My blind hen, Hildy February 15, 2013
I’ve sort of hesitated writing about Hildy, my blind hen. Why? I get emotional about her. Of all the chickens I’ve had, she was one of my absolute favorites. She died a little more than a year ago. But I was looking through some old photographs, and I made it through without crying, so maybe it’s time.
We don’t think Hildy was a completely blind hen; rather, she was mostly blind. We’re not entirely sure about the extent to which she had sight. She seemed to have some ability to distinguish light and see shapes. She could eventually find us when we called her name. But discerning light and dark: that was probably about it. She often ran into things, and often missed the feeder as she tried to access food.
As a chick, she was normally sighted. At a few months old, perhaps three or four, she received an injury. We’re not sure how; she may have been pecked in the eye. The loss of her sight dropped her to the bottom of the pecking order; she couldn’t see attacks coming, so she had no way to avoid them. And because of her sightlessness, she often instigated pecking from other hens accidentally by simply walking straight into them. Poor Hildy.
During her long recovery, I used to go out to the coop three or four times a day and stand watch over her while she ate and drank. I wanted to make sure she was getting plenty and that she had some unmolested time at the feeders and waterers. Eventually, she began to anticipate my visits and run to my feet (or the general vicinity) when she heard me come in.
Because of the special attention she received, she became extra friendly. She loved being picked up, and settled comfortably into the arms of strangers. In fact, she was one of the hens who always won people over to chickens. To begin with, she had her beautiful speckled plumage…
and she simply had no fear of people. She loved being touched, and if she wasn’t given enough attention and petting for her liking, she would stand on your feet until she got it.
Just stand there, pressing her body against your leg.
Her injury took a long while to heal, and she never recovered her sight. But she was able to reintegrate herself into the flock, at least to a certain extent, and she was a champion layer once she got started.
Next week, I’ll share another story about our blind hen Hildy if there’s enough interest (let me know in the comments!). In the meantime, please also share any stories about special needs hens you have.