Over a period of a few days I noticed whenever I counted the hens, one seemed to be missing and each time as I debated looking around for her, I heard her squawking up in the hen house and assumed she was laying. After a week or two of this, I realise its always the same hen missing, so go and check. She’s there alright, but shes eyeing me up funny and I get in to have a better look and see she has a puss filled ball stretching from the side, over one eye. I approach her from her bad eye side and pick her up to take a good look. I can’t see any other way around it but to pierce the ball so the puss can escape. I mull this over as I take some food up to her.
A vets bill is out of the question but I am to go to town later so drop into the chemist and say. “I have a funny question. I have a hen with a scratch beside her eye that has filled with puss and is now covering her whole eye. I’m thinking I sterilse a needle, pierce the swelling so the puss can escape, wash with a little saline solution and smear some bactroban on the wound. Does this sound like an OK plan?” I ask. He smiles and I know he lives on a small block also. “It’s a good plan, he nods. You can use Iodine too if you have it”.
Later I say to the children. We have an operation we need to do on a hen and I may need some helpers, at which they become very excited and assure me they definitely want to help.
I sterlise a needle, thread it into a paper towel and hand it to Wheriko explaining not to touch the sharp end. I hand the bactroban on the end of an iceblock stick to Kahu and tell her I will need it after I have cleaned the eye. She nods. To Tai I hand a small water bottle I have filed with a little warm saline/salty water. “This is to wash away any puss that comes out”. Gumboots on, my nurse aids are bubbly with the importance of it all, chattering as we go out the back door.
We have discussed at length what I am going to do and why, and no one seems particularly fazed at the prospect. I easily pick up the hen who is outside this time feeding with the rest, tuck her under my arm, keeping my right arm free. “Needle!” I ask Wheriko and the children gather around, but as I pierce the bubble that sits over the eye Wheriko squeals, “Oh Nanny, that’s horrible. I can’t look!” she cries and runs behind the other two who are having second thoughts now. “Paper!” I call and Wheriko forgetting she is even holding it, has refused to come forward. She shields her eyes as she leans forward but steals a glance I notice. Kahu is also backing away. She doesn’t want to come any closer. I press the ball with my latex gloved hands and puss starts to come out. “Water, Tai! Water”. I need it now!” Tai stretches his arm trying not to step any closer than he has to. I squirt the water over the area. “Ointment!” I call. “Ointment”. No body moves. “Ointment, Kahu I need the ointment”. She brings it over and squeals as I smear the bactroban over the ball that isn’t as tight now. All three have decided they don’t want to be vets assistants any longer.
“Don’t be silly I say. Is it better I help the chicken or leave her to die in pain?” “That was probably painful” Wheriko looks at me accusingly. “Well maybe not as bad as you might think. She didn’t fight or squeal much”, I answer. “Nanny she yells, You just poked her in the eye with a needle!” “Ahh no, it looked like I poked her in the eye, but I was careful to break open the little sac of infection over the top and not actually poke her in the eye, so not the same thing”. None of them look too sure about this.
There she is on the left. Looking much better!
To be honest I squirmed myself and said a few sorry, sorries under my breath. It was possibly one of the more horrible tasks I’ve had to do, but once I was holding her I knew I had to finish the job. I was surely rewarded when I went down a few days later to see her bounce out of the hen house and run down to me with the rest, in anticipation of the scraps I had. I had to look twice to be sure it was the same hen. I can see a thin skin over her bad eye but she looks happy and healthy and I stroked her as she snatched some scraps up and I felt so relieved. I’m not a hundred per cent sure she isn’t blind in that eye, but I think it was better than letting nature take its course in this case, and I think better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!