Monday, my dear dog, Buster, and I took care of the evening barn chores. While doing the evening herd check after feeding, I noticed my favorite girl, Big Red, was suffering from loose stool. With humans, we can usually recover from gastrointestinal upset relatively easily. However, with goats, gastrointestinal upset can turn serious very quickly. I messaged Eric and told him Red needed treatment. Once he clarified the dosage and medicine, I went back out to the barn to treat my sweet girl.
At this point in the evening, it was after dark. I have not successfully gotten over my fear of the dark, nor do I anticipate I will, so I asked my great protector, The Heavy-B, to join me. When I entered the barn, I did not latch the outside door because, in my mind, if I needed to make a quick escape from some horrible monster, I did not want to have to mess with a latched door. One of my little red hens had entered the barn with me when I did the evening chores. Rather than go back to the coop, she had taken up residence on the edge of a wheelbarrow. As I passed through the milking parlor, I made a mental note to gather her up and take her to the coop when I was done treating Red.
I went into the goat’s side of the barn, found my under the weather girl, and treated her with a dose of oral scour guard, probiotics, and a shot of penicillin. Treating a full-grown goat is a lot like what I imagine wrestling an alligator is like. By the time she was treated, I was covered in slimy blue goo, spit out medicine, and my foot had been stamped upon repeatedly. Sigh, I just wanted to go to bed. As I walked out of the goat’s area, I heard a great commotion in the milking parlor.
I picked up my pace, made it through the door into the milking parlor, and was met with a cloud of dust that would have put 1930s Oklahoma to shame. Through the white cloud of lime and dust, Buster comes bounding upon me with an expression of sheer joy on his face. The air is filled with dust, and feathers are flying everywhere. I rarely raise my voice in anger at my favorite dog, but this situation warranted a severe scolding. As he sat sulking with feathers hanging out of his mouth, I saw my little hen dazed and stumbling in the back of the milking parlor. Buster was immediately sent to the porch with a stern, “Bad dog! Bad! Bad!” I then gathered up my traumatized hen and gently carried her to her chicken coop to roost with her flock.
The next day, I noticed a little hen sitting by herself on the rocks of the barn bridge. As I approached her, she stood and tried to hop away on one leg. Sigh. It was clear that Buster had broken her little leg. I took her into the garage, cleaned her scrapes, disinfected her leg, and tried to assess the damage. It appears as if her foot is broken. I took her to what I call the infirmary coop, which is a tiny green coop that can comfortably hold six chickens. I set her up with food and water, gave her a vitamin-packed drink, and allowed her to rest a few days on her own. I want to give her scrapes time to heal before I put a splint on her leg.
Today, I will use popsicle sticks, K-tape, and gauze to splint her little foot and hold it in place. I plan to continue to keep her in the infirmary until she has better mobility. Thus far, she seems to appreciate the peace and quiet and the extra attention. My hope is that her leg will heal with little to no issue, and she can go about being a normal chicken.
My Buster dog is in the proverbial dog house. I no longer find his chicken chasing antics comical or harmless. He has never gone after a chicken with serious intent, but he does seem to enjoy running through them and making them scatter. We now have a strict no chicken chasing policy in place. We have actually implemented a no looking at the chicken policy. Chasing the feathered egg makers is simply not tolerated. Buster doesn’t seem to care about the memos I send out. I believe I will have to write an incident report and take him to HR. Sigh. I hate paperwork. The little red hen will accept a settlement and refrain from raising my worker’s compensation rates. I am a good employer and my flock…er, employees see no need to unionize. Crisis averted for the time being. A loose cannon like Buster could change all that in a heartbeat. He may have to be dealt with…by the boss.
On this lovely spring day, stay safe, be smart, don’t chase the chickens, and keep washing your hands.