The title of this post may sound like an allusion to food, but don’t worry, it’s not. Half Pie, one of Frodo’s almost-certainly-a-male chicks is very much alive. After receiving minor peck injuries on his four-week-old face during sibling squabbles and even more traumatisingly being set-upon by his own mother upon his brief post-treatment return, Half Pie has resided in the cat cage on our dining table (with cardboard underneath) for much of the week.
Initially, Half Pie was scared, lonely and rather subdued. The first time I had treated his wounds (before attempting to put him back with the flock) I dabbed a purple wound spray on as that was the safest antiseptic I had on hand to put near his eyes. That definitely didn’t agree with Frodo. I have since read (in an article that I need to re-find) that faces play a main role in recognition for chickens and I suspect that the purple colour on Half Pie’s unfortunately light face screwed up Frodo’s recognition and acceptance of him. After getting some Betadine, I put that on his wounds twice a day for the next few days until I had trouble seeing where they were as they healed. I had the fire on at night and the heat pump on for when the fire died down. I didn’t know how well he would handle the temperature being away from his mother and siblings, but he was probably actually getting spoiled as he’s used to being outside. After the second night I didn’t give him a hot water bottle as he was fine without it.
I could have begun the reintegration process sooner if it weren’t for the jolly purple staining on his beak and comb and the cold, rainy weather at the end of the week. I kept cleaning wee Purple Face with warm water on cotton balls before putting the antiseptic on, and the purple faded to bright pink, which was even worse! I felt intensely sorry for the wee dude, being all alone. He especially didn’t like it in the evenings, making the most noise when I ‘put him to bed’ by putting a towel over the cage. He just wanted to get out and go home with his family. Part-way through the week I set up a little temporary outdoor pen for him in the herb garden, where I could keep an eye on him. I could only have him out there when it wasn’t too cold though, no easy feat in winter. Pecking around in the dirt was helping to get rid of the colour on his face too.
It was quite fun having Half Pie in the house at first and it was interesting to watch him. But Half Pie got more and more fidgety as he healed up, I was getting tired of having to keep cleaning his food bowl, which I’m sure he started pooping in just so I would get him more and more food, and his water bell and removing his poop and The Husband announced, “The dining table is no place for a chicken.” Yes, I know, but it was raining and cold outside so I couldn’t put him out there in a pen within the pen! Finally, Saturday arrived without rain and Half Pie began his reintegration.
Today I set up a pen within the pen and everyone re-met each other through the fence. This wasn’t fun to watch either. Frodo is still making aggressive moves towards him through the fence. He has been gone for a week and “Peep, peep” as he might, I fear Frodo may be done with him. The two chickens who showed the most interest in him were his brother/sister (I’m not sure now) Pie, who was always one of his good buddies and, interestingly, Legolas. Whether Legolas was just really curious or something else I’m not sure, but she seemed to be making some nice noises towards him. I saw him have some interactions with a few of his siblings: stare-downs, a stare and peck at Blackie (girl) and a chest bump and receiving peck from Orange Feet (boy). Half Pie was one of the ones who was always in the thick of things so he’s probably not going to make this reintegration easy.
Half Pie spent most of the day in his pen within the pen and I was not satisfied with his safety to let him out at all. So, late afternoon saw him arriving back on the dining table in the safety and warmth of his cage. I thought having to watch him in a cage by himself was sad but what’s even sadder was hearing him cry ,”PEEP, PEEP, PEEP” as I herded him back into the cat cage to take him inside, while all the other chickens went off round the corner to the run and no-one cared to answer his cries for help. If I say, “Poor wee dude” again my mouth might get stuck that way. We will try the pen within the pen again tomorrow and see how he goes. I have a feeling this reintegration could be a slow and difficult process. Thank goodness he looks to be a boy. And in case anyone is wondering (I bet some of you are), he’s too small for eating.