In this 2022 Housesit Match Blog Competition entry by Robert Bull you will learn about the experience of two intrepid chicken sitters. Read on to learn how they cared for a whole chicken coup and saved two chickens who didn’t make the pecking order. The theme of this year’s blog competition was ‘Tell us about a fun housesit you did recently’…
2022 Housesitmatch Blog Competition – Shortlisted Blog
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How to be good chicken sitters while housesitting –
Blog Competition Entry – by Robert & Hannah Bull
Robert and Hannah Bull are housesitters who have enjoyed this assignment as pet and chicken sitters. Read their competition entry here.
‘Google, how do you make a bra for a chicken?’
In May of 2022, what we expected to be a straightforward and relatively stress free house and pet sit in Montenegro turned out to be anything but. With just one outdoor cat to watch over, two house rabbits that pretty much took care of themselves and six chickens to feed and water, what could be more simple?
The cat and rabbits were no problem at all, but it turns out chickens can be much more trouble than you would think.
Chickens and other pets to care for
On arrival, the day before the hosts left for their trip, we were informed that one of the chickens, a golden feathered girl named Silky, had found herself on the wrong side of a neighbour’s feisty dog. One wing was pretty badly chewed and hanging very low, and she had a chest wound that we felt there was probably no coming back from. However, our hosts had very different plans for Silky.
How to give a chicken medicine
Our tasks were to include twice daily dressing changes on the wounds and hand syringed antibiotics administered directly into the beak.
Now chickens are pretty wriggly and flappy at the best of times, so our twice daily ritual of catching, calming and then providing medical care often took over an hour each time.
Getting a chicken to take antibiotics orally involves one person pulling on its quiff and gently prising open its beak.
Meanwhile another must painstakingly and slowly empty a syringe of medicine into its mouth.
This was obviously not a usual daily experience for Silky and her nervousness generally led to her emptying her bowels on one of her makeshift chicken doctors.
Chicken sitter detects the pecking order
Now, we’ve all heard the phrase ‘the pecking order’ but we (and Silky!) learned first hand just where that phrase comes from.
Sensing a weakness amongst their group, 3 of the younger, stronger chickens saw an opportunity to remove the weakest link from the coup.
On a nightly basis they would orchestrate tactical manoeuvres that involved cornering and pecking poor Silky. Already once nearly fatally wounded, Silky was up against it again. This time from her own kind. So, much like you would do for a prison snitch, we fashioned an isolation booth and settled her in it, for her own protection.
As Silky’s health didn’t improve and after discussion over the phone with our hosts. They agreed we should finally take Silky to the vet to put her out of her misery. We said our goodbyes, including arranging a human to chicken Facetime with the hosts.
The vet however saw no reason why Silky could not live a long, happy life once her wounds had healed, so gave us another dose of antibiotics to administer and he sent us on our way.
The last time we checked in with our hosts and Silky, they reported she was out of isolation and once again laying eggs on a daily basis, something even the vet thought was impossible.
High drama and the blocked crop
That in itself is enough chicken drama for anyone but Silky wasn’t the only girl in the coup in need of extra special care during our stay. Enter Dusty, an old rescued bird who no longer laid eggs and had developed as we soon learnt, a sour or blocked crop.
Never heard of that before? Why would you have? We certainly hadn’t. But it turns out it’s an infection of the oesophagus that causes a swelling in the chest area, that caused Dusty to appear as if she had enormous breasts. They were so large that they dragged along the floor and meant she couldn’t walk more than a few steps without resting.
Dusty’s chicken bra
So as we became more concerned with her condition and following advice once again from our hosts, we found ourselves Googling ‘how to make a bra for a chicken’. Now sour crop is a fairly common ailment, so believe it or not, there are many bra based how to guides online from fellow chicken enthusiasts. So with needle and thread in hand and some scraps of material, we fashioned our first and hopefully last item of chicken lingerie.
We’ll remind you once again of the pecking order. Chickens can be vicious animals when they sense weakness. The same gang that attacked Silky set their sights on Dusty, who’s newly acquired attire proved only to limit her self defence capabilities. We found Dusty early one morning pecked to oblivion and evidently missing an eye – where it had gone was anyone’s guess. Off to the vets we went again (now our fourth 2-hour round trip), this time with a different chicken.
Chicken sitters take the Vet’s advice
After checking her over thoroughly the same, ever optimistic vet saw no reason to be alarmed, exclaiming in broken English ‘one eye, no problem’. He seemed confident that Dusty would not be adversely affected with only 50% vision. He complimented the concept of the chicken bra, but we had already decided that one night out in the wild west of the coup with the bra was enough and Dusty joined Silky in the safety of isolation.
Memorable experience for our chicken sitters
The next day whilst doing our morning rounds, we inspected Dusty, and low and behold the eye had returned! Do chicken eyes grow back overnight? Evidently they do. Or more likely her eyelid swelling had gone down enough that her eyeball was once again visible to the world.
We finished our placement as pet and chicken sitters after two months, leaving some very happy hosts and two beaten but not broken chickens who still live to fight another day.
AUTHORS – Robert and Hannah Bull