The final chapter of Cleo-poultra has yet to be written – so far her life has been preserved.
Cleo can walk without faltering, flap wings to perch on the deck railing and peck seeds from the ground from a standing position. Great accomplishments for an animal that was lying on its side, paralyzed wings and legs with seizure-like spasms which propelled it about in circles.
Seventy days ago, that was she. Beth and Bill started providing palliative care. They put her in a box, placed food and water within beak-reach and kept her bedding clean. Her remarkable chicken-neck flexibility put her head into a horizontal position.
A sling over the top of a box through which her legs could be put was devised. Her bum feathers were clipped to make personal hygiene simpler (chicken shit is very, very sticky). At first she was “diapered” because she was too unstable to be held upright but as she became stronger, a hole was cut through which her waste could fall onto plastic below – sort of a “chicken biffy”. Erin put a mirror in front of her so that she wouldn't feel as though she was all alone.
For two weeks in July, her legs were in cardboard splints and removed only for sessions of “chicken leg physiotherapy”. By 21 days post-illness, the splints were discarded and by the end of July she had to be restrained by sling across her back behind her wings because she could spasm right out of the sling. She could not control herself to walk.
On July 29th, she took her shaky steps. She never used her sling again during the day. She was directionally challenged – her feet did not seem to take her in any kind of controlled direction. She had to work very hard to get back to her food and water. A week later, the sling was retired and she graduated to a cat carrier chicken coop with shavings in the bottom. She was able to find her way back to it in the evening. Concern for her warmth resulted in a small rug cover over the cat carrier.
Re-integration has so far met with failure. She gets severely pecked – she is smaller than all the others. The rooster, on the other hand, knows that there is a chicken up at the house and comes to the house to try to seduce her. So far, she is having none of that and her objections bring Sylvan, the dog, to chase him into the trees.
What future does Cleo have? Will she lay eggs? Will she become lunch someday? Be a pet chicken for the rest of her life? (Given the alternatives for a chicken, that's not too bad.)
But do we want a pet chicken?
We have learned that chickens aren't all that stupid. They might even have personalities! We find it truly amazing how accurately Cleo can peck a tidbit off the tip of a finger – or hidden in a half-folded palm - when her eyes are on either side of her head. I guess we could learn more.......