Putting Up the (4)

Emergency Poultry Care: Silkie Chicken Stitches

Memorial Day weekend started with a nasty surprise this year when Ian discovered our favorite chicken was well on her way to making herself the featured dinner dish. Our mother hen, Mrs. Silkie, had a severe laceration under her wing where her skin and feathers had been pulled away from her body, leaving a three-inch long expanse of exposed, bloody muscle.

She was fine the night before when we put the chickens in the coop, so we can’t imagine what did so much damage to her beyond some overzealous mating behaviors from Big Daddy Rooster. Because Mrs. Silkie has been tending her flock of chicks for the past few months, it’s possible he has avoided mating with her, and his first reattempt startled them both enough to cause him to dig deeply into her side with his spurs.

Black Orphington
A painful love- the suspected culprit

Ian found her in the morning, a little dopey, with blood and feces encrusted into her gaping wound. Thankfully, a sight like this doesn’t turn his stomach nearly as much as it does mine and he sprung into action. Wilderness first responder classes in college came back to him and he took care of our poor hen to the best of his ability.

Below is a documentation of his process to save our favorite bird. Spoiler Alert: It has a happy ending. (So far at least!)

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Mrs. Silkie reporting for surgery

In order to get a better look at her injury, Ian held Mrs. Silkie upside down until she stopped squawking and brought her to our patio table where he carefully cleaned out her wound with soapy water and cotton swabs.

Apologies for the graphic pictures, but know they could have been a lot worse. I’m wired a little strangely in that I have no qualms butchering livestock, but looking at an animal injury makes me feel very squeamish. Thankfully my family was visiting for the long weekend and my younger brother was successfully coerced into taking pictures for me about half way through the procedure.

We were severely limited in our available medical equipment. Ian and I looked long and hard for some Steri-Strips to close the wound but eventually had to settle for Plan B when all I could find was a stashed-away sewing kit. No matter that Ian had no prior experience stitching up a wound- this bird wasn’t going to wait for him to practice first!

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Lifting up a flap of skin to better insert a needle, this picture was taken after the wound had already been partly stitched up
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Using a sewing needle and thread to stitch up the opening
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Being supportive from the sidelines and doing everything in my power to NOT look at what’s happening right in front of me.
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Major props to Ian, because this is something I absolutely could not do. It would be easier for me to stitch up a human than a chicken.
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Finishing the row of stitches. The wound took eleven to close!

We almost got a very different ending to this story. Just as the stitches were finished my family’s husky lunged out of the house and snapped at the silkie, narrowing missing chomping on her exposed head. All that work and we almost lost our bird anyways!

As sad as that would have been, I can’t help but think the humor in the irony would have made up for it. In any case, Meikah’s behavior was reminiscent of her last trip on the mountain when her powerful prey drive meant she couldn’t leave our rabbits alone.

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Early this spring Meikah knew where the action was- right under the butt of our rabbit!

Dog crisis averted, Ian quickly finished doctoring up our poultry.

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Cleaning the wound with antibiotics one more time.
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All the feathers around the wound had been plucked out, which is evidence that our rooster was at fault because he often causes our hens to lose a few feathers when they mate with him.
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Snipping the final lengths of thread

The most incredible thing about this whole process was how unconcerned Mrs. Silkie acted about it all. Honestly, she seemed more upset to be separated from her chicks than about having a needle going in and out of her body. She never once tried to get away during the procedure and happily ate up the treats we gave her right after.

I think my nursing friends would agree that some humans could learn a lesson from her! 😉

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Bringing the patient back to her coop
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Sister Silkie rushed to greet her injured sibling.
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Safe (and isolated in a dog crate) in the coop

We’ll be keeping Mrs. Silkie isolated for the next few weeks at least. We are optimistic about her improvement but she isn’t out of the woods yet. Her stitches went better than expected but she’s still at great risk of getting infected. Frankly, with a wound that size and as filthy as hers was it would be a miracle if she avoided it. But so far her progress has been incredible. She’s been eating and drinking like normal and is already sick of the confines of her cage, shrieking and squawking at her babies and trying to guilt us into letting her out.

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Poor lost little babies can’t get to their mom.

Honestly, the real losers in this situation are her babies. They may be six weeks old already but they’ve never gone anywhere without her. Yesterday they aimlessly wandered the yard looking for her, and freaking out our other silkie with their enthusiasm for finding a new feathered mom to follow (she wanted no part of it, though odds are good at least half these babies are biologically hers). The adoption avoided, these babies will just have to spend the next few weeks away from the security of their mama.

Sorry baby chicks. Life is cruel. Sometimes you gotta grow up all too fast.

 

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2 thoughts on “Emergency Poultry Care: Silkie Chicken Stitches

  1. OMGosh, Lydia! Just read about the silkie experience and I felt so bad for her. That darn old rooster. Never raised chickens much less an injured one, I wonder if her babies couldn’t have been housed with her whilst she was recovering.
    Looking forward to your edification!
    Catherine

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