Lucy, and how she became our pirate lady

This is a horror story.

Once lived 17 hens in a mostly peaceful existence. They scratched, they sunbathed, they dust bathed. It was a chickens life for sure.

It was a calm, cool spring evening in mid June and a thump could be heard from inside the house. “What could that be?” Mr. Gillis thought to himself. As he went to the window to see, a villainous raccoon was making off with our dear Lucy. 

He ran out into the dusk, shoes be damned, and scared off the fiend, leaving a shadowy bump on the ground. Was she dead? He didn’t know. He rushed inside to come get me. We both ran back outside, to find Lucy, bloodied and walking around the pen, confused and hurt. Her sister pippi and our Wyandotte, hen, surrounding her and squawking at would be attackers. 

I gently picked her and and took her into the kitchen. The mess of her face made me cry, but I knew I had to get ahold of myself. It didn’t take long to assess the damage, and it was bad- her comb was torn off in the front. The tip of her tongue was attached by only a thread.  she had scratches on her waddle and ear and her eye. And her eye… Oh her poor eye appeared to be gone.

We cleaned her up as best we could, but knew the bleeding would subside with time and clotting. So we had to kick Peatree, our broody barnvelder out of the chicken hospital and put in Lucy with fresh shavings and a lot of positive thoughts. We weren’t sure if her making it thru the night was a good thing or not. 

The next morning I went in our back shack and Lucy was up and walking. So we made her some electrolyte water and mush and let her do her own thing. She was eating and drinking, but only a little. I still hand feed her water from a spoon once a hour if she wanted it. 

Warning graphic pictures ahead. 

The next day, she was a little depressed from being cooped up inside. It’s hard for chickens to be inside without the flock and freedom. But despite how she felt, her instinct to live was stronger, because she was able to eat and drink on her own. 

Mr gillis and I did some talking and decided to boomer up to Houlton, our nearest tractor supply company-forty odd mile away, and get a bottle of vetericyn. 

It turned into a plant buying trip as well but more on that in another blog. 

Now, obviously, no animal likes being sprayed in the face. But this vetericyn spray helps heal wounds both minor(ripped comb) and major(possible missing eye) by keeping them moist and sanitized. We’ve used the gel on bumblefoot infections, but the spray is much better for face issues. At 30 odd bucks per bottle, we use it and let it work it’s science-ie Magic. 

She’s been doing ok, but the only reason I know she’s eating at this point is because her crop still has food in it, every night. The only way I know she’s drinking is by marking the water level on her tank when I fill it and watching the level fall. 

On day five after the attack, I noticed what I thought was a shaving hanging out of her mouth. I picked her up to help her get rid of it, and the truth was discovered. It was actually the dead portion of her tongue. My husband and I discussed possible solutions and decided to see if it would finish falling off on its own.

Day six, and Lucy was now having trouble  eating and drinking. The tongue had to go. I disinfected the table top, our medical scissors, my hands and for good measure the table again. I gently picked her up, snipped the offending piece of tongue and was happy to see she seemed relieved. There was no bleeding, and she happily took a big gulp of water afterwards, so I am confident I did the right thing. 

Day seven, one week after the attack, the scabs on her face are starting to fall off. She is so good when being handled, as if she understands I’m just trying to help her. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like her jaw will ever be completly normal. All the swelling has pretty well gone down and it still hangs open a bit. There is a pretty substantial scab on the roof of her beak, so hopefully when that finally falls off, she’ll be able to close it. 

Day 8 and we have decided to put her in a pen outside, separate but in sight of the other chickens. If she heals we want her to be accepted back into the flock as quickly as possible. So far, it’s been worth it just for the improvement to her mood. She’s been drinking and sunning, even tho her breathing is a little wheezy today. Not every breathe, but like every other. This leads me to believe the scab in her mouth is starting to fall off, causing kind of a flap that could be in the way of her ventilation hole. Also, her eye scab is starting to fall off. Which, means, and graphic content ahead again, her dead eye is also about to come out. 


After taking this picture, I got into the pen with her to investigate and am sad to say the wheezing seems to be from an infection. 

I knew some sort of action needed to be taken. So I whipped out the saline solution and some qtips and back out to her I went. At first, she didn’t take to kindly to me poking around in her mouth with a saline soaked qtip, but when I started pulling out infectious materiel and old scab, she calmed down and allowed me to clean out her entire beak. 

The wheezing was gone but My husband and I were going to have a very hard talk to get thru tonight after work.

These are the hardest lessons you learn, caring for and loving farm animals. 

Day 9 and she’s up and ready to go back outside. Her beak is looking clean and pink, and I see the spot the possibly caused the infectious crap…. It definitely needs some tlc, but will require more then just myself to accomplish. As I’m walking her outside, I notice that her eye scab is about to fall off, so I just give it a quick flick and boom off it comes and I am staring into a beautiful, bright, EYE! Holy crap! She still had her eye, her inner eyelids and her eyelid function. Her outer eyelid was puffy and sorta off, but hope springs eternal! 

She spends another day outside, pecking away and sinking happily into the grass to sunbath. 


We still don’t know if she can see, but she’s keeping it shut most of the time right now. Also, she can shut her beak again! To think we were going to give up. Life will find a way, thankyouverymuch. 

Day 10 – she is loving her time outside. Her bad eye was a little funky this morning. She didn’t really appreciate the saline wash and vetericyn spray, but she’ll appreciate staying infection free, I’m sure. Seems to still be having a little trouble eating, but the will to live is strong, my hen. 

End of day ten- Lucy has refused to eat since this morning. We took a look at her beak injury and it seems pretty bad. 

Day eleven- turns out, the raccoon had caused another wound in her jaw. I got the scab off, cleaned it out and Lucy seemed very grateful. She spent the day hanging out in the sun scratching around. Still had a pretty empty crop at the end of the day. I’m worried she’ll starve to death before the infection clears up. 

Several days later- it’s pretty obvious that, although Lucy kept her eye, she is indeed blind. Her comb is almost healed and she’s pretty well able to close her beak. She’s spent the last few days scratching around, sunning and drinking a fair amount of water. Her crop still seems woefully empty every night when I go to put her in the med cage, but she’s still going. So if she’ll keep trying, so will I. 


We have a few days of rain in the forecast, which means she’s gonna be alone inside. Hopefully, it won’t deter her from the progress she’s making. 

A few days later- the swelling in her eye is gone, but the eye is now cloudy and unfocused. It’s able to close tho so I’d say it’s healed. Well as healed as its gonna get. The original beak wound is still giving her a little trouble, but she’s eating again. Last night her crop was FULL when I brought her inside. The scabbing around her Comb injury is almost all gone. I think she may be able to rejoin the flock in another week to ten days. 

This is all while Peatree is still being a broody little butt head. I was hoping she’d just break, but it seems we’ll have to take my mom up on her offer of her old dog cage. I never thought I’d need TWO chicken med cages. But here I am, trying to figure out how to fit two into our chicken hospital. 

A few days after that- we just got home from strawberry picking and Lucy was running around outside of her enclosure making all the other chickens super jealous. She’s eating perfectly well and I believe that when her scabs are finally off in another couple days she’ll be able to rejoin the flock. We got our second med cage from my mom and we’ll be putting Peatree in tommorrow. By the time she’s unbroody, we can put them in togethe and Lesson the stress on them going back in individually. 

Day 18-she laid an egg! And promptly broke it because I didn’t think to even look. This is actually the second egg laid since the attack, but the first was the day after it all happened and I believ  it was already on it way. This to me, signifies a return to good health, but we shall see if she lays again in the next few days. 

Also the biggest of her scabs finally fell off. She has very little scabbing left. She’s eating normally. When I put her out in her mini pen, she immediately went slug hunting. 

It’s looking good for our little Lucy. 

Day19- supposed to rain today, so so far I’ve just kept her in, with her usual morning dose of vetericyn. The top of her head scab has turned a little gray, so I’m going to watch it super close. Today we give her a housemate anyway. Peatree is refusing to break brood. So we have to put her in the dog kennel. For like a week. By then we can possibly put them both back in. 

Day 21- scabs are gone, wounds are healed and infection free, beak can close completely, and she has enough of a tongue to eat and drink unaided. It’s time to put her back in with the other girls. Especially since she has jumped the fence three times today to try and get to the nesting boxes. 

Lucy could not be contained by this cage

One month later- Lucy is indeed healed, blind in one eye and definitely closer to the bottom rung of the chicken ladder, but she holds her own. I’m sorry she had to go thru the intense process of being attacked and nearly killed, and then the long healing process, but I’m glad we saved her. She’s laying beautiful eggs, and now happily runs to me to say hello every time I come out to see them. She used to be one of the more skittish chickens, but after saving her life, we’ve bonded. Chickens are pretty amazing creatures. But then again, life is pretty amazing. 
Sorry that this blog was so long, but in the end, it was important to highlight that while she suffered for a few weeks, she’s alive and happy to be so. Everyone I spoke to, other then my mother and husband, encouraged me to cull her, and I am so happy I didn’t give up on her. 
I plan on finishing my bumblefoot blog next, and I promise a non invasive treatment method that will keep you and your hens happy and healthy should th need for it arise. 

Until next time, have a wicked good night. 

Update 12.30.2016

The winter cold has hit Lucy girl right in the comb. It appears that she will suffer some more- I’d say the comb has severe blood flow issues and can’t work properly because of it. 

She’s a trooper tho, and I’m still glad she’s hanging in there with us. 

Having animals is never easy on the tender hearted

When you decide to go into any kind of animal husbandry with the intention of ethical, compassionate and care-oriented rearing of those animals, you know you’re going to get hurt. And probably a lot.

Our first batch of chickens, we got 8- 4 pairs of different heirloom birds, kinda like a Gillis Chicken Ark. As they got their feathers in and started coming of age, one started crowing. We named it Rooster, in hopes that the ironic name would work its mojo and it would just be a really noisy hen. We named its sister Hen as further irony. These were the Silver Laced Wyandottes. We also brought home Buff Orpingtons who became Buffy and Dawn, Amurecaunas that were named Falcon and Hawk, and Australorps, Astrid and Na.

When the birds were old enough to go outside, we knew for sure we had a rooster, named Rooster, in our midst. And, unfortunately, Rooster, was a loud rooster. From 30 minutes before dawn hit until the very last hen was in the coop at the end of the night, he would crow. And crow. And crow. If we stepped outside, crow. If we had treats, crow. No treats? Well that actually started to lead to attacks.

During the first major attack, I went the scared 1st time chicken owner route, and kicked my way out of the coop.

After the second time that beautiful little bastard attacked me, we decided he had to go to the chopping block. That story is another, very painful blog tho.

But that is the shortened story of our first loss.

Our second batch of chickens, we lost a baby chick the day after we brought them home.  We think she got to cold on the long ride home, in the cold that is Maine in February…That was sad, preventable, and we vowed to try our best to keep it from happening again.

The other five we had brought home made it outside and all got names, personalities… they were accimilating to life with the older girls, getting big…just starting to lay. We had two Barnvelders, Peatree and BB, Two Red Stars, Lucy (more on her here) and Pippi, and one pure white Amerucauna, who we called Blanca.

One morning in September, I went out to the chicken coop, and saw bloodied, white feathers everywhere. I found parts of our little Blanca everywhere, including on our back porch.  Sometime thru the night a racoon had gotten into our fence and then took our girl right off her perch as she slept. Mr. Gillis gathered her scattered remains, and buried her out back while I cried and blamed myself for being to lazy to go out and close the door better the night before. That was a hard lesson, and from then on we screwed the door shut every night instead of just relying on hook and eye latches.

We brought home our third batch of chicks the next spring, one Delaware we named Ethel, one barred rock we named Rocky (quite clever, I know) and 4 Easter Eggers that ended up being called Luna, Matilda, Milk and Scout.

For a year and some months we are at 17 happy chickens clucking and scratching around the yard. Then I noticed one of our original girls, Astrid, is not clucking. Or Scratching. Or doing really much of anything. And then I notice she is sleeping in the boxes at night instead of the bar. So I bring her into the house for a little checkup. She has food and grit in her crop and it is neither impacted nor sour. Her feet are clean and blemish free. Her airways are clean and free of blockage. Her breathing was fine. Her coloring was normal. She even ate some food, and drank some water while under observation. After 48 hours I put her back outside assuming she was just being a little weird.

Two days later I looked outside to the pen and saw her lying, unresponsive, in the chicken door. I ran outside and gently picked her up. She was breathing the heavy, wet sounding   Breath of sickness and her comb was purple. I feed her some electrolyte water, tried to get her to eat some mash. Rechecked for all obvious signs of sickness or injury. I researched online and in my books for hours. I read every thing I could find about what might possibly be wrong, and tentatively diagnosed her with acute liver failure- a sure death sentence without a real time line… could be hours, could be days.

Knowing what had to be done, I struggled all night with how to cull her, without causing a lot of pain and distress… I went to work the next day, stomach twisted with our sad chore for that evening, consuming my mind.

She was gone by lunchtime.

That was another hard lesson about the inevitability that we will lose all the animals we ever care for. Not all of them will be dramatic and quick. Not all of them will be quiet and tidy… All we can do is make their lives as fulfilled, and as good, as possible.

Well, that’s my story and I’m ending it on that.

Have a wicked good evening.