Disabled / Partially Blind Chicken - Possibly Lonely - How to Keep Her Happy?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by rugbyrebel, Dec 10, 2016.

  1. rugbyrebel

    rugbyrebel Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 21, 2013
    Southern Ontario, Canada
    I've had this one particularly strange chicken for the last 3 years. She's always been a bit off with her head movements and blindness in one eye. But she's been fine in the flock and otherwise healthy & happy.

    This past summer, her condition suddenly became worse - she cannot see in low light at all and started displaying increased neurological issues... She stopped roosting and was then having trouble even getting up the coop ladder due to her strange movements (stumbling, circling, torticollis). I did take her to the vet but the diagnosis was inconclusive without an expensive MRI (which would have just shown something incurable, like a tumor or damage). We did put her on antibiotics and supplements just in case (with no improvement). I was expecting that she was going to die but 6 months later she's still doing well.

    through the fall, I was bringing her into the house to sleep each night and letting her range during the day. No issues. However, the past month the other chickens and ducks have started to bully her. (I think because she gets stressed if she blindly bumps into one of them, starts freaking out and then they attack her out of surprise). So she's been living in my basement alone. She's quiet and seems content but it must surely be boring. And I can't say for sure she isn't lonely.

    My question is... what do I do with her long term? Any thoughts?

    I was thinking of sectioning off a part of the coop for her (I could make a 3ft x 3ft area at most). She will be able to see the other chickens at least (although, they spend most of the day in the run or ranging). She always needs a bit of light - she starts panicking (circling and twisting her neck) in the dark. So I'd have to install a "nightlight". We are headed into winter now where the temp could drop to -40 Celsius in Jan/Feb. My coop has never been heated but I'm thinking I might need to provide her a heat panel since she won't have the body heat from the others. I would feel bad putting her in "jail" but the chickens don't do much in the winter with the snow anyway. In the spring I can give her a separate outdoor ranging area.

    Or, should I keep her in the house until Spring?
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2016
  2. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

    Sep 19, 2009
    Holts Summit, Missouri
    Section off a part of the coop for her. If she is in good feather and weight she will be able to withstand cold by herself. Consider adding additional straw for her to sleep and loaf on. Try to give her some additional dark greens in diet to supplement her regular diet. If visual impairment severe enough then free-ranging may not be best option as she will be less likely even see predator coming.

    High value lame birds I have isolated from flock. Many were given their own pen that was moved about over fresh grass away from where other birds grazed heavily. Diet was transitioned over to softer and bulkier items relative to formulated feeds. This means greens as a salad, chopped up boiled egg, shelled corn, BOSS, oats, and your usual formulation wetted if not fermented.
  3. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    I've had a few hens with special needs that benefited from being in a safe enclosure within the pen. It serves two purposes - it protects while letting them feel still part of the flock. One such hen was provided with a dog crate with shredded newspaper for nesting material both to sleep in and lay her eggs. She did fine at night alone out in her "jail" in the run sleeping in her crate.

    I have a partially blind hen at present who is going on nine years old. She happens to be the matriarch, the oldest, and she's still ranked number one. No one messes with her, even though a tumor over her eye has all but made her blind in the eye. She still brooks no insubordination and puts any miscreant in their place with immediate scolding. That she's lived this long is amazing, but that she's held onto her number one position in the flock is even more of a marvel.

    There is a chance that your blind hen just needs a little "vacation" from the stress of the pecking order to regain her confidence. After a few weeks in a safe enclosure, try letting her out for short periods, gradually increasing the exposure to the others. She may surprise you and be able to cope once again.
  4. rugbyrebel

    rugbyrebel Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 21, 2013
    Southern Ontario, Canada
    Thank you for your responses azygous and centrarchid! I thought I had my settings to send me email notifications and I did not.

    An update: Our winter has been pretty mild so I felt better putting her back outside and she has acclimatized just fine. A friend gave me an extra large dog crate and I put that in the coop for her, the front facing the roosts. I removed one of my nest boxes to make room for the crate and the existing access hatch has made a nice little window for her during the day :) I made her a roost that stands just a few inches off the floor of the crate and she is quite happy with that. I use large guinea pig feeders that clip on the door for her food/water. They work so well because she can't tip them over. I zip tied a battery operated candle to the door as well. It automatically goes on in the evening for a few hours so she doesn't get stressed in the dark. I think it helped having her in the crate in the basement to start so she got used to it. Then when I moved her out to the coop it was just a change of scenery instead of a total change.

    She seems much happier and she can see the flock most of the day. They come and visit her at her door. I have left her door open a few times but she hasn't been interested in venturing very far. I have tried to let her range outside a bit but she really doesn't have control of her body and just gets stuck in weird places or another chicken will attack her. As the weather gets better, I plan to build her a small chicken tractor so she can safely scratch outside.

    I'm really amazed she's still going strong... I thought for sure she was going to die back in August. She doesn't appear to be in pain or discomfort (too much) as she eats well and her body condition is great.

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