They were so very tiny when we first got them.
They both had deformities in their legs and would have otherwise been put down, but the person who had them asked us if we would take them in and give them a good life. It wasn’t the first time that we were asked this and probably won’t be the last. As I said they were so very tiny and barely feathered out. Both had one good leg yet the other was bad. One had a leg permanently in a 90 degree angle and the other had only down to the knee, the rest of the leg went back up and only had two toes. We named the bird with the permanent 90 degree angle in their leg Eileen and the one with the stump Peggy. A poor attempt at humor perhaps, but they were perfect the way they were and we loved them.
My first thought when I saw them both was, “Oh no, not more,” and not because of their deformities. They would need a lot of love and a lot of attention. At first they are able to get around and eat and drink on their own. They got bigger and healthier and completely feathered out. They were normal birds, relatively speaking, considering their issues. Birds with deformities usually do not live long lives, usually because they usually have other unseen issues that affect their health. My reservation was not because of the short life span I figured that they would have, but because I knew that I would fall head over heals in love with.
For the first couple of months they were just fine, eating and drinking, and hobbling around on their own. Sleeping in a little bassinet filled with blankets and towels. Eileen was definitely a rooster and stated crowing as soon as we were sure he was a rooster. However he was the first to go, had a heart attack not too long after we realized that he was a rooster. Unfortunately That’s one of the drawbacks of taking in birds with birth defects. You never know what else might be wrong with them.
Peggy missed her brother of course, as is usual when they spend their whole lives with each other. The older and bigger Peggy got the less she hobbled around on her own. She would lay on her side and scootch around, which she was more than happy to do. People had given us a couple of pack-n-plays that we re-purposed for some of our special needs birds. Peggy lived in one of those during the day and slept in a bassinet next to my bed at night. She was a happy girl. She could scootch around and eat the wet food during the day (we would mix layer pellets and yogurt mixed together with water until it had a wet consistency) and at night she would sleep in my room because you never know when they will have an emergency in the middle of the night and need something. Special needs birds could need you at any time of the day or night and you never know when you will be needed. Over the years I have learned to be a light sleeper just because of the special needs birds and they are well worth it.
Eventually my little Peggy got bigger and needed to be hand fed twice a day. The bigger she got the less she could move around to get to her food dish so to make sure that she still got the proper nutrition and water I would hand feed her morning and evening. In situations like this birds get used to eating the wet food and don’t know how to drink water. For the most part if you have the wet food have enough water in it they are good, but the summer was a very warm one and at times she needs additional water. To get her to drink water I’ve learned to get some of the wet food and put more water in it until it has the consistency of soup. It might look nasty to us but it usually does the trick and she would drink.
Now as I hinted at earlier was not that I was afraid that Peggy would live a long or a short life. No, the issue was that I loved her as I do all of my birds, but she depended upon me for everything. I got her up in the morning, made sure that she got fed, and again in the evening too and in the middle of the night if she flapped around too much I was there by her side like a flash.. Somewhere along the way I fell head over heals in love with this bird that depended on me for everything as she was my everything as well. She deserved to have as rich and full a life as she could have.
And I sit here today.. waiting for the end to come as she lays in her bed, newly constructed a week or so ago to make her more comfortable, as the cancer quickly takes her away from me. It’s not unexpected. But I remember the good times we had with her and honestly if I could go back and do it all again I wouldn’t change a thing. Chickens have such amazing personalities when you take the time to get to know them and are capable of so much love. When the next bird comes to us that needs us like Peggy & her brother Eileen, I won’t hesitate to take them in and do everything that I can to give them happy & healthy lives. The pain of losing them is great, but knowing that I made a difference in their lives make it all worth it end.