Rehab and Resilience

It seems we are having a lot of action on the chook front lately. We’re still working on no-dig beds, planting cover crops and winter greens for the chooks (oops there they are again), enjoying the frequent bouts of rain and we have a few big projects in the pipeline for the winter, but right now there is yet another chook story. A feel-good story about rehab and resilience.

This also started over the weekend of the big rain. Markus and I were doing the chook-feed and egg-check run on Saturday morning, when we noticed Tiara hadn’t come out to eat with the others. Tiara is one of our two Scot Grey roosters – he’s the bigger of the two, but he is still only 2/3s the size of the Sussex roosters. He was lying at the bottom of the sleeping area, nestled in the straw. I then recalled that the previous night in the after-dusk darkness when I went to count and close them up there was one chicken on the floor – it must have been Tiara lying there already. We opened the back area of the coop and tried to coax him out with food (which always works with chooks), but Tiara couldn’t move. So all Saturday’s ambitious plans were put and hold and Patricia rushed him to the vet. The vet reckoned he must have had a head injury, a spinal injury or a massive trauma. (How’s that for a pin-point diagnosis?) Anyway, the upshot was that his legs were lame even though they still had feeling. That was disastrous news. If we ever wanted to breed with the Scot Greys, Tiara’s the obvious rooster for the job. But that wasn’t really the issue – Tiara is one of the most adorable chickens we have – always in good spirit, always friendly with everyone, never rude, never violent. And he’s a most beautiful specimen. Much loved, he is.

So the vet said there wasn’t much she could do. We had to separate him, give him food and water and if there is any chance of recovery (she didn’t sound very optimistic) he would show signs of improvement within 48 hours. Fortunately we hadn’t split the tribes yet, so the Homeland coop was still empty where we could put Tiara and two of the more docile Scot Grey hens to keep him company. By the end of the weekend he was alert, eating and drinking, but he wasn’t moving at all – well, not on his legs in any way. The two little hens must have loved the more relaxed atmosphere in the Homeland coop – they just continued laying their little pullet eggs in the new coop’s lay boxes almost without skipping a beat.

Tiara - day 1

Tiara in “hospital”

So according to the vet, if he didn’t move by Monday morning, he was a gonner. But you would probably realise by now – we don’t easily give up on any animal. (If I must tell you how many bees get rescued from the pool…) So on Monday Patricia starting taking Tiara to “rehab”. She took him out of the coop, lightly massaged his legs, and started trying to get him to move and place his legs.

Tiara - day 1 rehab

Rehab session 1

This carried on for the next two days – short rehab sessions with long bouts of rest in between, supported by good food and pleasant company. He slowly started standing – very wobbly – and he initially had some serious balancing problems. If it wasn’t so serious, his wobbly attempts and failures to stand would have been quite comical. He looked like a drunk bozo stumbling around.

Tiara - day 2 rehab

Rehab session 2

Then on the fifth day when I went to check on him, he was wobbly-standing under the loquat tree. That’s a good 5 meters from the persimmon where I had left him earlier. He must have walked! I was so excited I texted Patricia the photo of him standing under the tree.

Tiara - day 3

He must have walked!

Then I got involved with the no-dig beds in the vegetable garden on the other side of the property and I basically forgot about them. Late that afternoon as I went to do their food and water just before dusk, he was at the olive trees – that is a good 25m from the loquat tree over some uneven terrain with couch grass between and around the citrus trees. I thought OK, you little miracle, let’s see how this works. So I didn’t pick him up as I would have done the previous day – I merely showed him their food, walked ahead and whistled the call we normally do at feeding time. Would you believe it – he followed me all the way back to the coop, stood and ate and wobbled into the sleeping area all by himself!

Tiara - day 4

Tiara up and about

Up to now he had been sleeping on the floor in the Homeland coop. I saw some nights the one little hen would cuddle up with him, while the other one went to sleep on the roosts. Two days later I was a bit late in closing them up – and there was little mister on the roost in between the two hens, happy as can be. Isn’t it amazing how resilient a small bird like a chicken can be!

Tiara - roosting

Tiara on the roost – that’s more than 1m off the ground

Now things have taken an interesting turn. I wanted to use the Barry exit as the catalyst for a big chook reshuffle – to separate the various tribes and move them into their respective coops. Ideally Tiara and his two companions should go back to the mansion at Dreamland, and all the Sussexes should come over to Homeland, but Tiara and company are so at home and relaxed in the Homeland coop now. Do I now disrupt everyone (the chickens, that is) to get the tribes sorted out?


About (207 Articles)
My name is Martin Rennhackkamp, I now live happily in Lara, Victoria, Australia with my wife, two children and two dogs. My interests, apart from the obvious Organic, Biodynamic and Permaculture Gardening and Farming, include sustainable living, surfing, horse-riding, a wide variety of music, dancing, nature, birds, reading, Christianity and a few other things which I never get to...

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