Monday, April 27, 2009

Fright night

I had a huge fright yesterday evening. It's right around roosting time, the dogs are outside digesting their supper, I'm puttering in the house when suddenly I hear alarm squawking from the barn. That could mean "there's a hawk stealing the children" or it could mean "I layed an egg and that other hen looked at it cross-eyed". You just can't tell without going to look.

The hen pen is L shaped, with a 10x10 box stall being one side, and a narrower roosting section the other, divided with a chicken-sized passage. The lower walls are picket fence, the upper just chicken wire. I enter the stall side and find a red hen in a nesting box, and Egglebert with two hens pecking around. Nothing seems amiss. I speak to them for a moment, asking if there's something I can help with, reminding them that it's time to settle in. All seems well, so I step out of the stall.

At that point I almost leave the barn, but I think to myself "it's odd that Egglebert isn't roosting, he's usually the leader." So I look into the roosting side. At first glance all seems fine there. Some hens are roosting up high. The painted PVC roosting bars are empty, but then I see her.

There's a Cuckoo Marans hen in a strange position under the bars. She's hanging with her neck fully extended, her lizard toes stretching towards the floor, and she looks dead. I scream. I realize I must get her down from whatever she's caught in, but I don't want to touch her. Just dead hens are stiff and warm and feel heavy. Just outside the pen door is a blue plastic snow shovel I use to move used litter around, so I grab it and scoop it under her to lift her up, relieving the tension at her scrawny neck. And her eyes flutter. Oh, heck!

On closer inspection it gets worse. She is caught because she put her beak around a thick, hooked wire and somehow got it impaled through her throat. I see the end sticking out through her black and white feathers. Quickly I balance the shovel so she won't fall, grab her neck with one hand and the wire with another, and twist. Out comes the wire.

The hen takes a brief pause. Then she hops off the shovel and takes a few steps, shakes her head. I can almost hear her wondering "am I alive?"

The hen skitters off to find her compadres. I stand by to observe. She's panting, and holding her wings a bit away from her sides. Must be in shock. There's one drop of deep red blood on her feathers. She shakes her head a few more times. Then Egglebert goes in to roost and she joins the procession, hopping up on the top bar, right next to the boss.

Postscript: Here's a tiny url to Harvey's comment: http://tiny.cc/NewYorkerCartoon I'm undecided if I think it's so very funny or not...!

6 comments:

NH Suzanne said...

How is your hen this morning? I hope she is okay. How on earth did she manage to get herself in that mess? I hope her panting and holding her wings out is shock and nothing worse.

Shandy said...

Yikes, I'm practically hyperventilating just reading about it.

Hope she's recovering!

Joan said...

Oh My Word.....I hope everything is okay!

New York Harvey said...

Made me think of this recent New Yorker cartoon, for some reason (cut and paste is preferable to typing it in):

http://www.thenewyorkerstore.com/product_details.asp?mscssid=A3WP9EUCKAFC9LE5CTTRWFG9TB74D0V4&sitetype=1&did=4&sid=128315&pid=&advanced=1&keyword=undefined&artist=&section=prints&caption=&artID=&topic=&pubDateFrom=03/09/2009&pubDateTo=03/09/2009&pubDateMon=&pubDateDay=&pubNY=2&color=0&title=undefined&whichpage=6&sortBy=popular

The Old Red House said...

Quite the fright. Everyone still with you?

renoches said...

YOW...is she OK? if so, wish we all could learn to recover as quickly as that!!