Blue-Legs was a bonus chick that arrived with our 2011 chicken order. We had no idea what sort of chicken she might be until she started laying green eggs…that was quite a cool surprise!
Blue-Legs was such a character she got a name. She was not one to stay in the coop or the chicken run. She was constantly letting herself out of the various chicken enclosures, and she slept by herself on a barn rafter. She laid her eggs in a cardboard box on a shelf in one corner, cleaned up the spilled cat food, and didn’t mess up the barn too much, so we just let her roam and eat bugs. She managed to evade raccoons, skunks, and countless foxes.
Except for this time, we think.
With the new chickens routinely getting loose in the barn, Blue-Legs had taken to laying her eggs outside, and not even always coming in at night. We saw her daily, pecking around up by the apple tree, or around the goat pen, so we weren’t worried about her; we just put a bit of food and water in her new ‘range’, thinking she would return to her normal routines once we sorted out which chicks would go in what pens, and get Blue-Legs’ area cleared out.
The other day, though, Blue Legs looked…wrong. We chased her around a bit, trying to catch her; usually not too tough a task, but she was especially evasive. I did finally get her up on my milking stand, and picked her up. She had a deep, smelly gash under one wing, and when I tried to get in there a bit closer to see if it was infected, I discovered it was boiling with maggots. The injury (or something) had also caused her to have bad diarrhea, and her vent was badly swollen and bleeding in spots when I tried to clean her up a bit.
In the end, we decided Blue-Legs was suffering, and that there was only one realistic quick fix for her. We feel badly, and wish we’d have found her injuries earlier; we’ve successfully nursed another hen back from a fox attack, and Blue-Legs was tough; she would probably have pulled through. A major down-side to free-range chickens…