Stroke Recovery for Chickens
Stroke Recovery for Chickens.
I hadn’t really thought about Chickens having strokes until it happened, but of course, any creature with a circulatory system and a brain can be a victim. Then the family’s “pet” chicken, Professor Toast (generally known as “Chooky”) suffered a Stroke and was left paralysed down one side.
Well, I’m very fond of the chicken, and I started thinking, “Humans recover from strokes so why not chickens?” So I determined to try and nurse her back to health.
I had little information to guide me. The few articles on the web tended to be gloomy about the prognosis for a chicken that had suffered a stroke. All I had to encourage me was a little story in the local paper about a “hero” chicken that had survived the Brisbane floods, who had also apparently previously survived and recovered from a stroke. So it could be done, and indeed, with some help, in time Professor Toast has recovered herself and now leads a happy, carefree existence once again.
I decided to write this little record of Chooky’s rehabilitation for the benefit of any other soft-hearted fools who have chickens amongst their animal companions. Perhaps my experiance can be of help to others so afflicted.
Chooky; a character sketch…
A somewhat eccentric chicken, Chooky and her two chicken pals free-ranged into our yard one day and they never left. The previous “owners” washed their hands of them and said we could have them. They laid many eggs.
In time all but Chooky passed on and she has come to spend more and more time as a human companion. As a result, aside from thinking she’s a human herself, she has a number of other quirks. For one thing, she loves classical music and spends hours in front of the radio speakers, listening and singing quietly along. She also likes to help hang out the washing in the back yard, picking up socks with her beak and busily sorting thru the clothes pegs. If I slept in too long in the morning, she’d come into my room, hop on the bed then stand on my chest and peer in my face with benign concern till I finally gave up and got up.
Chooky had stopped laying about six months previously. However she was otherwise hale and hearty and enjoying her retirement. But she was too fat. She really made the most of the whole “free-range” thing. The greedy fowl had been begging at the table for little tidbits, as well as stealing the cats’ food. And people would give her extra little treats during the day. She was still able to get up and down the back-steps alright though, all thirteen of them, but she was starting to have trouble squeezing thru the cat door.
Chooky seemed under the weather for a day or so, off her food and sulking in a corner. Usually she perched for the night on the back railings, but one morning she was huddled on the ground below where she usually sits, unable it seemed to get to her feet.
So I put her in a low sided wicker basket draped in a blanket, with some newspaper flooring for befoulments. Very subdued she was, and both her claws were curled up like she couldn’t open them properly. In the next couple of days it became apparent she was affected worse on the right hand side. Her right wing drooped and the right claw was tightly curled. Her left claw was less badly curled and with some gentle help she was able to straighten it.
At first I put her basket in a quiet place, but after a couple of days I decided that left all by herself she was just going to keep brooding, so I moved her basket into the kitchen where it was warm, and people and animals were coming and going, and where she could listen to the classical station on the radio. This seemed to have a positive effect and she seemed more alert and taking more of an interest in what was happening around her.
She was totally uninterested in food at first, but after a couple of days I was able to feed her water with an eyedropper. After doing this for a couple of days I was next able to get her to eat a teaspoon of a gruel I made up. After that, each day she would eat a little more and seem a bit stronger. The gruel was a mixture of oat porridge and milk stirred into a lumpy slurry. I’d put some in a little foil pie dish and hold it in front of her beak.
She clearly had EYE/BEAK co-ordination problems, particularly in the early days of her Recovery. She kept missing the dish when pecking for food. Generally it would take her three or four goes to get a lump of oats she was aiming for, each time aiming a little closer. She also seemed to have some problems swallowing at first. Happily her ability to eat gradually improved over the next few weeks and her appetite returned.
Similarly her paralysed claw gradually regained functionality. At first I’d have to help her open that claw when she was trying to stand, but in time and with practice she could stand by herself. In time she was also able to hold up the drooping right wing.
After a couple of weeks she was able to get out of her basket and walk around the kitchen for a couple of hours each day. At first she clumped around like Frankenstein, a few heavy steps at a time. Like many a human stroke victim, she had to learn to walk all over again. Poor old thing, the first thing she did was clump over to the radio speakers and fall asleep leaning against them, listening to Mozart.
At this time she started eating some solid food again, like some sunflower seeds, some lettuce, and some leftover rice.
After a week of getting better at walking around the kitchen, I started taking her down into the yard for a couple of hours each day. Yes it was a big day for Chooky when she could have a dust bath in the sun again. She was also able to forage and eat some much needed roughage again after a bland invalid diet of milk and oats.
Happily also, some new chickens had moved in next door and they soon came a visiting every day, which also seemed to contribute to Chooky’s recovery.
I think an important factor in her post stroke rehabilitation was her environment and the attention she got. Chickens have a tendency to brood (how about that) when by themselves, so some company, be it human and/or chicken, is essential for their recovery.
Postscript: Ten weeks later and I think Chooky is pretty much as recovered as she’s going to be. She eats well and gets around ok. She’s on a bit of a diet though and doesn’t get rich food treats like ham or cheese or pizza. She can’t get up and down the back steps like she used to, and can’t flap up onto railings or chairs or low branches .. But she can walk around, and scratch and hop onto low objects and hunt for insects and have a sun bath. She’s not always up to helping with the washing these days, but she still loves her music programs. Her chicken“friends” from next door visit every day and bossing them around always seems to cheer her up.
She has bad days when she sulks in her basket all day, and good days when she struts around like nothing was ever wrong, but whichever, we count each extra day as a blessing. At sunset she gets carried up the steps and put in her basket in a warm corner of the kitchen near the radio.
For an old chook, Life is as good as it gets.
Todays sermon brought to you care of the technical wizardry of Fats (the Professor)Parameter, who successfully solved our many IT problems.
The Reverend Hellfire is a practising Performance Poet, an Ordained Minister, and a friend to the animals. Not unlike Saint Francis of Assissi now I think about it.