Say Goodnight Gracie

img_2394Another lesson learned the hard way – you need to test the electronet fencing often. Although I was checking the fence line on a periodic basis for debris buildup (the coop is in a heavily wooded area and the girls like to kick stuff up around the edges), I hadn’t been checking the strength of the charge very often. Unfortunately one of my poor little chickens had to suffer a coyote attack to remind me.

I had just come in the house (the dog ran in with me) when we heard the chicken’s calls of distress. I opened the door and Magpie bolted out. By the time I got my boots on I could hear Magpie in hot pursuit of the predator in the woods – well beyond her radio collar range. When she is amped up like that she doesn’t feel the shock as she crosses the perimeter.

I found five of our twelve birds in the woods and quickly shooed four of them back into the pen with our rooster Jose’ and the rest of the girls. The fifth one was deep in the understory and wasn’t coming out. It was Gracie, one of my Buff Orpington/Barnevelder crosses.

I eventually flushed her out and that’s when I saw why she wouldn’t come out. Her whole side was ripped apart. I got the rest of the birds into the coop and locked up and  took Gracie into the house to assess and clean her wound. Holding her in one arm, wrapped in a towel while I ran up and down the stairs wrestling around to the first aid supplies and an infirmary put together was another painful reminder that even though it had been four years since we had had an injured chicken, I really need to keep these things on hand for just such an emergency. Gracie was a trooper (more likely she was in shock).

Once I had Gracie set up, I went back out to see what the hell it was that happened. The fence was in tact, so how did five hens get out and one seriously injured? I got out the voltage meter and could barely get a pulse. The recently purchased replacement energizer was plugged in and blinking, so what the heck? I walked the perimeter of the line closely inspecting it and found at least ten different sections that were chewed almost through on the forest side of their run.

I also found the scene of the crime – Gracie’s feathers were everywhere along a path in and next to the electronet fence, then in the woods on the edge of the yard, then back into the yard and ending in one of my raised beds where I could clearly see it was a coyote. I could also see this was where Magpie met up with the coyote and chased it into the woods. Magpie had saved Gracie. Good dog Magpie. Bad human L.  Magpie is supposed to be outside guarding her chickens but I indulged her and let her come in with me for a bit. After all, I thought the chickens were protected by the electronet fencing…

Someone mentioned it was whelping season and so the coyotes were getting more aggressive. With the weakened charge in the fence nothing stopped this coyote from jumping in, grabbing a chicken and jumping out. The other hens I found in the woods must have been startled by the intrusion and flew over the fence.

Of course we were out of the fence mending materials that came with the electronet. I then remembered I had used it up after Magpie chewed the unplugged fence to bits when she was just a pup, so I had to run out for more. With no stores nearby that carry that stuff I had to improvise with M’s help via text. The hard lessons were starting to pile up around my head.

I bought a spool of thin copper wire and tightly wound it around each frayed part of the fence. Voila! Back up to 8000+ volts.

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Back in to check on my patient, I discovered that my quickie infirmary was not going to work well. I had placed Gracie in a pet carrier with some straw, food and water. In order to tend to her wounds I’d have to reach in and drag her out and that was just not going to do. I ended up having to take out the eight screws that held it together so I could lift her out without touching her wounds.

Luckily we have a spare bathroom not used very often. I filled the tub with straw for bedding leaving space at one end for her food, water and grit. I put a lamp in there so I could dim the lights in the evening and the morning as the vanity lights are pretty bright.

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When M came home he gently pulled her ripped and torn skin back over her exposed flesh as best he could while I held her and then we tacked the skin in several spots with super glue. She had two deep puncture wounds from the coyotes teeth and a section of exposed flesh in those areas we couldn’t get the skin back over. I cleansed her wounds and treated them with Vetracyn twice a day (BTW – the spray gel works really well for this sort of thing). We tried bandaging her with a variety of materials over the next week, but she pulled everything off.

The wound after one week

The wound after a little over a week and it looks one thousand times better than it did

From the time of the attack Gracie never stopped eating, her eyes were bright, her comb and wattle continued to stay a vibrant red, and her poops were healthy. We were very hopeful she would survive but M was prepared to put her down if it started to look bad. After a few days of positive progress, I started to take her out to the pen daily for supervised visits with her peeps while I did my chicken chores. If any of them looked like they wanted to start picking on her or pecking at her wounds I just brought her back into the house. She did try to dust bathe once splitting the wound open and filling it with dirt, but I washed her down in the sink, cleaned the wound up and she seemed to do ok.

After a week she started to come out of the bathroom and hang out with us, the two cats and Magpie. The cats were a little concerned at first, especially Harlie who was pretty worried I was going to love that chicken more than her. After a while they were eating snacks together – well, more like Harlie wanted to take Gracie’s snacks away. Gracie seemed to tolerate Harlie and not get freaked out. Magpie was also a little confused about having a chicken in the house at first, but she quickly adapted and gave Gracie her space.

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After two weeks, the wound was healing nicely and feathers were starting to grow back. Her puncture wounds were slowly healing from the inside. Our neighbor is a wildlife rehabilitator and came by to check Gracie’s progress. She thought the wound was healing well and that Gracie looked healthy. Whew – at least we were successful in mitigating the damage. We just need to improve our safety precaution skills.

I decided Gracie was ready to get back with the flock full time. I sprayed the exposed area with that blue stuff to camouflage her wound and left her in the pen all day.

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Since no one tried pecking her wounds I left her to spend the night with her peeps.

Good night Gracie…

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About La Femme Farmer

Starting up a small farm is the goal for the second half of my life. It's a late start I know, but better late than NEVER! Growing food, cooking and eating are my passions and now I get to do it full-time (and then some). and yes, that's a tomato from my garden!
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4 Responses to Say Goodnight Gracie

  1. Wow, good vet work! What an ordeal. I have to admit with your title I thought this post was not going to end well…so glad Gracie is on the mend.

  2. Thanks MOH. I’m just grateful she survived and happy to report she is doing very well.
    I wondered if the title would suggest a sad ending, but it was conceived from Burns & Allen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hNqmuTvbik

  3. I was thinking sad ending too, but I’ve had birds survive eagle attacks with way less TLC than Gracie got, so I was hoping for happy….glad it turned out well, and I guess she was your canary in the mine, because now your fence is in good nick, the others should be safe. We don’t (touch wood) get coyotes here – but raccoons, owls, ravens, bald eagles, mink, – all a risk. Plus perhaps a cougar once in a blue moon.

    • Yes – that fence will be monitored quite a bit after that episode! I kept her inside mainly to keep her from dust bathing as she kept ripping the wound open and filling it with dirt 😼
      We too have owls, Eagles, mink and raccoon – it’s always something…

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