The Sage was worried. One of his favourite chickens had a problem.
I should mention that he has thirty chickens. Every one of them he has known since egghood. Some of them, he delivered.
You see, a chick in the shell has a little sticky-out bit on its beak called an egg-tooth, but sometimes the eggshell is a bit too hard or dry and the tooth wears away before the chick has broken through the shell. It is very tricky, being midwife to a bird, because it is very likely that you will crack through the wrong part of the egg and damage the unhatched chick. What you do, you put the egg in water, and the end that is on top when it bobs up is where the air-sac is. You can, very carefully, scratch away with a scalpel and ease through that part without damaging the main part of the egg, and so, continuing to be terribly careful, remove fragments of shell until the chick is able to help itself. The Sage has this delicacy of fingerwork and the patience needed to do this midwifery successfully.
Anyway, back to Bantam Chicken, Female, 2 Years Old, as she is registered at the local vet, the Very Wets. She had been limping for a few days, and finally the Sage managed to persuade her to be picked up, and he found that one toe had been bleeding and the end of it was angled wrongly. It looked as if she’d caught it in some netting, whether wire or plastic, and it had been partly cut through and the bone broken. The Sage was terribly upset and, trustingly, brought her to me for a cure. I took one look, it was well past my abilities. I phoned the vet.
The Sage put her in a box, which had contained trays of eggs from Happy Hens of Hoxne, and she went to sleep until we took her out at the vet’s. It was one of the principal vets we saw, impressively, and she cleaned the toe and said that she was afraid it needed to be amputated. We knew that, we’d thought maybe she’d just whip it off with sharp clippers (chickens aren’t big on feeling pain), but no. Bantam Chicken Female, or Dotty for short, will have to have an anaesthetic. “It’ll be done tomorrow morning,” said Angela, “you can leave her here overnight or bring her back in the morning.”
I spared the Sage from looking overanxious and took on that rôle myself. “Will she be operated on first thing?” I asked. “I wouldn’t want her to have to wait, with other animals around, she’d be frightened.” The operation won’t be done before 11 o’clock. Dotty (which is actually short for Dot and Carry One) is asleep in her box in the porch right now. The Sage will take her in tomorrow and pace the floor until he knows that she has survived the operation, and then she will have the run of the greenhouse for a few days until she has healed.
What I liked, neither the receptionist nor the vet acted as if we were making too much fuss at all. Because we weren’t. And even if we were, she’s worth it.