One Tough Chook

Marigold Lived to See Another Day

Her existence precarious and her condition a mystery, Marigold somehow made it to morning anyway. Warmth, love, a few droppersful of water, and her own strength saw her through. The morning found her a good bit better: able to stand and able to drink when her beak was dipped.

Gordon went to the feed store and picked up some antibacterial eye ointment for chickens per the suggestions (and consensus diagnosis of a pecking injury) of all my new best friends on the Backyard Chickens forums. As soon as I wiped an ointment covered cotton ball across her crusty sealed eye, it opened.

I took her to work with me, hiding her under my desk in a box and only revealing her presence to everybody. I made sure she got water (with electrolytes via gatorade) and eventually she ate scrambled eggs.

Team Marigold Socks

It’s now three days after I found her dying. Today she was well enough to be a chicken again and she spent the day in her own coop, mingled with the bitches a bit later in the evening, and is spending tonight in the regular coop.

Rosie tried to keep her out at bed time so I had to intervene with a few prison-like threats.

Tomorrow Rosie is going into solitary. Going to try and reorganize this pecking order.

Chickens a Year Later

I’ve learned that:

  • They really do stop laying in the winter
  • They really molt and look like they’re dying also in the winter (which is weird because you’d think they need their feathers to stay warm)
  • It all resolves itself and they become beautiful layers once again (Nutrena Feather Fixer is a nice help)
  • Laying hens squat and have red combs; this all stops when they stop
  • Hawks really kill and partially eat beautiful huge free ranging birds
  • Established flocks really are jerks to new additions, especially Rhode Island Reds….(Rosie I’m looking at you)
Rosie The Bitch

Juniper got taken out by a hawk one day in the early fall. Actually it’s only a best guess that it was Juniper because the molting that had begun was causing me to confuse my two Delawares. So my sweet remaining Clementine may not actually be Clementine, but she is now.

Early one evening I went to close the coop and one of the three was missing. A small sense of dread came over me as I tried to rationalize that Juniper had gotten sleepy and roosted in some underbrush. The light was fading so I quickly roamed the edges of the yard singing out for her with the “chick chick chick” call. Then my gaze landed on a still mass of white. The dread grew into heavy truth and it became difficult to approach what I knew to be her. White feathers were everywhere and a large, beautiful bird lay destroyed from the shoulders up. How much suffering did she know? Did the hawk snap her spine before he plucked her and ripped her flesh away from her bones? Did shock slip in quickly with its mercy?

I went into the house and quietly delivered the sad news to my husband because I didn’t want Silas to follow us outside and see. We grabbed a light and buried her in the garden. We could hear the bells of the neighbor’s goats as they looked on at the ghouls weilding shovels in the dark.


A couple of weeks later I contacted a local breeder on craigslist and brought home a three month old Welsummer. Her name is Marigold.

She came here very sweet and timid. Rosie established her dominance in the very real pecking order by being a big fat bully. I added a piece of hardware cloth in the run so Marigold could have a seperate space during the day. At night she snuggled up in the coop with Clementine who was missing her snuggle buddy sister (the one who slept on top of her and shit down her back all night). They’ve since settled in together as a flock of three.

The girls are getting an addition to give them a little more space to roam and their lady a little more head room to work.

Poor Rosie and the Real Life Farmer Lady

Rosie is our only layer out of three young hens. Clementine and Juniper are our Delawares who haven’t yet begun. Well over the last few days, there hasn’t been any egg at all and then this morning Rosie had some bloody mucus hanging out of her backside.

I had Gordon and the boys check on her a few times today while I was at work just to see if she was eating and getting around ok. She was. But obsessed hypochondriac that I can be on occasion, and because of my online research, I was concerned that we could be dealing with an egg-bound lady or a prolapsed vent.

Better safe than sorry, I clipped my nails, scrubbed my hands, grabbed a pair of latex gloves and a blob of coconut oil, and headed out to the coop in the rainy darkness. Flashlight in mouth, I opened the front of the coop and was greeted by sleepy clucks. Happily noting that Rosie had made friends enough to be snuggling with a Delaware, I snapped on the gloves. I went for the Red and failed. Tried again and failed. Wings flapped and squawks erupted. Rosie was determined to not let me touch her, even when ambushed at night. I was determined to not be bested by a damn chicken and grabbed her. She protested loudly but I was able to hold down her wings and grab her legs. I gently turned her upside down and magically she calmed. I supported her against my side and examined her vent. It looked fine! Nothing bulging or hanging out; nothing red or swollen. Then I bravely coated my gloved pinky in the oil and gently poked it in, feeling for a stuck egg. Again, nothing! I flipped Rosie back upwards and cradled her like I can sometimes do to the others. I petted her back, sang her a little song, and kissed her on the neck. She didn’t seem to hate it at all. In fact, when i put her back into the coop, she was in no hurry to get away from me. 

I closed up the coop and marched back across the rainy yard, very pleased with myself. I’m a real farmer now, I thought.  Rosie is ok and I can take care of my chickens. 

Maybe Rosie will take food out of my hand soon. 



UPDATE (12/6/16):  She’s back!  

Her comb and wattles seemed really red on Saturday and then on Sunday she squatted when I was in the coop feeding/harassing them.

Tuesday morning I found an egg!  Way to go, Rosie!