On March 6, a former fighting roo named Cluck Norris ended up at the local animal shelter in which I volunteer. He was in poor shape, but believed to have a good chance of improving after a vet visit and some meds. I met him the same day I pulled a goat to foster until a forever home could be found. The goat found a home almost immediately.
A few weeks later, and after a short stint in a foster home, it was determined Cluck Norris needed pretty regular vet care due to an exposed keel due to being underweight, and having a stubborn case of bumblefoot. He also had an old broken leg (and half a toe missing) that had healed without medical care, resulting in him having only one good leg.
I brought Cluck home to the farm on March 28. Since then he spent most of the days in his own highly secure little ‘rooster run’ where he couldn’t fence fight with my very bitchy ladies. Every single night he slept inside in my shop. He had his own little room complete with a raised bed. He didn’t like shavings, so I bought washable puppy pads for his bed each night.
He never crowed except for one time on May 26. He also started to gain a little weight. His keel went from having a scab the size of a silver dollar to the scab shrinking to the size of a very small pea.
Then in early July I noticed he was limping more than normal. I examined his legs and saw a new infected lesion….
I took him to the vet where he had two wounds cleaned and then he was started on antibiotics. The vet was concerned because Cluck had also lost half a pound. He reminded me that we don’t know Cluck’s age, and that he’s been through a lot already and this weight loss is a lot for a 7 lb chicken who has been alarmingly underweight since I got him. He suggested we see how the next few weeks go, but to be realistic about his quality of life.
I have realized in the last few days that it is likely he has Mareks disease. His good leg has become paralyzed, and this is what made me think Mareks. It would also explain why he is underweight and unable to put on any weight. It also explains the infections. His inability to walk is everything. He can’t eat on his own without the use of his legs. He can’t peck, stand to drink water, or be happy.
The last 18 days (yes I even gave him a bit more time for a miracle) have been really tough. He’s lived indoors full time with the exception of a few hours per day due to the heat and the combination of antibiotics. I’ve been cleaning his wounds then packing them with iodine, giving him meds twice a day, and washing so many puppy pads. Anyone who has chickens knows they poop a lot. I have been hand feeding him twice per day. Making sure he drinks water several times per day Cleaning his bedding 4-5 times per day. I have really given it my all.
While I would do any of these things to help an animal be able to live a good life, the ultimate goal is to do this in the hopes it will give the animal a good quality of life. This sadly is not happening. Today, he gets to be free from his pain and his inability to explore. I’m glad I felt compelled to give him a place to spend these last almost 4 months. I’d never experienced a ‘game cock’ or fighting roo. He is the sweetest thing ever. It breaks my heart that he went his whole life being a commodity that didn’t even get medical care when injured. That he endured whatever he went through to end up with a severed toe, a broken leg, and the things that didn’t leave a physical mark. He is sweeter than most of my chickens ever have been. He loves to be held, sit in the hammock, go on walks - to just be loved. Things that usually take raising from a chick to have that kind of bond. It’s apparent he’s wanted this kind of love his whole life.
I’m glad that his last memories will be filled with love, birdsongs, good food, and some head pets while in the hammock.
Rest in paradise sweet ol’ man. You taught me a lot.
Here is a look back in his short time with me…