A chicken who survived the bushfires was lucky to be rescued by a woman willing to spend thousands of dollars on her rehabilitation.
Amelia the hen was found wondering through the bush in Charmhaven, 76km north of Sydney, by volunteers who had been feeding displaced wildlife.
The chicken was found in an area where houses had burned down, seemingly the lone survivor of her flock.
The lucky bird was putting on a brave face and hiding her injuries so as not to be targeted by predators.
It wasn’t until she was taken to Catherine Kelaher from NSW Hen Rescue that the extent of her injuries was first determined.
“A big problem that we see with hen rescue is that chickens hide their pain so well,” Ms Kelaher told Yahoo News Australia.
“I think what happened is an ember got into her eye and basically made it explode into this huge marble looking thing.
“She’d burnt her comb, her wattle and her face, and then her feet were really bad, like one of her toes had fallen off.
“Her feet were wet from the infection, so I took her to emergency.
‘Special needs’ chickens in the living room
Ms Kelaher’s vet gives her group a 30 per cent discount on charity treatment, but after hours surgery is still costly, and ongoing vet bills are racing towards $2,200.
Amelia was given pain relief, put on a drip for dehydration, a crop feed for nutrition, and antibiotics and bandages for infection.
The bandages on her feet are so thick they resembled moon boots.
Even with all this treatment, Ms Kelaher could see Amelia was still in pain because of her damaged eyes.
The next step was to remove the eye.
“It took about a week for her to get strong enough to undergo the operation, but without the eye she’s so much more comfortable” Ms Kelaher said.
“She’s home and in the living room because I don’t want her to get dirty with all her burns.
“I look after a lot of chickens who are special needs.”
Ms Kelaher describes her new feathered friend as particularly sweet.
She walks around the house chatting away and has even found a favourite spot in the house. The sofa.
Without the treatment Amelia would most likely have died of shock and infection, but some people have pushed back online criticising Ms Kelaher for spending money to save her life.
NSW Hen Rescue was running low on funds before Amelia came in, after taking in countless battery hens and unwanted backyard pets.
Luckily, Amelia’s story captivated many hearts after an online post and many animal lovers have donated funds to help with her treatment.
“Sometimes emergencies come along and then you just have to do the right thing,” Ms Kelaher said.
“A lot more people understood why her treatment was important than people who criticised.
“She’s really special, she’s a beautiful girl.”
‘They’ve all got their own personalities.’
Amelia isn’t the only chicken who dedicated carers will go to extraordinary steps to help.
Many vets across the country say they are seeing an increase in hens requiring medical help.
Dr Georgia Gibbs from Somersby Animal Hospital on the NSW Central Coast is only a year out of medical school and already she has seen her fare share of the clucky birds.
“We do see pet chickens quite regularly,” she told Yahoo News Australia.
“I’ve done a few procedures including stitching up a chicken after a goanna attack and I’ve dealt with botulism in chickens... and things get stuck in their intestinal tracts so I did surgery to help them.”
As chickens have become popular backyard pets, many people have gained a deeper understanding of their feathered friends.
“Being around all animals, regardless of what the species is, they’ve all got their own personalities,” Dr Gibbs said.
“When you’ve got a small group of chickens, you get to know them all individually.
“I’ve had a lot of clients who are particularly attached to their chickens and they’re happy to pay for treatment.”
Animals feel pain like humans
Dr Gibbs notes that veterinary studies receive less funding than human medicine and so the literature is often less detailed.
Often knowledge about the human body has to be applied to the treatment of birds and animals because the research isn’t there.
Vets are able to apply this knowledge, because many animals feel pain in the same way humans do.
“The most recent chicken I did surgery on, we used a nerve block to desensitise the area where I was cutting,” Dr Georgia said.
“Even under general anaesthetic if we are cutting nerves or things that stimulate pain we’ll see an increase in heart rate and an increase in respiratory rate.
“In chickens we see the same reactions you would see in people if they were undergoing a similar procedure.”
People wishing to help Amelia and NSW Hen Rescue can do so here.
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