Thursday, March 22, 2012

So long Slowpoke

Slowpoke was a chicken, a very slow chicken. If you haven't learned yet, named chickens in our flocks often aren't long for this world. They're only named because they stand out with some problem or another.

Last fall when we received our chicks, we noticed one that was really slow. It slept more than the others, was hard to rouse, didn't seem to eat or drink much. This rooster only made it a few days and then died. Just after he died, I noticed another chicken that was behaving the same way: very slow and lethargic. But this one... lingered, so we christened her Slowpoke. We thought of better names later, but the original name stuck, so we were stuck with it.

Once the chicks went outside, Slowpoke spent most of her time at the feed eating and eating.  She never grew to be more than half the size of her flock-mates. And she never seemed to do the regular chicken-y things - like scratching around in the dirt, looking for things to nibble on. She never at anything other than the grain we keep out for the chickens - no lettuce, no greens, no bugs, nothing else. I guess she just didn't recognize those things as food.

At the end of December we happened to notice she had a damaged toe. She must have stepped on something sharp and cut her toe. We bathed it, put on some antibiotic stuff, wrapped it up, and put her out in the coop. Hours later, I'm sure, we found her perched on a stump with the other chickens pecking at her foot! Those darn cannabalistic chickens! So we cleaned her up again, wrapped up her foot, then wrapped it up in duct tape (hah! try pecking through that!), then smeared on some pine tar (which chickens don't like). Our poor little club-foot chicken! We had her in the coop on and off, but we had to help her up to the roost because she couldn't jump up with the club foot.

Finally we just kept her in the house, in a big dog kennel in the living room. I can't remember how long she stayed inside, but it was awhile.

At one point we thought her foot was clearing up and Jeremy wanted to make sure there was no infection so we got some antibiotics for her. You mix these up in water and down the hatch with an eye dropper. With the first dosage, we nearly asphyxiated her. She was gasping, gurgling, sneezing, dripping, hacking. Oh, it was awful. I thought for sure we had killed her. The only question was if we should put her out of her misery, or see if she survived.

But Slowpoke was a surviver, and she pulled through. We read up more on delivering medicines via dropper and did the whole thing over again the next night. And the same thing happened! As I was holding her on my lap and comforting her, I realized we had done this sort of thing before with no problems. The problem wasn't our technique, but our chicken! Nothing goes right with her.

In any case, she survived again and her foot was looking good, so back out to the coop she went. Some time later it seemed that another toe wasn't looking so good. We put some pine tar on it and put her back in the coop. Then a week or two ago I got a close look at her and almost ALL her toes were in bad shape. Geez! In fact, the mean old Rhode Island Reds were pecking at her toes so much they were bleeding. =(

So back inside she came to be cleaned up and convalesce some more. After a few days she seemed okay, at least no raw wounds, so I put her outside again. A short time later, her poor toes had been picked bloody again. So back inside she came.

By now I could tell her toes were in bad shape. She didn't seem to like walking on them. So we had a choice to make. Do we have an inside chicken from now on, stinking up the house or do we put her out of her misery? She couldn't live with the other chickens anymore because she became instant bottom chicken and was attacked. I think she would have been happy being an only chicken, but I wouldn't have felt right giving her to someone else with her foot problems.

So... yesterday afternoon we finally did the deed. It was very sad and we hated to do it, but I have to say we both felt a sense of relief in the end. We knew that any problem that could happen with a chicken, it was going to happen to her. Out in the wild, she would not have made it this far.

She had a relatively good life and got lots of snuggles and pets from us - which she really seemed to love. Not very chicken-y behavior if you ask me!

So long Slowpoke!


my suburban homestead said...

So long slow poke! we've had a few chickens that have behaved strangely since they were born too. Such a bummer.

Mom said...

Oh, I am so sorry. We agonize so much over the animals we are responsible for -it is so hard when it is time to go. Never an easy task.