Several years ago, when we were fairly new to owning backyard chickens, we had a small flock of six, but we were ready to expand. While at our feed store, we saw some pullets out front. The kids each picked one out. The feed store owner put them in our carrier while we paid. Before we left, he told me, “I put an extra chicken in there for you. I can’t sell her because she has a broken leg. She was injured as a small chick somehow, but I think you will give her a good home.” He smiled, and that was how I got my pet chicken.
I looked inside the carrier and saw such a sad sight. This poor chicken was hobbling around with one leg sticking straight out to the side. The feathers on her back had been plucked, and she looked pitiful. My heart split in two. What a blessing to be able to give her a good home, but it felt like a curse, too.
Since taking in chickens, I had tried to be a tough farmer gal. I knew I couldn’t get attached to my farm animals because farm animals aren’t pets. The drive home seemed long that day. I was nervous about taking care of an injured chicken. I knew I was going to have to treat this one differently, but I didn’t know what to do.
A Place of Her Own
When we got home, my husband took the carrier and set it inside the new chicken pen and run.
“What is wrong with that one?” he asked.
“She has a broken leg,” I said. The man at the feed store just gave her to us because he couldn’t sell her. She really should be separated, but I have no idea what to do with her.” My husband suggested putting her in one of the rooms in our barn in the carrier. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it would work until we found something better.
I filled a feeder and a small waterer and set them in the room. I opened the little door and carefully removed her. She was so calm and didn’t even flinch. She started eating like she was starved. I guess the other chickens wouldn’t let her eat when she was with them. Then I put a thick layer of pine shavings in her carrier and made a little nest for her.
At that point, I was struggling. It broke my heart to see her hobbling around. There had to be a way to fix her leg. I ended up calling the vet’s office and got her an appointment for the following day, and I made her a protective cape to cover the bald place on her back.
That evening, the only thought on my mind was that chicken. Her nature was so sweet, and she was very attentive when I was handling her. She was going to have to be my pet chicken. I know. I know. Chickens as pets? No way. Well, this one was different, to me anyway. I just couldn’t see putting her down because she was alert, happy and obviously a survivor.
Getting a Name for My Pet Chicken
At the dinner table, we all talked about her, and I suggested we come up with a name for my pet chicken. My husband said, “Here’s one. How about Ilene?”
I guess I looked really confused to him.
“You know, ‘I Lean’. She leans because her leg is broken. ILean!”
We all just howled! That was way too cute! ILean it is!
After dinner, I went out to the barn to check on ILean, and when I opened the door, I saw that she had hobbled back into her carrier and cuddled up in her pile of shavings. I closed the door on the carrier and shut the barn door.
A Trip to the Vet
The trip to the vet’s office was interesting, to say the least. I know they all thought I was crazy bringing in a chicken with a broken leg. The ladies at the front desk thought her name was cute, and they chuckled when I explained it. And the doctor got a kick out of it, too. She said that, unfortunately, there wasn’t anything they could do with her leg at that point. She suggested keeping her in her own little pen with soft bedding. So for $35 I was pretty much told to do what I was already doing. Yep, I felt like a crazy chicken lady at that moment, and I took ILean back home and put her back in her room.
Life at Home
We had ILean for two-and-a-half years, but unfortunately, we had to put her down when her leg became enlarged and she was obviously suffering. We loved ILean. She was unlike any other chicken I have ever had. She knew she needed us, and she was so sweet. She never pecked anyone or threw a fit when we’d pick her up. I’d go out to the barn every morning to let her out, and I’d call her name, “ILeeeean.”
She’d answer back, “Bwaaaaahhhhh …”
I loved it. When the kids were out playing in the yard, they’d pick her up and take her with them. They’d set her off to the side so she could eat some “yard munchies” while they played. When they were done playing, they’d put her back in her room. In the winter when it would get really cold outside, we’d bring her carrier in the house. No, she wasn’t a house cat, but there were times when she was close to being one.
Well, so much for the whole tough farm girl idea. That surely didn’t work. What can I say? I’m a softie when it comes to animals, especially the needy ones, and somehow the owner of the feed store knew this. I am glad that he gave her to us. She sure was a lot of fun and I love my pet chicken ILean.
Do you have similar experiences? Share your stories! I’d love to hear from you!