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Let me tell you a tale of heroism and miracles, which took place in our quiet little haven.
It was a sunny Spring day. The trees had not yet bloomed their showy blossoms, and the ground was finally dry from the recent snow melt. The flock was feeling uneasy after days of being cooped up due to snow drifts, so this beautiful, warm, mid February day was perfect to let them stretch their legs.
We opened the coop doors and in a matter of moments there were chickens and guineas spread across the land, excitingly pecking and scratching the ground.
My husband, Patrick, and I were working on Spring chores inside and out. We did not worry about the flock much since we were out with them, but we were on edge as we lost our favorite Buff Orpington, Blondie, to predation two weeks earlier. Anytime we went outside we would do a quick scan to make sure nothing was sneaking up on the flock.
Less than 5 minutes after stepping in the house, there was a loud commotion from the guineas. We assumed the guineas were just being their colorful selves, especially since we were just outside and the chickens were quiet. Patrick peeked out the door and shrugged it off. “It’s nothing” he said, “there is a chicken here on the patio.” But then, without warning, calm Patrick threw the door open and left the house running.
I went to the door to find out what was going on, just in time to see Patrick hurdle the split rail fence. With no hands. He bounded over like a deer, and continued running full speed into the tall prairie. It took me a moment of standing there in disbelief before it registered what was going on. A coyote grabbed one of our sweet hens and was carrying her off into the horizon. Fearing all hope was lost, I ran after Patrick. I had to use both hands to jump the fence.
Patrick miraculously caught up to the coyote. His presence alone was enough to frighten the wild dog and it dropped the chicken and tucked tail. Amazingly, the poor girl was still alive, but in very rough shape. I picked her up and took her inside for evaluation.
(**If you have a weak stomach, stop reading here and skip to the end**)
Her exam revealed major trauma. She was ripped open, from nape to breast, in a full thickness skin laceration which had spread open to about 4-5 inches apart. She had 5 deep punctures, an open rib fracture and a collapsed lung. Surprisingly there was no bleeding. Patrick and I debated on what to do. Do we end her suffering or do we try to fix her? The ultimate decision, despite my skepticism, was to give her the best possible shot for survival. So we put her in a kennel in the garage, and went to Big R for medical supplies. $50 later we had a suture kit, Betadine, ointment and bandages.
We came home to find her weak and laying in the kennel. Patrick helped me hold her while I got to work. It took over an hour and just short of 20 stitches to clean her wounds and put her back together. We slathered on the triple antibiotic ointment and bandaged her up, and put her to bed for the night. We gave her a small heater to help make her more comfortable. Despite my best efforts, due to the severity of her injuries, I had no doubt she would perish during the night.
The next morning, I reluctantly went to the garage to check on her. I flipped on the light and was amazed to see her laying there, looking at me. Alive! I fixed her a bowl of mealworms for breakfast, and a fresh batch of electrolyte water and left her alone to rest. I checked on her every hour, and every time she was laying down, but alert to her surroundings.
The next morning I was once again surprised to find her alive. I picked her up and put her on the disinfected work bench to give her a check up and change her bandages. Her wounds looked awful, but were not infected. The stitches held. I sprayed the wound thoroughly with Vetericyn and gave her new bandages, and again left her alone to rest.
Every evening the routine was the same. Scoop up the weak hen, remove her bandages, spray the wound with Vetericyn, cover with petroleum gauze, rewrap with fresh bandages, and put her away. Feed her mealworms for added protein for healing.
I knew I needed to keep her wound moist for proper healing, however I was not interested in using the common petroleum jelly soaked gauze for such purpose, so I did some research online. I found many positive reviews on a product called Medihoney, and I decided to order it with overnight shipping from Amazon.
When I received the Medihoney, we were about 5 days post incident. Up until that point, the wound had not changed. It was not showing any signs of healing and one piece of tissue was turning black and dying. I was concerned that secondary infection was imminent. When the Medihoney arrived, I sprayed her wound with Vetericyn as before, and made sure the Medihoney was in every crevice of her injury. Within days, significant improvement was seen. Scabs were forming and the tissue that was dying, was coming back to life. Every day she got stronger and became more active. Every day we did bandage changes with Vetericyn and Medihoney. Within a week her body was pushing out the stitches with the large scabs that had formed. When the scabs fell off, complete with the stitches embedded in them, beautifully healed, pink skin revealed itself underneath.
(**weak stomachs can pick back up here**)
5 weeks later, the severely mangled hen that was so heroically saved by my husband, is 100% healed and back outside. Her wound healed completely smooth, and had even filled in with feathers. You can see in the featured image that she is doing wonderfully today and serving as a great “mom” to some of our young pullets.
I believe the only reason she is still alive today is in part due to the Vetericyn, but mostly from the Medihoney. Medihoney is an FDA approved Manuka honey ointment. I have never been so amazed by a product in my life, it is truly a miracle in a bottle. Do yourself a favor and buy some just to have on hand, don’t wait for an emergency. Whether it is a damaged comb or wattle, or some sort of injury to your person, you’ll be glad you had it on hand. You can find Vetericyn here and Medihoney here.
**UPDATE: It’s now been 3 months post incident and our sweet hen has completely healed. All but a few patches of feathers have grown in and we are slowly reintroducing her back to her old flock.
Follow up: This sweet hen healed 100%, and all feathers grew back perfectly. You’d never know she was injured. In hindsight, I wish I had pictures of the “before” so you can see how amazing it is that she even survived. She went on to live almost 2 years, before we came home to find that she passed away while we were at work, in the summer of 2017.