Tough Day: Warning, Graphic Images
Friday was a tough day. I saw a post on a Seattle urban farm message board about a very gravely injured hen who had been without help for 2-3 days. The owner wasn’t asking for help, they were actually responding to a post about another injured hen and giving advice to just let it be.
This is her. Isn’t she beautiful? She had been attacked by a raccoon and another chicken had died in the attack. The people who had her knew she was very severely injured, but they weren’t thinking clearly. I can’t even guess why, but they didn’t end her suffering quickly and they didn’t get her any veterinary help either. They described her as having exposed bones and innards hanging out. They still have other hens and a rooster in a coop that isn’t predator-proof. Basically that means they have a raccoon feeding station.
This is her injury. The yellow-ish part in the middle is her spine. Those are her exposed vertebrae. She sat like this for 2-3 days before a note was posted about her being injured. Can you imagine how painful it must be to have your flesh and muscle torn open down to the bone and then sit untreated for days? The hen was isolated from other chickens and given food and water. I would think it is obvious but I will say it out loud anyway: Isolation, food and water do not magically close gaping wounds with exposed bone.
I am writing a few tips here for all people to follow, whether you have hens for pets or hens for food. These tips apply to everyone, regardless of your values. All humans must prevent unnecessary suffering to animals in their care. Please share this with anyone you know who has hens or ducks or is even pondering a backyard flock.
Basic Rules for Injured Chickens
1. If your chicken has a wound larger than 1/2″ it likely needs antibiotic ointment and/or further treatment. If you cut your finger, do you just roll it in some dirt and see how it goes?
2. If your chicken is listless, not eating, keeping to herself, etc. she needs help too. These are all bad signs. Birds hide their injuries and illnesses instinctively because they are a prey species.
3. If you eat your hens, you are fully within your right to kill an injured chicken. Do it quickly and as humanely and painlessly as possible.
4. Even if you don’t eat your hens, a seriously injured hen can be killed quickly and humanely to prevent more suffering. Suck it up, delicate urban flower. End the needless suffering.
5. If you do not know how to quickly and humanely kill a hen, and you are unwilling to take an injured hen to a veterinarian, you STILL MUST FIND HELP for that hen. It is NEVER okay to let a hen suffer for days with a serious painful injury.
6. No responsible farmer would ever let a hen suffer needlessly. If you are “playing farmer” in your suburban back yard, learn what you need to know to be humane.
7. If you cannot bring yourself to kill an injured hen, and you cannot afford to seek veterinary care for an injured hen (or don’t believe hens are worth paying vet bills for), you should not have hens.
8. You can surrender an injured hen to an emergency veterinary clinic, the Seattle Animal Shelter, other shelters or several bird & exotic animal veterinary clinics.
9. You can email me here at this blog (sillyhuman [at] ducksandclucks [dot] com) and I will show up at your house and take your injured hen, if I can. Sometimes I cannot. I do what I can.
10. Imagine yourself in the place of an injured hen. What would you want someone to do for you if you were seriously injured?
11. Do all you can to educate yourself about how to keep hens safe. Seattle Tilth offers classes, for one. Or ask me. I know everything.
People sometimes think I rescue ducks and clucks because I’m nice. I can be nice, but I can also be a raging b!tch, especially when people are causing animals to suffer needlessly. I just can’t hear about a hen in need and not help. If I don’t do anything to try and help, I can’t sleep at night. And I love to sleep.
The owner of this hen agreed to give me the hen when I emailed nicely and said I would pick her up and get her care. The owner was very thankful, and I was cordial so I could get the hen. I am always super nice to try my best to help the animal, but in reality I was super intensely pissed off that someone would let this happen, and all I could think of was punching the owner in the face. So when I got there, I just crawled in sh!t to get the hen and didn’t bother to knock on the door. I was afraid I would say something mean or get punchy and not get the hen.
This hen was taken directly to ACCES Emergency Clinic where the veterinarian quickly assessed her and decided it was best to euthanize her. Exposed bone dries out and dies. Old, untreated wounds get infected and go septic (systemic infection) very quickly. She could not survive and was already dying, slowly. She may not have survived even with immediate care, but she absolutely should NOT have suffered for 2-3 days without treatment. It was inhumane and unnecessary. To that point, I could see if a chicken had a small cut or was sneezing that an owner would ask advice online and wait and see rather than seek treatment. I get that. They might cause some unnecessary suffering, but it also could be nothing. But if an animal has an open, gaping wound down to the bone with exposed vertebrae… come on people. Seriously assess whether you are in your right mind.
I named her “Sweet Pea” before she was put down, because I did not get her name from her owner. She was making a quiet, constant “wah wah wah” noise which seemed like crying. She was in pain, a lot of pain.
She deserved better.
Lastly, I know this post is self-righteous and I just can’t help it. I would probably do better if I didn’t see this kind of story every week in Seattle, but I do. People are way too careless and cavalier with the lives of animals. I can only take so much before I get ranty. I know I am a self-righteous, chicken-hugging know it all and I’m okay with it. The owner of this chicken will likely be getting a visit from Animal Control to ensure that her other pets are well cared for, and that they are not in danger like this hen was. She’s probably not going to like it but I think the chickens will. High five to the chickens!
And rest in peace little “Sweet Pea.”