Hilda spent several uneventful hours in the broody cage yesterday before giving me a heart attack. I find that chickens are good at this. If you do something they don't like, they'll lull you in to a false sense of security by pretending they're going along with it. Then, just as you start to relax, they unleash some hideous illness or surprising injury. Hilda went for the latter.
I popped my head in to the garage just to check that the serama weren't engaged in a battle to the death. They stared back at me impassively, all settled in opposite corners of the hutch but seemingly content. Thinking I'd got away with the integration without any major trauma, I was feeling a bit smug. And then I spotted something strange about Hilda.
Hilda is a pure white pekin. Naturally, she's rarely clean looking what with dust bathing in the mud and rolling about the grass. But generally speaking, she isn't dotted with scarlet. Nope, can't say that I've even seen her sporting red polka dots before. Naturally, I closed in for a better look. And that's when I saw that the cage looked like the set from a splatter movie. The perch was coated, there were splashes of red all over the floor, and the bars of the cage were in some cases actually dripping.
I hurriedly removed the cage and gently picked up Hilda. I could see no obvious injury to her head or face. My first thought was that she must have somehow injured her comb, because I know from experience that a chickens comb bleeds like mad for even a small injury. But no, she was definitely not bleeding from the head region. The blood seemed more concentrated on her lower half, so with trepidation I turned her around to check her vent. There is nothing glamourous about checking a chickens bum for injury, but my greatest fear was that she had somehow prolapsed. Thankfully, all seemed as it should. Which deepened the mystery somewhat.
At a loss as to where the red stuff was coming from, I turned Hilda on to her back. It became immediately obvious that she'd injured one of her feet. Her foot feathers were sticky and bright red. On first sweep, I couldn't find the source of the bleeding. Her toes and pads seemed fine, so she hadn't cut herself. It was then that my brain registered how odd her left foot looked. Sort of lop sided. And then it dawned on me. Hilda was missing her outer claw.
Somehow, she had managed to rip her entire nail clear from her toe. The thought made me wince. The end of the toe was bleeding slowly, but starting to clot. Hilda looked at the toe, looked at me and seemed to be trying to communicate the immortal line from 'Short Circuit' : "Reassemble, madchickenlady, reassemble!".
Starting to panic slightly, I forced the ever tolerant husband to assist me in some chicken first aid. Unfortunately, the gentian violet bottle leaked all over his hands, me, and the now multi-coloured Hilda. She now resembled less a white hen and more a Jackson Pollock abstract. Naturally, the gentian violet stung a bit, and Hilda made her displeasure known by grabbing the soft bit of skin between my thumb and index finger and giving it a hearty twist. I managed not to drop her, figuring her pain had to be worse.
I would have liked to interfere more, perhaps dressing the wound and adding a bandage. But stress is a killer to a chicken, and I think that Hilda had been through enough during the gentian violet episode. My hope was that she would settle for the night, and the wound would get a chance to heal. I added a layer of wood shavings to the broody cage, a luxury rarely afforded to a bird in the slammer, and popped her back in. She sat on the floor, smothered in her own blood and well meaning purple dye, and looked at me pointedly. I took the hint, and gave her some corn.
What became of the torn off nail, I do not know. I looked for it in the cage, and on the floor surrounding it, but found nothing. The ever tolerant husband suggested that she'd probably eaten it, which put me off my dinner somewhat. But he's probably right.
This morning, Hilda seems fine. But she looks like she's been vandalised.