Both my husband and I are country kids, so we decided to get our city kids some chickens to teach them how to care for animals and to be responsible for something. Plus, I wanted fresh eggs! Little did we know that we would absolutely fall in love with our little feathered friends! We purchased 5 chicks in the spring and built them a cozy little coop outside. We named them all: Kitty, Keith, Bachelor Button, Turkey, and Ariel (this was my chicken, named after the angel of abundance). Playing with the chicks quickly became one of our favorite daily activities!
All of my kids' friends were so interested in their new pets. So naturally, when we had a small end of the school year party for my daughter, everyone ran to the coop with enthusiasm! Amongst all of the excitement, one of our chickens (my chicken Ariel) was accidentally injured. The door above the nesting box was dropped down on her neck as someone was trying to dig her out of the box. I heard crying, and then one of my daughter's friends handed me a limp white chicken, with her head flipped back. She appeared to be dead already.
So as not to traumatize all of the 7-year-olds excitedly playing in the coop, I ushered them out to play a yard game and then I choked back tears and laid my sweet girl on the floor of the coop. I summoned my husband, who grew up on a farm, and he said she was “toast”. Again, I choked back MASSIVE amounts of tears, dropped to my knees in front of her and said a quick prayer. Then I went to entertain the kids until their parents could come to pick them up. After the last kid was gone, I occupied my kids in the house, worked up some nerve, started crying, and headed down to our coop.
How we healed our chicken with a broken neck
To my surprise, my poor chick (they were only 6 weeks old, so she was still very much a little chick) was still breathing!! I again dropped to my knees in prayer, sobbing through my prayers of gratitude! I put on my ER nurse cap and thought: “what would we do with a c-spine injury in the ER?”. I did my assessment, keeping her neck stabilized. She had not moved from where I laid her earlier, so she had not been able to exacerbate her injury thankfully. I picked her back up and she moved her wings and legs as I carried her into the house. This was a great sign. Now I was not sure if the movement was spastic or purposeful, but it was movement, and I was thrilled to see it!
By this time my husband had the kids in bed so I was able to go to work without interruption. First, I prayed again for guidance to do what needed to be done. Then I set my priorities, based on what I learned working in the emergency room for many years.
gathered my supplies
Now I had all of the essentials in place, I had to trust that this would all work for my special little Ariel. I said goodnight to her and she opened her eyes and looked around. My heart burst with joy! Washed my hands and went to bed, while she slept in her basket in my closet. Not much sleep was to be had, I was up all night checking on her. It felt like I had a newborn baby again, but I was happy to care for her.
In the morning I told the kids what the plan was. They had never dealt with anything like this before, so there was a LOT of questions! Then, two days later, I had to leave on a business trip! So I showed my daughter how to syringe feed her, make her food, and change her towel after she pooped. I also showed the kids how to do range of motion so her tiny chicken muscles would not atrophy while she healed.
I left for Utah, my daughter had a checklist in hand and a promise to do her best. While I was away I got daily updates on her progress. She was eating, pooping, moving around, and looking around. All very promising!!! I was so glad to return home a few days later to oversee her care again!
Over the next few days, she continued to live in our closet under her red heat lamp. One day we heard noise in the closet, she had flapped her wings and gotten out of the basket and was trying to work her neck brace off. So I gently removed her brace and her head was very floppy, her muscles had clearly atrophied some. She refused to let me put it back on, so I did close observation for the entire day. Chickens are surprisingly resilient because by the end of the day she was gaining enough strength that I felt confident we could leave it off without the risk of reinjury. Her movements now appeared to be purposeful and that everything was intact! No paralysis!! Her neck was still weak, so we still had to watch her all the time.
Weeks passed and she grew stronger but was still dependent on us to help her eat and to clean up after her. By now she was in a box, so she would not fly around the closet. We had to go to a wedding out of town, so we brought her along in her box. She was our camper chicken for the weekend.
The morning after the wedding, the kids had her outside in the grass, eating clover, and she decided to just stand up and walk. They screamed with delight! Then after some coaxing, she walked back to the camper and flew up the steps inside! We were all shocked, and oh so thrilled! See the video at the bottom of this post with more visual on this epic day!
Back home we continued to rehab her, and she was now able to eat on her own. Soon we were able to reintroduce her to the other girls in the coop. Her neck was now strong enough. She did not walk much, so we always had to make sure she was in a safe warm place near food and water. I then trained the kids on a daily rehab program for her, so she could build up the strength again. Her balance was way off, and she fell down quite a bit. But, we worked with her every single day, and eventually, she was walking well enough to get around with the other girls, with the occasional fall. She's such a tough and determined little chicken!
back with her friends
Fast forward through summer, and she started laying eggs! Our sweet injured girl can still do all the things the other hens are doing! We blew out and saved her first egg, what a treasure! Her balance was still off, she fell over often, but quickly recovered and regained her stance. She came in the house often to play.
She is now one year post-injury and doing so well! She is our best layer, our best forager, and our best friend. Everyone has a special place in their heart for Ariel now, we call her “our sweet girl” because (if you have chickens you know this) she has the sweetest personality. She really is our little friend.
My daughter was so inspired by the entire process, that she wanted to start “a job” to share about her adventures in caring for chickens. So, “Ellie and Her Chickens” was born. We are still working on showing Ellie the ropes (she was 8 when we started her blog a few months ago), she is ready to learn everything there is to know about chickens and blogging! She wanted to get her story about Ariel out to the masses, to give kids with injured chickens hope. So, while I share my story of Ariel's healing journey here on my website, she shared her story in her words over on her blog. We would love it if you checked it out and shared Ariel's story with the chicken lovers in your life. Out of near tragedy came a story of hope and recovery, and so so much love! All of God's creatures are special, even our little chickens, and my kids learned a BIG lesson last summer! For that I am grateful!
Watch the video below to see Ariel's injury and recovery