Tag Archives: animal rescue

Caring for Blind Chickens

Standard
SamPetunias.Jazelle

Sam is my 10 year old rescue rooster who has been blind for the last 3 years.

Blindness can be the beginning of a new life. Sam was adopted from the local Humane Society along with his brother, Isan in 2006. Isan began developing visual problems early and went blind in 2011. Both boys had several vet visits including to an eye specialist (who generously donated her time!) Cataracts were ruled out along with other various ailments. After blood work showed that they had a genetic condition which compromised their immune systems the condition was blamed on an infection caused possibly by a virus. Isan eventually developed respiratory problems and passed away in 2014.

Sam had once held the top position in the chicken yard hierarchy. Once his eyesight was gone he was no longer respected by the other birds and he was unable to protect himself. Chickens are considered prey animals and generally hide any ailments as a survival strategy. Eyesight is essential for chickens to stay safe, find food and water and to socialize. Sam had lost this ability, so like his brother before him I made the decision to have him become a House Chicken. Since then Sam has thrived indoors and even his vet is amazed at his longevity. Here are a few suggestions should you find yourself in a similar situation with your bird:

#1) Create a Space. I purchased a pet carrier that was roomy enough for Sam to move freely, stretch and crow but small enough that he would feel secure and able to find his food and water easily. The dishes snap onto the door of the carrier so I was able to adjust the height to fit his needs. The trays also cannot be knocked over and he knows exactly where to find them. Straw is used as bedding and is changed daily. I had considered the option of “chicken pants” which many people use successfully  for indoor birds but decided against them as a safety issue. Wandering about the house blindly could be hazardous for Sam.

#2) Create a Routine. All creatures (including us humans) feel secure with a predictable routine which indicates normalcy and security. With Sam I try to create a certain rhythm so things happen at the same time of day. Whether it is feeding him or taking him out for a stretch, his internal clock can depend on these events. Routine can become boring even for chickens so I try to add some surprises into his day to keep things interesting such as including a new ingredient in his food tray or giving him a bath (he loves the blow-drying part).

#3) Provide Healthy Food. I have put Sam on a healthy diet to which I credit his robustness. One third of his food is commercial poultry pellets with a sprinkling of Poultry Conditioner (which is high in vitamins). I add a layer of raw sunflower seeds (good source of protein, calcium, iron and fiber). On top of that I put his greens cut into beak-size pieces (kale, parsley, broccoli and sometimes brussels sprouts, cucumber and cabbage). I also add a few dry cranberries, blueberries (antioxidants) and apple then sprinkle with sesame or flax seeds (omega-3s). This is pretty much how I eat (vegetarian, sans the Poultry Chow of course!) and setting aside a small portion for him is no big deal. Luckily Sam has a great appetite and always cleans his plate!

#4) Give Touch Therapy. All beings thrive with love and attention. Sam’s blindness has also decreased his physical mobility so massaging him around his wing and leg joints helps to stimulate blood flow to the muscles. He especially enjoys belly rubs! Petting and holding your blind bird is another way of reassuring them that all is safe and secure.

#5) Allow Fresh Air & Sunshine.  Sam’s indoor carrier is next to a window where he continues get fresh air and sunlight. It allows him to hear and vocally connect with the other chickens (he still competes in crowing contests with his rooster buddies). I also have a small outdoor enclosure for Sam and in nice weather put him out when I am at home to keep an eye on him. This enables him to socialize with the resident flock without the risk of any of them hurting him. An easy outdoor enclosure can be created with portable pet fencing and aviary netting or tarp clipped over the top (shown below).

The main point is that blindness doesn’t have to mean the end of quality of life for your bird. As with any disability adjustments can be made to provide continued enjoyment of life for all involved!

SamRexPortableFence.Jazelle

Portable pet fencing provides an easy way for Sam to socialize in a safe environment.

-Singing Luna 3/7/2016

Seed for thought: With proper care chickens can live from 15-20 years!

Advertisements

Volunteering to Help Birds is a Rewarding Experience

Image
A rescued hen is held with gentle hands.

A rescued hen is held in gentle hands.

Animal Place is a sanctuary located in Grass Valley California which gives shelter and care to rescued farmed animals. Rescue Ranch, their sister property in Vacaville California, recently received 1500 hens from an egg production facility and saved them from the usual fate of slaughter. About 15 volunteers showed up on a sunny Saturday morning to help with hen health checks. When the hens arrive at Rescue Ranch they are able for the first time to touch the earth, experience the warm sunshine and move about freely as normal chickens. Each has spent the entire portion of their short lives in dirty, crowded and terrifying conditions… until now.

Volunteers begin to quietly round up the hens.

Volunteers begin to quietly round up the hens.

On this day we were assisting with a phase two health check. During phase one, when the hens first arrive, they are individually checked for injuries and illness. Volunteers trim their toenails which often grow unusually long due to confinement. Some of the birds have broken bones, lacerations and injuries related to brutal handling and transport. Most birds have visible feather loss and are crawling with mites from their inability to move around naturally and dust bathe. All the hens have amputated beaks, a painful procedure which impairs their ability to eat and drink. There are no male chickens present because all of them were separated from the females at the hatchery and killed as day-old chicks. The hens are emotionally fragile from their trauma and physically weak from the constant egg laying which saps their bodies of much needed calcium and nutrients.

The hens receive a dose of medication.

Hens receive a dose of medication from the wonderful Rescue Ranch staff and volunteers.

We assisted with phase two by gently collecting the hens and passing them off to Rescue Ranch staff for medication. Then the birds were released into the barnyard where they could enjoy socializing with their sisters out under the shady trees. Afterwards all of us volunteers celebrated by cleaning the barns!

The hens enjoy hanging out at the feeders.

The hens enjoy hanging out at the feeders.

Once the hens are strong enough they are put up for adoption by Rescue Ranch and also through some of the local humane societies. If you can provide a safe forever home to some of these girls (which they truly deserve after all they have been through!) please contact Animal Place through henrescuers.org. I also recommend volunteering which is a deeply rewarding experience. To hold a bird who has never been treated gently and feel her body relax trustfully in your arms is a sweet gift indeed.

-Singing Luna 8/25/2015

Seed for thought: Consider how our consumer choices impact the lives of animals!


This YouTube video is from a hen rescue in Canada. The rescuers were so devoted it appears that they prepared their living room (!) to keep the hens in during their recovery. Please Note: although the video shows chickens being carried by their feet this is not a recommended way to carry birds.