About a month ago we had a pretty bad raccoon attack. He got into the coop by climbing up to a hole in the rusty chicken wire on the door, way up high at human-eye-height. He killed three hens and a duck and scalped another duck who had already been injured, presumably by this same raccoon. We found out about it because I heard a commotion and recognized the rooster’s voice, and we went tearing out there with our flashlights and our pajamas. The raccoon must have heard us coming because it was no longer in the coop when I got there, but as soon as I opened the coop door, the rooster took off after him.
We cleaned up the dead birds, found the raccoon in a tree and took care of it, and then went in search of the rooster and the other couple of hens who had scrammed. I found the rooster, face all bloody, near the front porch of the house, all bedraggled in the pouring rain. I scooped him up easily and carried him back to the perch.
In the morning we were pleased to find that the blood all over his face, though it had been (mostly? entirely?) his, was just from his comb; there were no other wounds that we could find, and his eyes were fine. He hung around in the coop for a day or two and then started venturing out a bit. We figured he was just taking a well-earned sick day … though it was strange that he didn’t crow anymore.
Well, he still hasn’t crowed. And then just over a week ago we noticed him limping a little, and then more. I felt like this was unrelated to the raccoon, but couldn’t really be sure. We captured him after dark, when they’re blinded and easy to grab, and looked at and felt up his leg and foot for any injury, but found none. A couple days after that he wouldn’t walk at all. But his eyes were still bright and he was alert and talkative and could get himself around the coop to get to feed and water and a cozy spot to sleep.
A few days later he got himself sorted out and started hopping out of the coop and around the yard on one foot, which was great to see. He could go to the place where the hens take their dust bath, and he could go sit in the sun or get out of the rain.
Garth took the dog to the vet for his regular checkup the other day, and asked the vet about the rooster; she said if we couldn’t feel anything broken, there wasn’t really anything she could add to our general knowledge unless she did an x-ray.
After a few days I decided I wasn’t at all confident in my own ability to feel if anything was broken or not, so today I called and asked if I could just grab one of the two chicken-trained vets for five minutes to assess him and either tell me “yes, treat this minor infection” or “it’s broken, splint it” or “it’s a loss, put him down.”
(Apparently it turns heads in the vet waiting room full of dogs when you walk in with a rooster in a Rubbermaid tub.)
Anyway, the wonderful Dr. Barfield felt the leg, and poked and prodded the rooster in general. She said the leg isn’t broken, and it is all healthy vascularly (i.e. the flesh is still alive), and that the hock (ankle-ish; the place where the leg scales end and the feathers start) is a bit swollen, but there’s no fluid in the joint, which there usually is when there’s an infection.
She seemed to think, however, that it might be a neurological thing — his foot didn’t have the grab reflex that it should. But all the same, we decided to treat a possible infection, in case that is the answer, and I sprung for the $23 bottle of antibiotics pills so that I could give them just to the rooster and didn’t have to worry about putting it in the water in the correct dosage AND then not eating the hens’ eggs for 10 days + withdrawal period. (They are at 10-12 eggs a day right now, so it would be quite a loss to have to throw a hundred eggs out!) So we are feeding him a pill a day for the next ten days. He doesn’t like it, but Dr. B. showed me how to shove a pill into a chicken’s beak and all the way down into the crop.
So the question of whether he’s sticking around is still open — if it gets better with antibiotics, he’s fine; if it doesn’t, and it is neurological or something else, it comes down to a quality of life decision: he can’t really be a rooster very well when he can’t scratch the ground or — let’s be honest about his priorities — mount his ladies. It’s easy enough to get another rooster for free or cheap on Craigslist or the bulletin board at the feed store, but we feel like we owe this guy a good chance at life due to his excellent raccoon-fighting skills and general hen caretaking. So we’ll just have to see. And if he pulls through, he might finally get a name.