A farm is a busy place. No matter the size of acreage, or livestock. Sometimes, it’s easy for the small things to get overlooked or put off until later. Around our farm, I am notoriously known for saying “I’ll get to it”. I say this a lot. When it comes to prioritizing what needs to be get done, I hit the big, important things hard, and leave some of the smaller details to catch later. I try to prioritize as best as one can living on a farm and fighting time and animals and deadlines.
Skully is a little black bantam hen. We bought her, and about 30 other little chicks at our local TSC farm supply store. One summer afternoon, I found this little chicken in the coop trampled beneath the other rapidly growing chicks. She had been nearly pecked to death by her coop mates. I stepped inside the coop, picked her up, and was so to see that her entire head was completely picked clean. There were no feathers, no skin. All you could see was her skull. Her whole head just bone. Feathers began only at her neck. It was a miserable hot August day and with her skull exposed, the moment I set her down on the ground she ran behind me and stood in the shadows of my legs. Everywhere I walked for the next half hour she followed me. I honestly did not think she would survive with her entire skull open and nothing to cover it. I created a haven inside the barn, where she could come and go as she pleased with adequate protection. She remained in the barn for most of the summer, rarely venturing outside her safety net. ( During those months her head regrew some skin, but never regrew her feathers.)
That following February…I went out to do chores, and after completing them for some odd reason I decided to do a bit of house cleaning inside the barn. I was moving old feed bags, collecting them to burn, and organizing hay when suddenly out of the corner of my eye. I saw something hanging from the front axle of my Oliver 1755 tractor. Upon closer look, it was Skully.
Here’s where it becomes hard to believe. I walked over to get a closer look and IF I HADNT KNOWN BETTER…I would swear someone came into my barn and did this. Poor Skully had gotten into string somewhere, no doubt from the top of a feed bag that the wind had blown away. She had it all twisted around her legs, with probably about 4 inches of twine in between both her feet. She must have been able to jump from the ground and was going to perch on the front tire of the tractor. Whether she fell asleep or was startled I am not sure, but she must have lost her balance and hung herself upside down with that string straddling the tie rod. She was motionless. I grab her little body and turned her upside right. She wasn’t moving. She couldn’t hold up her head, I thought she was gone.
The whites of her eyes were all red. I quickly found a utility knife, cut the string from around her feet, and I tucked her inside my chore coat, and carried her there for about 25 minutes. Several times she began to try and hold up her head but it would fall back down every time she tried. Some more time passed before she regained some control of her head. It would fall but she could pick it back up. She couldn’t walk so, I finally set her up onto of a 55 gallon barrel, where I hoped she would be safe from other barnyard critters, gave her some feed to nibble on, left her alone, and hoped for the best.
Two hours later this what I found. She was still sitting on the barrel, she was eating, and able to hold up her head. Skully is not a pretty bird, but her story of survival is sweet and downright encouraging.
A few months later, …..much to my delight, she came walking out of the sheep barn with two baby chicks following close behind her. She eats and drinks with the sheep and must feel very safe dwelling there. This is a crazy little farm story…about a silly little black bantam hen, but happenings like this keep my heart and mind alert to all the blessings that are always around me. Even the smallest details need attention in a fast-paced busy world.
UPDATE 2015 (July)
Skully has survived and thrived the winter. This year she has raised two sets of baby chicks, she is very protective of her babies. She appears to know me and is comfortable with me being inches from her. Every day I count her chicks to be sure she hasn’t lost any. I STILL KNOW and UNDERSTAND that a goofy chicken is pretty insignificant in a world gone mad, but it still delights me that she has fought such a gallant fight, beat the odds, and she’s still here.
YET…UPDATE MARCH 2016
Skully made it through another long winter. We do not house these chickens. They are free to roam and roost in the barns. For the last two nights when I do chores I hear a lot of clucking and I turn around to see Skully. She is waiting for me to shell some ear corn and toss it on the ground for her. She is a charmed Chicken for sure. She is sitting on a nest already. She runs to me and talks back when I talk to her. Her skull is still bald from when I first saved her but she has sure soldiered on in the barnyard.
On April 14, 2018 We had a barn fire, lost all our equipment, 30 chickens in a coop, 900 bushel of ear corn in a wooden crib, hay, straw, and skully. She must not have known what to do or how to escape the fire. There were several hens that roamed free that made it out of the barn. The coop chickens didn’t have a chance.