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.

Hildy was a blind hen

Hello, Hildy. Our blind hen was a speckled sussex; you can see in this photo that her right eye was sightless

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…

Speckled plumage of our blind hen

She couldn’t know how pretty she was!

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.

Alison February 15th, 2013

Oh, I loved this story, please tell us more about Hildy! I don’t actually have any chickens yet, but some day maybe.

Chris Seaver February 15th, 2013

More about Hildy please. 🙂

Darlene February 15th, 2013

Lovely story. I have a very special Speckled Sussex…she was one of three I bought as chicks and the other two were lost tragically when they blew into the duck pond in a storm and drowned. She’s my special little girl. Look forward to hearing more about Hildy.

Sheryl February 15th, 2013

That’s a wonderful story. I would have done the same thing & would love to hear more. Most of my critters chickens, cats, rabbit, & horse I ended up with because they could no longer be cared for or I found. Now I love chickens & have fallen in love with them. Looking in to some more here in the next month. I have 13 now.

Jane Beecher February 15th, 2013

I have a special hen, too. I call her Snaggle. Thanks for the story!

Tammy Simpkins February 15th, 2013

LOVED this story….we have just 4 chickens, they are our pets. They each have names and a personality all thier own. I would love to read more about sweet Hildy 🙂

D.J. McNeil February 15th, 2013

Oh! This is a beautiful story!! I’m sharing this!

Barb Brown February 15th, 2013

We also had a blind bird…sadly gone now, an Eastern Wild turkey named Tina. She came to us as a trio of rescues from a neighbour who didn’t want to care for them anymore. Same thing, no idea how she was injured, but went blind about a year after we got her.
The amazing thing about Tina was not that she survived, but that she thrived and had several clutches of chicks before she died. Several of our buff orphington hens took her “under their wing”so to speak, and would guide her around all day-leading her to the water, scratching at tiny morsels in the dirt and clucking like they had a giant chick to teach and protect. When another bird tried to bully her-they would drive them off.
No matter what anyone says, these animals have a soul, create family bonds and have compassion!! I love these creatures!!

Olympia February 15th, 2013

Please tell us more. I have a chicken who is limp. She was like that the moment she hatched. She always needed extra attention and we are still giving it to her.She has the cuttest button eyes and she is very verbal. Please continue sharing these stories.

Karmyn R February 15th, 2013

I never knew how sweet and smart chickens were until we had them. It is always a sad day when we lose one. And now we are raising “meat” chickens. I can’t even tell you how hard I am trying NOT to fall in love with all of them.

Sharon February 15th, 2013

Love hearing about your special needs hens. We have 3 one-eyed chickens (Captain Jack, Solomon & Jackie). These babies were blinded after surviving MG. They have returned to our flock & are happy & thriving. Our molded houdan, Jermaine, walks with a limp due to string injury (had wrapped around his foot & got infected). He’s doing great & just skips along with the others). ChiChi is a sweet hen that was born with crippled legs. She lives in her own coop with her roommate, Campfire. They do great & are terribly spoiled!

We just want our feather babies to be happy regardless of their special needs!

Lynette Mattke February 15th, 2013

more, please!

Michelle Zabell February 15th, 2013

Thanks for this story. I have a special needs Red Silkie who has a crooked beak. She is at the bottom of the pecking order too. My husband is a vet who, dutifully, files it down so she is able to eat and drink, but we look out for her. She’s almost a year old.

Nessa February 15th, 2013

How lovely to think of the great life she had despite her differences. We have a hen in isolation and she’s become very attentive and affectionate. Yes please do write more about your beloved Hildy.

Brandy February 15th, 2013

I have a lopsided rooster who has optioned respiratory issues due to being mis-shapen. He is the sweetest thing though and I am so happy to have him.

Dawn February 15th, 2013

I would love to hear more, I have a partially sighted chicken her name is Liza Minelli (no kidding) and she’s just so sweet

Heather Puzig February 15th, 2013

More about Hildy! We have a brown leghorn who can no longer walk. I think she may have a blood clot or tumor on her spine? She doesn’t lay anymore, but she eats, drinks and hangs out with us like she’s just in sitting mode all the time. We keep her inside with us and put her out on warm days to sit in the sun and keep her a bottom clean and ruffle her feathers for her since she doesn’t preen that much. She scoots around using her wings like arms when she wants to move around some and she can stretch her legs out, just can’t stand… Is it wrong to keep her alive when she seems to want to live?

Paula Lane February 15th, 2013

wonderful story!!! I want to hear more. Of all my chickens, our Speckled Sussex is my absolute fave! She’s also the “boss” of all, even the Rooster! He doesn’t get marital rights LOL.

De Anna February 15th, 2013

A nice story! Chickens are wonderful pets and I would love to hear more about Hildy! What a sweetie!

Kim H. February 15th, 2013

I enjoyed reading the story about Hildy, and would love to read more about her. I also have a blind Speckled Sussex, Whirly, and it was just like reading about my Whirly. I believe that Ocular Marek’s is the reason for her blindness unfortunately. She had a Buff Orp friend who would lead her around and be her ‘eyes’, but she now seems to get around well on her own. She will stand on feet if she feels that she isn’t getting enough attention, and is a big friendly bird.

Sarah Hiers February 15th, 2013

Wonderfully touching story. Please do share more about Hildy!

Kim Kortenbach February 15th, 2013

I loved reading about your Hildy, thanks for sharing. I have an OEGH bantam named Petunia who is blind in one eye and she’s a sweetie too and loves human interaction and somehow manages to be a respected member of my small flock of five even though she is only one of two bantams. I think it helped her some that her sister Lily is very bossy and always somehow is enamored with her. Who knows? Either way speciall needs pets are just special in our heart and know and love the special attention we give them.

Cindy February 15th, 2013

I’d love to hear more about Hildy. 🙂

Tammi Moore February 15th, 2013

Though not a chicken I do have a special needs dog. Her name is Sophie and she is an 8 year old blind Bassett hound. Sophie lost her sight 4 years ago when she got into a bag of candy corn flavored Hershey kisses. Her eyes turned white and we had to rush her to New Hampshire for treatment (we live in Maine). They said that she had Glaucoma (of which we had no idea) and the high fat content in the kisses aggravated her glaucoma. She needed surgery to remove one eye and have a shunt placed in the other. Unfortunately she was allergic to the material the shunt was made out of and had to have her other eye removed because shunts are only made out of one kind of material. But 4 years later she is doing great. I always say she gets in more trouble now than she did when she had eyes. It is amazing how they can adapt when they lose their sight. I swear Sophie can smell a crumb a mile away and can hear an ant fart underground (LOL). Please share more stories about Hildy.

diana February 15th, 2013

if she wants to live is not wrong. I have one that have to umputed her leg due to a bad infection. She is doing real good i keep her in the house and take out in the grass on sunny days, she loves to be held and love. Her name is Lady Gaga and she knows when i get home and talks and sings and makes a sound when she wants to be pick up. Love her so much, it took a year to get to this point but it was worth it.

Lisa February 15th, 2013

Lovely story and so bittersweet. Please share more!

Laurie Braman February 15th, 2013

Loved your story. I have one chicken with one eye and another one with deformed feet. We love them and they find their way even with their disabilities.

JoAnne Broadwater February 15th, 2013

Very nice story.

Marey February 15th, 2013

That was a great story and I’d love to read the rest of it! I have a hen that has one eye that is ‘damaged’ (part of her eyelid is missing), and even though I made sure to hold and pet all of my girls (6), she clearly is the friendliest and falls asleep in your arms when you hold her.
I look forward to hearing more about Hildy : )

CarolHS February 15th, 2013

Yes, please. More about Hildy. 🙂

Marilyn Louise February 15th, 2013

Your Hildy is so lovely; I admire the beautiful Sussex plumage and Hildy is such a brave girl! The story you told is very touching.
I so enjoy your blog. A pet chicken is not in my future, unfortunately; but I live vicariously though your photos, stories, and information about chickens.
Thanks, Marilyn

jennifer February 15th, 2013

I have a blind chicken too! Her name is Taylor (we call her Tay-Tay) This story could easily be about her. The other chickens pecked her eyes and she can’t see anymore…only light/dark contrast. has trouble seeing food so she is mainly hand-fed. She is the sweetest bird in the world and SO smart! She just can’t see :o( She is back in the coop with the other birds now but is at the very bottom of the pecking order. I give her plenty of places to “hide” to avoid further injuries. I LOVE my special needs girl :o)

Tracy Peters February 15th, 2013

I love this story about Hildy. I too have a blind chicken. She was born without eyes, and we have had her since she was one day old. It took many hours of nurturing to get her through the first several weeks, but she is almost 1 year old and doing well. She lives in a flock of eleven and so far there have been no problems. I think all creatures deserve a chance to live a happy life. Helena is definitely is the sweetest chicken I have. I can’t wait to hear more about Hildy.

Ruthie Picton February 15th, 2013

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww I had a blind chicken too. Her hame was Precious. I would love to hear more about your Hildy.

dee kelley February 16th, 2013

Great story, I have a silkie rooster the grandkids have named rainbow limps has since I bought him. The story reminded me of him. Please tell more I really enjoyed the story.

Kelly Alexander February 16th, 2013

Loved the story about Hildy. My chicks are just about 2 months & I’m thoroughly enjoying watching their personalities develop.

Julie March 5th, 2013

Love the story of Hildy..I am a first time chicken owner. I absolutely love my chics. I have never enjoyed something as much. Thanks for sharing your story.

Kim March 7th, 2013

What a hen! -sigh-

Debbie Winstanley March 17th, 2013

Thank you so much for sharing your story of Hildy! It really touched me deeply. We have 3 rhode island reds and 2 buff orpingtons that were raised together and are just wonderful…we would do anything for them! Our basset hound, Humphrey lost one eye from glaucoma but has adapted well to having sight in only one eye. It’s amazing how well a handicapped pet can do when given the love and support they need!!

Amy Dohmen May 4th, 2013

Fantastic to hear about Hildy and her life. What amazes me is how most people think chickens are stupid and have no personality. Stories like these explain exactly how wrong they are. Please finish the story. Would love to hear how wonderful a life Hildy led………

Bridget Baker March 3rd, 2014

Just tonight one of my chickens got attacked by a racoon. If I had a gun I would have shot that thing–I am just so mad. Poor little Rhode Island Red. It chewed on her head. She was just crouched down on the ground, eyes all puffed up. She can’t see out of either eye right now. I am really really hoping she gets some kind of vision back! I am so worried about her. It seems so silly to be crying over a chicken! The racoon ATE another chicken before I got out there, but watching this poor girl just sit completely still breaks my heart! Your story gave me hope that even if she is completely blind, maybe she will survive.

Holly Rosenberg March 31st, 2014

My rooster Henry was blind in one eye from an injury a couple of years ago. Last night his other eye had something wrong so my husband took him to the Vet today. The vet said it looks like it got punctured and is infected. He is on drops and I had him on my lap for a while and except for his eyes, he was fine. He did seem upset bumping into things at first, but I have his food and water in reach. I am devastated and so unsure if he can have a quality of life. He has always enjoyed being out and about, when I come home from work, he runs to the car to greet me. I pick him up everyday and he sits on my lap. I have been crying all day and a struggling with this, any thoughts? Thanks so much.

Lissa April 10th, 2014

That’s a difficult decision. I never regretted giving Hildy her chance, but every situation is different. My sympathies!

michelle May 2nd, 2014

I have a pet chicken we call Grainy. She was attacked by a raccoon 3 nights ago. Sadly, our other 4 chicken were killed. Grainy lost an eye and realized today that she cannot see out of the other. She seems very depressed, isn’t eating or drinking, and simply just sits there in the bottom of the coop with her head against the wall. I sit by her frequently throughout the day (and cry). I talk to her and she (sometimes) lifts her head and moves her head around to try to see me, then closes her eyes and sits. I don’t know what to do. She lost her friends and cannot see. What should I do?

Lissa May 3rd, 2014

Take her to a vet. It’s quite possible that she has an infected puncture wound you can’t see. Even if not, she’s doubtless in pain from the loss of her eye, and it may be infected. Your vet can prescribe proper antibiotics and even pain medication. So sorry to hear about your loss! I do hope Grainy recovers!

Doug May 16th, 2014

Holly, Don’t fret about Henry. I had a blind hen I called Helen and she lived for many years in a separate cage where the other chickens couldn’t hurt her. I now have a one legged hen called Gracie who is a real character! I put her out in the sun in an enclosed cage with some water and corn and she enjoys the time outside. Chickens are not nice to their disabled homies, we must look after the weak ones.

Doug July 28th, 2014

Update. Gracie has lost the use of her good leg but is in seemingly good health and spirits.She gets to be in her outdoor area on nice days and has a cozy indoor coop at night and bad weather.

Doug September 23rd, 2014

Gracie is still with us, she needs daily care, fresh bedding and water close at hand. She moves around with her wings which makes keeping her water clean a challenge but I hope she is happy.

Doug October 3rd, 2014

Gracie is slowly checking out, she doesn’t move around much and I have to move her water bowl and feed bowl to her convenience. I hate to put her down, she responds to my voice and eats corn readily but she doesn’t have much of a life. What should I do?

Lissa October 3rd, 2014

That’s a difficult, personal decision. Sometimes your vet can help you determine what a pet’s quality of life may be. Sympathies!

Doug October 21st, 2014

Well, Gracie died this afternoon. I think she was at least 10 or 11, she was a tough old girl. My friends wondered why I “kept” her alive and I responded by saying she was the one to make that decision. I wasn’t about to take her life, nor could I. She simply stopped eating and drinking and made the decision herself, or nature did it for her. R.I.P. Gracie

Lissa October 22nd, 2014

I’m so sorry to hear that, Doug! She was very lucky to have you to care for her.

Doug October 24th, 2014

Thank you Lissa, I did care for her and I think she responded to my voice and the routine we had every morning and night. She liked triscuits and cheetos as a supplement to her corn and crumbles, I don’t think keeping her alive was as much for me as it was for her. She would always have a bright eye and respond to my voice and that is what told me she didn’t want to give up. Doug

Doug December 25th, 2014

Well, I now have another problem. I have one rooster and he tries to mount the oldest hen I have (Louise) she doesn’t take it very well. She is older and he takes advantage of her slowness to be “the man” He’s quite respectable in other chicken relate matters but I hope he doesn’t hurt Louise. The girls haven’t been laying for quite awhile, one of them started this week to lay one a day, I haven’t been cycling the heat lamp because of the mild weather, should I sue the lamp every night?

Lissa December 26th, 2014

Generally speaking, we recommend against heating your coop. In most places in the US (and certainly where it’s mild), you should use heat only in limited circumstances, such as when there’s a very sudden, precipitous drop in temperature.

Doug December 27th, 2014

I live in the Seattle area and the temps. have been quite mild, so I won’t use the lamp unless it drops considerably. The egg production has has been up a little, I have quite a few older hens so I don’t expect much, they can live out their lives here quite peaceably. Doug

Doug December 28th, 2014

Turned off the heat lamps as you suggested and cleaned their coop and put in fresh bedding. I think they are happy!

Doug January 3rd, 2015

Well, now I have a new problem. One of my older hens has leg mites. I brought her into the house and she is in the spare bathtub. I treat her legs twice a day with camphophenique which as I understand will kill the mites. I hope it works, at any rate the hen “sleepy” loves being in the house all snug and cozy. From what I’ve read I will have to treat all my girls with this stuff……I have 15 hens and one rooster.

Doug January 8th, 2015

Sleepy is doing well, her leg mites are gone but we are cautious about re-infection if we put her out with the group. I think she would like to be back with her “homies” but for now she is in the spare bathroom bathtub with a comfortable bed.

Doug January 26th, 2015

You still with us Lissa?

Lissa January 27th, 2015

Er, yes. Why do you ask?

Doug January 28th, 2015

Just checking, haven’t heard from you in awhile. Hope all is well. My hen Sleepy seems to have some other issues than her leg mites. I have put her outside in nice weather and she still just sits, rarely getting up to walk around. Any thoughts?

Lissa January 28th, 2015

Lethargy is a sign of illness. If she’s showing signs of illness, you might take her to a vet for a firm diagnosis and treatment options. Hope she’ll be okay!

Doug January 28th, 2015

Thanks for your advice, her weight seems good, she eats a lot but she seems to have a hard time walking or standing for any length of time. Time for a checkup.

Doug March 29th, 2015

Sleepy is back out with rest of the girls. She is a little slow walking but I think she’s going to be O.K. We got a Swedish flower hen yesterday, she’s a real character.

Lynn Herman May 22nd, 2015

I need help . I have a rooster that has a bad head injury we think he has gone blind. from it He is not eating we can get water into him if we put the dish right to his peak. He will not eat I have tried corn,lettuce meal worms and bread .

Lissa May 26th, 2015

So sorry to hear about your rooster, Lynn! You should probably consult with a veterinarian at your first opportunity. Until then, he needs good nutrition, if you can get him to take it; try mashing his regular pelleted/crumbled commercial feed with yogurt. If he won’t take any, sometimes a few calories from sugar water can give him enough of a boost that he’ll have the energy to eat. Be aware that too much sugar can cause diarrhea, so try just a little until you can get veterinary advice. We aren’t vets and can’t diagnose a chicken, I’m sorry. We hope he’ll be okay, though!

hi August 5th, 2016

we have a chicken with one no longer infected eye and one eye highly damaged by a coyote. she cannot see through her past infected eye, and she has not opened her coyote damaged eye yet so we’re hoping she will be able to see out of it when the scab heals? we really hope so, but right now she is blind. we’ve been putting her in a separate area with her own food and water and we don’t think she’s been able to find them so we’ve been hand feeding and drinking her. any tips? she’s also a speckled Sussex and she’s old.

Lissa August 8th, 2016

Awwww, poor thing! I’m not sure about your exact set-up, but if it’s possible, she’ll probably feel better if she can hear other birds. Chickens are flock animals, and they want to be a part of a group. Additionally, if she is separated from the flock for an extended time, you will want to re-introduce her slowly, so by having her NEAR but not WITH the flock, it will make reintroduction easier. Best wishes to you and your little sussex. They have a special place in my heart. If you can consult with a vet, it would be a great idea, too. Infection is a danger, and there may be a special type of ointment to use in/near her eye. We hope she gets better and regains her sight!

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