Penny was rescued from an intensive, free range egg facility. She was only a few months old,
but was already suffering terribly from her crowded living conditions. Penny and the other injured hens had been separated from the barn into a barren cage and had been left there without treatment for several weeks. Penny was unable to stand up and kept her wing out at an uncomfortable angle to try and support herself. She had no energy and had the appearance of a girl who had no hope. I wondered if she would survive.
We made Penny as comfortable as possible in a straw filled carrier, gave her a cup of food and water that she could eat and drink from without having to stand up and took her straight to the vets. The vet took a look at her left leg. It was limp and folded backwards so if Penny tried to walk on it she was actually putting the weight on the top of her foot and the end of her leg. She had an X-ray which showed no break and the vet concluded she had nerve damage possibly from rough handling when Penny was delivered to the farm or from an injury occurring from the overcrowded conditions.
The vet advised having Penny put to sleep, but since rescue she had been eating and drinking well and had even enjoyed the ray of sunshine she had felt on her feathers. I felt like she had a chance at enjoying life and so I asked him,
“Is there any other option? What would you advise me to do if this happened to a beloved pet parrot?”
It can be hard to get people to see the hens as I do. As a society we have been so brainwashed to see these animals as mere commodities and vets are no exception. Vets sometimes don’t realise that at Hen Rescue we will do anything for these girls. Asking him to imagine she was a companion parrot was one way I could get him to see her as an individual with her own moral value. He said that if she were a pet bird he would advise amputation of the leg to save her life.
After some research I found that hens can live with an amputated leg and have a good quality of life. Without the dead weight Penny should be able to hop around quite well. Of course it was sad she would never be able to scratch in the dirt or live with other hens, but she would be able to sunbathe and take luxurious dust baths. I was worried Penny was too weak and may not make it through the operation so the vet gave me a week to try and build up her strength.
We booked Penny in for her amputation for the next week and as she could not be with other hens I lined up a wonderfully, loving foster carer, Jayne to give her the one on one attention she needed. Jayne’s rescued dog Doza instantly fell in love with Penny and guarded her carrier, crying if she was taken out of his sight.
As Penny had been unable to walk around or balance to preen herself properly she had a very messy bottom. Jayne filled a bowl with warm water and between us we bathed her in
the sunshine. Penny didn’t seem to mind the attention or the warm water. As I gently rubbed her bad foot l I felt her claws grip my finger as if she were holding my hand. Surely that was a good sign! After her bath we let Penny lay in the sunshine and saw that on the soft grass she was able to hop around a bit.
Each day Jayne gave Penny a fresh, clean foot support which helped her foot point in the right direction. She also began giving her daily leg and foot massages.
I gave Jayne some of my hen first aid kit essentials to add to Penny’s food and water and help build up her strength. These included Greenpet Poultry Supplement, Quikgel and Turbo Booster.
Within a couple of days Penny was limping, but putting some weight on the leg. After seeing this progress we cancelled the amputation and decided to keep going with her at home treatment.
It has now been a couple of weeks and every day Penny is getting stronger. She is making slow and steady progress and we hope for a full recovery.
I am so grateful to Jayne for the love and care she has given our sweet Penny, to Doza the dog for watching over his new friend and to Penny for showing me that it is possible to defy the odds.