave indeed. The next morning she arrived at the emergency hospital to see a vet that specialized in birds . He said that Lily could pull through with proper care and medication. The bill would be five hundred dollars. Helena explained that while her husband was a caring person, he might think this an outrageous extravagance. When she considered putting Lily to sleep the vet adjusted the bill slightly. Helena remembered how hard Lily had struggled to safety and made the decision for her chicken to be treated. She returned home with valium, antibiotics, silver nitrate and saline solution. The task of getting Lily healed had begun.
Calling me the next day she asked if I could assist her in changing the bandages. After carrying the bird into a bathroom we unwrapped the gauze and began the routine of cleaning and medicating. I must say that I could not believe poor Lily survived the attack. Was it an opossum or a raccoon? I guess we will never know. Even Lily’s wattle was off kilter. When we were done we placed her carrier in the sunshine and the rest of the "girls" came over to inspect our work. Hearing their clucking she perked up and responded. She would need to spend many days sunning herself in her carrier and cage before she could roam free again.
It took weeks for Lily to get back to the lovely chicken she’d once been. Many days of antibiotics, bandage changes and good food helped tremendously. Actually she’s not perfect but her new appearance makes her look slightly avant- garde. . .sort of tres chique, or should I say tres chick. She’s the bravest bird I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Lily understands that she is loved and she is very happy to be back with "the girls." I’m certain that Rita the Boss Lady will take her under her wing. No pun intended.
Lily today... all healed, feathers growing in and happy as a seagull with a french fry.
With many thanks to "Team Lily", dear friends, family and veterinary professionals who cared enough about a chicken.