I was rounding up the girls at 6pm, corralling them into the coop for the night. A single piece of bread evokes a lemming-like frenzy as they push past each other to be the first to get into the run. If I’m not very careful, I’ll accidentally punt one across the lawn.
As they shoot past me to get into the run, I count. Three whites: check. Two blonds: check. One black and one red. Hmmm. I’m missing three chickens. Not to worry. They can be recalcitrant from time to time. Sometimes they’re just not ready to go home for the night.
It didn’t take long to spy Coraline and Haley by the garden, and Abby hanging out by the front barn doors. With my arms held out out to the sides to fill their masterful peripheral vision, I “chootchootchoot“-ed them into the showroom of the barn. That’s when I noticed that Abby had a pronounced limp.
Abby? I gathered her up, and inspected her on the folding chair outside the coop’s interior door. Closer inspection revealed that she was missing feathers along a one-inch by six-inch strip, running down the left side of her back, under her left wing. She’s missing a good number of feathers, although I didn’t see any punctures or blood, just some abrasion near her tail.
There was also something wrong with her left eye. She was holding it closed quite a bit, and, when she did, I could see the lower lid was a creamy-yellow colour. She seemed a bit shocky, so I brought her into the house.
Abby is one of my shier, flightier girls, at the opposite end of the temperament spectrum from Buffy. It wasn’t so easy to inspect her. I never did find the cause of the limp. I kept her in a box in the lodge for observation. She ate quite a bit after about an hour, and seemed to perk up, but she wouldn’t settle into the box, so I decided to return her to the coop.
I placed her gently up on the roosts. If she had settled into a crouch when I returned for the Tallulah Boost, I’d leave her there for the night. If the injury to her leg prevented her assuming a comfortable sleeping position, I’d bring her back into the house.
I’ve just returned from my final visit to the coop for the night, and Abby is with her sisters. The girls were all crowding around her, making it impossible for her to settle down, so I had to do some reshuffling. That didn’t go over well, as you might imagine.
But Abby settled in and I believe she will be better off for sleeping with her sisters tonight. I don’t think she is in any immediate danger, and the Unsinkable Chicken Debbie will be paying a house call tomorrow after work, to check on her. Abby might be awfully stiff in that left leg tomorrow morning, but I don’t believe she has a long recovery ahead.
Poor Abby. When Buffy was attacked, Abby was the second-hardest hit, losing a good number of black-and-white striped feathers, all blowing around the east lawn of the house for days afterward, reminding us of the mayhem. Girl can’t get a break.
So, what happened? If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say it was an aerial predator, probably a hawk. We’ve seen quite a few circling around these days, and the girls are generally smart enough to stay under the big pine tree, out of view and range.
Why a hawk? The feathers were missing from the top of Abby’s back, under her wings as though she’d been caught with her wings outstretched. I think one foot got her around the face, and another at the left side of her back/left leg. I think the hawk either miscalculated his distance to target, coming up with only feathers, or else Abby was fast and/or clever, but that’s only a guess.
One thing she was without having to guess? LUCKY.