Audrey Pavia
September 17, 2012
hurt hen

Photo by Audrey Pavia

My lame hen sits in her carrier waiting for the vet.

This is the first time in my life that I’ve owned chickens, so I don’t know if it’s common to have periodic problems with birds in such a small flock. Over the last few years, I have lost two hens to mysterious ailments. And now, I have another problem.

The only hen that came out of my recent clutch of three eggs showed up on one leg the other day. She came hopping pitifully out of the coop one morning, barely putting any weight on her left leg.

The fact that she barely get around didn’t make it much easier to catch her. I had to play peek-a-boo with her in the bushes for 10 minutes before I could get my hands on her. When I finally did, she screeched bloody murder. The fact that I’d been handling her every night to put her in on the roosting pole from the edge of the coop where she preferred to perch didn’t seem to make any difference.

That evening, I took her to my sister, Heidi, a veterinarian. It was late, and Heidi examined her leg in the dim light of her condo. The skin on the leg was green, which I hadn’t noticed before. Afraid the tissue was necrotic (dead), Heidi decided to keep the hen overnight to examine her further at her clinic the next day.

I was relieved to find out that the green skin was nothing but a bruise. Human bruises turn black and blue but chicken bruises turn green.

couldn’t tell what was causing the swollen leg. She suspected a puncture wound. She put the hen on antibiotics and pain medication, but after a few days, the leg was still too sore for the hen to walk on.

The hen — who has been named Lola by the staff at Heidi’s clinic — was in my care for the weekend, and will go back to the hospital tomorrow. It’s likely she will need surgery on her leg.

I’m worrying about whether Lola will be able lead a normal life with a compromised leg. The weak and infirmed are rarely tolerated within chicken flocks, which are often brutal. I worry about having to reintegrate her into the flock. But first things first: Right now, it’s all about making her well.

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