We are new to chickens, taking in two hens from a friend this summer. My son works on a farm and brought home a chicken whose feet were severely injured (caught in a pig feeder). She has been with us a couple of weeks now, and I've determined that the only semi-functional toes she has are the two inside toes and one of her rear toes.
She has gone from not really walking at all to wobbling around as necessary (although I don't think she will ever be able to do the ladder). She was in a tub in the garage until a few days ago, when I started to put her in the coop at night. The other hens had seen her in the yard and would peck at her and chase her away, so I was hesitant to put her in there, but she can't stay in the garage forever and it is getting cold here (in Northern Illinois).
Things are not better with the other hens. They bully her, jump on her and peck at her if I'm not there to protect her, whether she is in the yard or in the coop. She sleeps in the coop, where they all come together at dusk, and I go out early in the morning to intervene. I am trying to keep them separated, splitting time between being "upstairs" in the coop and being "downstairs" or in the yard. But as it gets colder and eventually snowy, I know this approach isn't going to last. So I have a few questions.
1. Is there any hope that these hens will accept her? Will they get used to her if I continue to keep them together?
2. If I give the hens back to the original owner, will my injured hen survive the winter alone? Is she better off to have mean company than no company at all?
3. If we get new chicks in the spring, will they follow the lead of the other hens and just gang up on her, too, or is there hope that they will be friends? Are my chances better if the other hens are gone before getting new chicks?
This poor little girl is breaking my heart. She is incredibly sweet, will just let me hold her and pet her endlessly, but she is definitely not thriving, and I can't spend hours a day looking over her. She only eats and drinks when I bring her to it and she feels safe. In the yard, she grazes a bit and then finds a hosta or bush or something to bury herself in and hide.
Any help, insight, support would be so appreciated. I am totally perplexed and want to do what's best for this sweet thing!