Luna, one of our original chickens has sadly died. She was a great chicken, she laid well, was friendly and a good leader (not that I know what makes a good chicken leader!).
I was chatting to a friend on Wednesday evening and we were discussing how chickens are such unpredictable creatures. You can care for them as best you can and they’ll suddenly get ill for some unknown reason and you’ll be caught in this loop of ‘call the vet or not call the vet’. No one wants their chickens to suffer, they are like pets but equally finding a chicken vet in a town is not the easiest thing – whatever the vets say!
Around Christmas time, Luna suddenly went lame on one leg. She just wouldn’t put her right leg down. I did my usual web searches and turned up nothing relevant – the main suggestion seemed to be Bumblefoot but with that you tend to get a large brown/black sore of the foot. Being a docile chicken she didn’t protest at us looking at the foot and cleaning it up but Luna had no marks on her feet at all. She had some Scaley Leg which I’d been trying to treat with the usual over the counter sprays and dips but this didn’t seem to be so bad that it would cause her to be lame. Her comb was still lovely and red and straight and she hopped about quite happily, slowly but progressively. She ate well and would still fight for the treats.
After a week or so, I decided I needed to find out if she was suffering as I really didn’t want that to be the case. I called a few vets and asked if they treated chickens, two said they did so I picked one and booked an appointment. My daughter and I duly got the cat box out of the loft and put a bit of straw in it. Luna hopped on in and off we went to the vets. It was a strange experience, sitting there in the vets with a chicken in a cat box. The dogs tended to ignore her and their owners gave me slightly strange looks.
When we were called into the consultation room we were met by a vet who looked like he’d just left school. Maybe it’s my age and I haven’t seen any policemen recently to compare him to but he was very young. Very lovely too, although he did admit that he hadn’t seen chickens in there before. So we took Luna out of the cat box and what did she do – put both feet down on the counter! I felt such a fraud! We gently tried to get her to move and instead of her usual hop, wing out wobble she just walked a little. Grrr – she wasn’t helping!
Eventually the vet popped out to consult a colleague – he tried to persuade her to come in but it seems she wasn’t keen. So he came back and we had a good look at the foot, prodding and poking it to see if Luna would move, flinch, squeak – anything. Of course, she did nothing. So we were advised the best route maybe to give her some pain killers and see if that would help (kerching to the vets). Being soft, I went along with this and spend the next few weeks measuring tiny quantities of dog pain killer onto mealworms and keeping the other two away from the medicine. Did it make a difference – well, yes, my purse was lighter but as for Luna. She still hobbled about on one foot.
As the chickens roamed the garden, Luna would try to follow but didn’t really get into the dust bathing any more. She was quite adept at hanging out close to the shed and looking appealing so I gave her extra corn and mealworms.
I spoke to some farmers we know and they were just amazed that we’d kept a chicken who doesn’t lay at all! They were obviously much more matter of fact about it all and other than just putting her down, they had no better suggestions. My husband did discuss with them how to do the evil deed and got some theory training but we just couldn’t do it whilst she seemed so content.
This morning though when I let down the ladder, Luna tumbled down and landed on the grass. She just couldn’t get up. It seems that her ‘good’ leg had failed her and she just kept trying without success. I gathered her up, brought her inside and just held her in the warmth of the kitchen for a while. She wouldn’t even eat mealworms, she just lay on my lap with her head hung low and her eyes shutting. We had a family conference and decided that she wouldn’t last long so we should end her suffering. My daughter and I said our goodbyes and my husband calmly and bravely did the deed that I just couldn’t. So Luna is no more. She had a good life with us for 3 years. She saw out two other younger chickens and helped us deal with scraps, slugs and caterpillars. Thanks Luna.