The (ongoing) story of Kua, the broken-beak pullet

Discussion in 'Pictures & Stories of My Chickens' started by Nambroth, Aug 14, 2011.

  1. Nambroth

    Nambroth Fud Lady

    Apr 7, 2011
    Western NY
    My Coop
    Edit: Last update is on page 4! [​IMG]

    I posted a bit about this in the emergencies section, but I thought some of you might enjoy this story (as alarming as it starts!).

    Meet Kua! She is one of 7 chickens I started with this year. She hatched on May 9th, and is a red sex-link (Golden Buff/Golden Comet/Red Star/etc).


    She is a sweet young lady, curious and friendly. She has a lot to say when she first sees you, and has a habit of staring into space as if in a trance when you show her something new.

    Well, my chickens are pets-- very worried-about pets! I built them a run that is as secure as I can possibly make it, and in it they live until they are big enough for me to do some 'supervised free ranging'.

    Last Thursday, there were some rottweilers running loose (don't know whose..). I knew they were loose and made sure to have the e-fence on along with the physical barriers of hardware cloth + wire fence with 4x4 construction. Well, it protected my flock but wasn't enough to keep the dogs from sending them into a panic! Somehow in the freak out, my sweet pullet Kua managed to break her beak. I am not sure how as I didn't actually see it happen and there is nothing for her to catch it on, but it happened! I was inside for a short while and by the time I went to check on them everyone was very upset. I hadn't realized what had happened to Kua and offered some dandelions to bring everyone out from under the coop to help them relax. As usual, they exploded over to get a nip at the greens, but as Kua took a bite she cried out, unmistakably in pain. I looked at her and to my horror saw that her beak (upper mandible) was very badly broken, just below the nostrils. I gathered her up, and called my avian veterinarian to see if they could see us immediately. My vet is very excellent and she said she'd make time somehow.

    Poor Kua was in very obvious pain; panting with her eyes shut, and doing that soft, low chicken 'moan' that I hope you've not had the misfortune to hear before. She would gape her beak a little and then shudder, I can only imagine how much it hurt! The break was deep and you could see the inner soft tissue of the beak (this houses a ton of nerves, by the way!). The break was far higher on her beak than any poor de-beaked chicken and I knew that if we didn't find a way to fix it her long-term survivability was probably poor. It broke my heart to see her in such pain.

    Our vet is nearly a 2 hour drive from my house, so it was a long and harrowing car ride. Kua was in shock off and on and it was very upsetting.

    The vet was very busy when we arrived, but saw us as soon as she finished up with a pair of gorgeous macaws. She examined Kua, made a game plan to stabilize the break and add a patch, and administered two painkillers via injection because she knew that working with her beak would cause her a great deal of pain. We waited while the painkillers started to set.

    Kua, looking miserable while at the vet...

    Soon the vet took her to the back, and used dental acrylic and a fiberglass patch. The purpose is to hold the beak in place to give it a chance to heal (like a broken bone, in some ways) and to keep the wound clean since it is a deep break. The vet stayed after hours to work with us and to make sure that Kua would be okay. If you live in the Buffalo, NY area I absolutely recommend Dr. Laura Wade if you want to see an avian vet. But I digress... we left that evening with a very sad (but patched) chicken, a prescription for an antibiotic (Baytril) and painkillers (Metacam) and a severely lighter pocketbook...!!

    That night, Kua was thankfully a bit stoned and sleepy from the strong painkillers that our vet injected her with. She wouldn't eat, save for a few bites of thick kefir, and we let her sleep on a towel in the bedroom.

    The next morning found Kua perky, but in pain. I made a mash for her out of cooked oatmeal, and a bit of the mash-dust I had at the bottom of the Countryside food I get for the chickens. She ate a bite, cried out, and shook her head. It was obvious that her chicken brain had connected eating with pain, which is not good! It distressed me but it was clear this would be a battle. I kept trying with her, and I didn't dare try to force feed her... I did not want to manipulate her beak to get her mouth open! We tried her favorite thing in the world: live mealworms. Nope! Then we tried some mooshed up blueberries... she loves blueberries. Nope! Applesauce? No. Many various favorite treats? NO. Finally she gingerly ate some of the original oatmeal/feed mash, and to my relief didn't notice her pain medication that I mixed in. I prepared a bit more and added her antibiotic.
    What a mistake that was!
    I had forgotten that all animals seem to hate the taste of Bytril (even though this kind is 'fruit' flavored). She wouldn't touch a bite of anything after she tasted a single molecule of Baytril. What the heck was I trying to pull on her, anyway??!
    Needless to say, I was still very scared of trying to force feed it to her due to her injured beak and she didn't get any antibiotics in her that morning. Nnnggh!! [​IMG]

    Here is Kua with her beak patch. The fiberglass is very strong, lightweight and... pink!

    It rather looks as if someone stuck a piece of chewed bubblegum to her beak, doesn't it??

    Since I did not take any photos of the actual break before the vet patched her (taking photos that showed it clearly was not on my mind at the time...), I drew it in on this photo. The break itself was deep and offset the beak by probably about 20-30°! The black line shows the deep part of the break. The blue line is where the beak split, on the inside. It was a complicated, messy, painful break for poor Kua.

    A view from below.

    My family (you know how it is-- the ones that thought I was crazy when I wanted "Smelly, nasty mean chickens!" but now adore them as much as we do..!!) came over late that morning to visit with the flock. I felt that Kua had her wits about her enough and that 4 sets of protective human eyes would be on the chickens so that if any of the others tried to give her trouble we'd be right there to break it up... so I took her into the run with us.
    It was the darndest thing-- I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it, and my sister saw it too. My very smart Barred Rock Pullet, Chickadee, came running over to Kua. I thought for sure she would peck her 'bubblegum beak' and was ready to pull her away, but instead, Chickadee leaned forward very slowly, rested her beak very gently against Kua's injury/beak patch and just sat there for a minute before wandering off. What the heck was that! Chickens generally 'peck first and ask questions later' so it was pretty weird to see!!

    Well, regardless, my family gave a few handful's of black oil sunflower seeds to the rest of the flock. To my amazement, Kua came running over and started gobbling them down with the others! She couldn't/wouldn't eat any of her favorites that we tried only an hour before and was now eating hard sunflower seeds.
    Okay then!! I figured, AHA, the secret is to feed her at the same time as the others! So I tried it with mealworms. No. Everyone pigged but her. Blueberries? NOPE. Applesauce? No.....
    Then my brain-gears started rolling. What if I used a syringe to inject her Baytril INTO the BOSS so she couldn't taste it...??

    Please imagine the scene.
    There is an injured chicken living in my house with me (that, incredibly, self-regulated herself to the tiled areas only which makes the inevitable poo cleanup a breeze....). This chicken, unless you knew the story, appears to have bubblegum stuck to her beak, and has made herself at home on a towel on the human slave's favorite chair. She has already ingested a crop-full of squishy food that's been mixed with some painkillers and is looking happily drowsy.

    Nearby, there is a lady human with a handful of black oil sunflower seeds. Mysteriously, she is extremely carefully extracting the seed-meat from each, without breaking the shell apart, and then using a hypodermic syringe to inject a drop of Baytril antibiotic into each (because guess what: despite the human's grand daydream of injecting the seeds full of baytril, each hollowed seed only holds a tiny bit before it leaks out onto the shell, the chicken tastes the medicine and promptly tosses the seed into the distance where it will never be looked at again)... then moving onto the next seed. The human does this for what seems to be at least 30 million seeds, before offering them hopefully to the chicken. She then watches, with eyes shining with prayers to the chicken gods that the chicken does not detect the medicine inside.
    Repeat this twice a day.

    This is a short video I took of her while she was enjoying a 'dust bath'. She insists on being in my lap, but since I work from home sometimes it is less than productive to have Curious Chicken Lap so I place her in the chair she seems to like so much! She pants a few times because it's a little bit warm in here, and she gets herself a little hot when she's dust-bath flopping in a warm fluffy towel.

    So, here is Kua... quite possibly the most expensive Golden Comet chicken in the history of ever. She is doing pretty well today, all things considered. Because I don't have a good and safe way to confine her if we need to leave the house, she has been traveling with us, bringing no end to the entertainment of other people. Luckily, Kua is very laid back about all of these experiences and has been remarkably unstressed about it all. I have been taking her out to see her flock-mates a few times a day in hopes that they won't try to beat her up when she goes back into the run with them when she's healed. Tonight, for the first time, she didn't want to stay outside with them, but instead was very clear in her wishes to go back inside with me! [​IMG]

    Here she is, currently... on my lap, helping me Internet.

    I adored my chickens as pets since day 1 when they arrived as day old chicks, and have been only increasingly in love with their individuality, personalities, and behaviors. However, I must admit, having Kua in the house as a very polite, quiet and not messy guest has really increased my appreciation for her. She is easily the sweetest bird I've ever had (which is saying a lot since I've worked with companion parrots my whole life!) and is absolutely a riot and has brought us a lot of joy. As I write this, she is in my lap, preening, and occasionally chicken-'purring' at me in a dreamy fashion.

    I did want to write a gentle disclaimer, because I've already taken a little flack (not here) about this. I know that everyone has a different way of handling injured birds, and I am not trying to suggest that there is a wrong way. My way is my way and does not mean I expect it to be everyone's way! I know that some folk think that I am completely nutters for spending so much money and time which, at it's most basic level, cost me $2.50 to buy that are, gently put, mass-produced by hatcheries. And I agree-- it is absolutely not a wise investment. There is little chance that she will produce many hundreds of dollars worth of eggs that would make the vet costs 'worth it'. I could have bought another $2.50 chick for hundreds of dollars less and had another fantastic hen. But I can't help it... I am who I am, and I love this individual bird, and I always keep an emergency fund in my savings account for vet bills and so this was my approach. I hope to give Kua the best chance I can and the best life I can. She is not suffering and seems to be very happy and perky. I know that some people probably laugh at the idea of my stupid, pampered lap chicken, and that's okay. She has already enriched our lives more than I thought possible.

    I will keep you updated with her progress!

    (edited for typos)
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2011
    1 person likes this.
  2. TheSpiceGirls

    TheSpiceGirls Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 6, 2010
    Bay Area, CA
    Oh, do keep us posted on her progress. You are a good chicken mama for taking such good care of her.
  3. OHhappychicks

    OHhappychicks Overrun With Chickens

    May 2, 2009
    I know what you mean about the flack! I took our sweet little banty roo to vet ( not an avian) and spent $xxx to find the vet didn't know what was wrong. He was sick for about three months, couldn't walk straight and no matter what I did he didn't improve but got progressively worse until my DH had to put him down. That was 3 yrs ago, and occasionly still get a little flack for it! So I can identify with you. It sounds like she is going to do fine and you are a good "pet-keeper"! Keep up the good work! And keep us updated!
  4. welasharon

    welasharon Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 28, 2010
    North Florida
    I would do the same as you as long as I can. I had a mother cat with 5 five day old kittens come down with mastitis. It was almost $800 for the emergency room visit and follow up vet care. My animals are more expensive than my kids were! But, I work a second job and that is what I choose to do with the money...oh, and I bought us each motorcycles! LOL
  5. Farm_Maven

    Farm_Maven Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 7, 2011
    Most often the Intangibles are worth more than the money! [​IMG]
  6. Darlasmum

    Darlasmum Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 2, 2009
    La Crescenta, CA
    Nambroth- GOOD for you! I would be at the vet too begging for help. [​IMG]
  7. theoldchick

    theoldchick The Chicken Whisperer Premium Member

    May 11, 2010
    I loves stories like this!
  8. ll

    ll Chillin' With My Peeps

  9. Rockin' Reds

    Rockin' Reds Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 3, 2010
    Penrose, Colorado
    Bless her heart...and yours too. You are doing a fabulous job. Keep up the good work, and keep us posted!!
  10. lvchicken

    lvchicken Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 1, 2011
    Only if this makes your job easier, you could buy her a chickens diaper so you don't have to worry about the mess besides emptying the diaper. lol You are doing a great job, and I bet she is very thankful to have such wonderful owner that you are.

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