I am generally a confident person, but I had that uncomfortable sense of being an oddball of glaring proportions the other day when I stepped into a posh nail salon in Seattle’s Madison Park neighborhood and asked for an acrylic nail to serve as a splint for my chicken’s broken beak. The ladies there were very polite, but that song from Sesame Street, the one that goes, “One of these things just doesn’t belong,” kept running through my head. I was very happy to be out the door, mission accomplished.
What drove me to into the nail salon was an unfortunate incident involving my new pullet, Mia. I’d put her in the coop on night two of her arriving and the next morning found her crouching in the coop corner, with a bloody head and a floppy lower beak. I came very close to simply wringing her neck to put her out of her misery, but she was such a sweet bird that I hesitated and brought her into the house to look at her more carefully.
As I was examining her injury, my neighbor, Mia Levine stopped by. Mia is an up and coming geneticist at the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Group. Because she’s in the medical field, I asked whether she had any treatment ideas. I wondered what I could use to splint the beak. She pointed out that she works with fruit flies, but she gave it some thought, and then piped up with the suggestion of attaching a bit of acrylic fingernail to the beak using super glue or whatever it is that nail salons use.
So that’s how it is that I ended up at the nail salon.
Given Mia-the-Geneticist’s assistance with the treatment plan, I dubbed the chicken Mia. Spencer held her as I applied the splint using superglue. It did not seem to go very smoothly and Spencer and Mia got rather upset during the procedure. But, within a few minutes and after several attempts, I got the bit of acrylic nail glued on and set Mia-the-Hen up with her own private dog-crate quarters in the garage. I used a syringe to give her a bit of food and water.
The next day my husband suggested I put her down saying it was cruel keeping her alive. She was not looking very well, but she was peeping and moving around a little and seemed very slightly better.
Two days later, Mia was up and about and obviously feeling fine. Her beak no longer wobbled. I’m not sure if my superglueing and fake fingernail splint helped at all, but I like to think it did. I’m still keeping her in the dog crate at night, and putting her out in the goat/chicken yard during the day. So far, so good.
The really nice thing about all this is that Mia the hen turns out to be the friendliest bird I’ve ever had. The other evening when I was milking, with one leg propped up on the goat-shed deck, she flew up and sat on my knee. Last night when I went down to milk, she was riding around on Eloise’s back. She also does a special kind of chirping, almost like she is purring. She also never runs away when I bend down to pick her up. She’s a chicken with gumption and personality.. I can’t wait to see what kind of bird she ends up being when she’s fully grown. Maybe I should train her to do tricks. I think she’d be a good circus chicken.