Emergencies/Illness

Case Study: Burn Survivors

I live off the west coast of British Columbia. For weeks we’ve been hearing about the climate fires in California, Oregon and Washington. They have witnessed the region’s largest fires on record and we have been affected, as have many countries, by the smoke. For days our skies were darkened with an eerie glow as if the fires were closer to home. Thus far, millions of acres and thousands of structures have been destroyed. Not to mention the loss of wildlife, domestic animals and people. After watching the heartbreaking stories of rescued wildlife during the Australian wildfires last year I also wonder of the toll on animals.

Most of us will never experience a coop or forest fire and would likely have no idea what to do for our birds if we did. The critical aspects of treating survivors of a fire include:

  • Shock
  • Smoke Inhalation
  • Burns
  • Preventing Infection

I’ve written about coop fires and how to treat the survivors, but here is a story of three lucky hens that narrowly escaped with their lives from the Santiam Canyon fires in Oregon. Their flock mates all perished and their owners lost their home and all of their possessions.

Ash (Rhode Island Red), Singe & Ember (Easter Eggers)

Day 1

Jennifer, a small flock keeper, is located about 20 miles from the Santiam Canyon fires. A friend contacted her on Facebook asking if she’d be willing to take in a few chickens that survived. Despite losing everything and requiring relocation to a hotel their dedicated owner was able to deliver them to Jennifer, who got busy assessing their injuries and nursing them back to health.

Any survivors of a trauma – people or animal- will suffer shock. Jennifer put
the hens in a dark, warm place with electrolytes in their water. She didn’t know how to treat chicken burns, but was somewhat familiar in treating burns on humans. The first thing she did was to clean them.

When they first arrived the hens were covered in ash and their feet were really dirty. She washed their feet in a tub of cool water and used a very soft toothbrush to remove the debris. A dampened baby washcloth was then used to gently dab their faces. After they were dry she got some aloe vera from her plant, removed the skin and made the inner pulp into a slimy gel. It was generously applied to their burns. An hour after the aloe vera treatment Corona ointment was applied to their burned skin.

All of them had burns of varying degrees on their wattles, comb, face and feet.

Jennifer wrapped Singe’s feet like you would for bumble foot with gauze and vet wrap because they were so badly damaged. She contacted a local vet who donated some silver sulfadiazine cream, which is an an antibiotic ointment used to treat second and third degree burns. It was applied twice/day.

It appears they weren’t suffering from smoke inhalation. Their nares (nostrils) were clogged with ashes which needed to be removed, but their breathing was unaffected.

Food was withheld for the first 24 hours and then slowly introduced with eggs and layer feed mash.

Week 1

Within a few days their burns started to heal.

Week 2

Rhode Island Red hen, Ash, had completely healed.

Easter Egger Ember’s scales on her legs and feet started to peel off and she was able to walk around with her sister.

Week 3

Ash’s face, wattles, and comb were still pale because of the new skin. She laid an egg the day after her arrival, then stopped for 12 days before starting to lay again.

Singe, the second Easter Egger, suffered the worst burns. Her feet looked like she walked through hot coals, which she probably had. Her face had healed, but her badly blistered feet were still sore. They were discoloured and scabbed, requiring medicated ointment and Coban compression bandaging. Jennifer was still monitoring for infection. Her blisters had popped and the skin was beginning to peel. She was finally integrated into the flock after being isolated by herself so no one picked on her.

Ember laid her first egg.

Week 4

They are doing really well on their road to recovery with lots of love and treats.

Many thanks to Jennifer Bronson for her story and photos, used with permission. Featured photo: KLCC

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