IWSG: Chicken surgeon, that’s me.

Hi, it’s Sher today with an Insecure Writers Support Group post. As always, thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for leading the IWSG as our Inspiring Warrior Sagacious Guardian. One of my biggest insecurities is finding time to write. To put that insecurity to rest, here’s my first story this year. Although it’s not the whole story (that’s too long), it’s true!

Now, what was that about chicken surgery? We moved last year to get away from the coast and possibility of hurricane damage. We didn’t get a hurricane, but we got damage anyway because of rain and… chickens.


Mind you, the chickens didn’t cause the damage; they got damaged. Twelve white Leghorn hens came with the house we bought, and the first time we didn’t get home until after dark to lock the coop, we lost two chickens. All we found was a trail of feathers across the yard where the hens free range during the day. To improve daytime safety, hubby fenced in the orchard and got a rooster. For nighttime protection, hubby built a coop with an automatic door. It worked all of two or three days until the door closer’s fishing line broke, and we had to lock up manually. Still, our system worked again, until…

We left on a trip, and the chicken sitter didn’t arrive in time. He found chickens all over the ground with their necks broken. The lone survivor quit laying, and I laid down the law: no more chickens until the coop door worked right. 200 lb. test fishing line fixed that… until it broke again right after we bought more chickens. Argh! We’ve been on lock up duty ever since, but at least one possum failed in his search and destroy mission.


All seemed well except that three supposed Rhode Island Red hens started crowing (check out the neck stretching and open beak above) and terrorizing the real hens. We exchanged those bad boys for turkeys. Then… mid-January while hubby was working outside in broad daylight, he saw a shadow overhead. He ran and chickens ran, but one Barred Rock didn’t move fast enough. A hawk left multiple puncture wounds and ripped off her chest skin. A 4×4 inch patch hung open, connected by a narrow strip of skin to another large wound.

Guess who got called home to decide whether to put her down? I was at the Dollar Tree when hubby called, so I grabbed a tube of triple antibiotic and high-tailed it home. The chicken was standing on a couch on our screened-in back porch, not exactly at death’s door. But she wouldn’t live with so much skin ripped off–her entire chest and most of her stomach. We already knew no vet in the city would see a chicken; they’re considered exotic animals.

Since I’m the only one in the family who can hand-sew (and who doesn’t get nauseous at the sight of blood), I was elected to clean and stitch. Hubby held the hen, poor girl.  We worked in the back porch where it was cool because I knew operating rooms are chilly. During much of the three-hour long cleaning and sewing session, the chicken was conscious. All we had to dull the pain was Bactine. Next came feather cutting followed by cotton swabs dipped in triple antibiotic to remove dirt, grime, and gore.

Then came the stitching. Ugh.

We thought skin was missing, and there’d be no way to stretch the remaining flap across her chest. But I started at the bottom and pulled the skin tight little by little, up and over her naked muscles. I wished I  knew how surgeons tie knots so fast. I was slow, so I did a lock stitch and only tied off every ten stitches or so. Agonizing stitch after stitch, I gritted my teeth to try and get the needle through the chicken’s skin. I never thought it could be so tough. I never thought she could be so tough, so docile, but she must have been in shock.

I was amazed that the skin pulled far enough to cover the biggest wound. About two hours in, hubby wore out and our son took over as chicken holder. That’s when hubby took a picture of me sewing the last half of the last rip. Then I had to sew the puncture wounds, one on each side of the hen’s neck and one under a wing. Finally done, I went over the wounds again with antibiotic and dressed them in gauze before wrapping a long bandage around her neck and wings to hold everything in place.  I was exhausted.

By then, hubby had a dog crate set up with straw in the bottom, food and water by the door, and a heater outside. Still, the poor chicken was shivering, so we brought the whole cage inside for the night. I decided this chicken needed a name if she lived. Although none of our chickens are meat chickens anyway, this hen would never end up in a stew pot. I crossed my fingers and prayed. I didn’t sleep much.

In the morning, the chicken was still alive. I named her Frankie, short for Frankenstein’s monster because of all those stitches, and I took a picture of her standing in her temporary home. Frankie could walk, but she walked backwards before she went forward. When she moved to another spot, I noticed an egg where she’d been standing. Still later, I found the egg in the picture. See it?

We moved Frankie’s cage to the back porch because our house reeked, but we kept her cage warm with a heater and blankets. Two days and a bandage change later, another egg. Still, Frankie walked backwards until her wounds healed enough that I could remove her bandage. Boy, did she get around then! We had chicken dung all over the back porch. When hubby left the door open, Frankie explored inside too. She left more calling cards–and eggs.

Another week later, I noticed swelling between Frankie’s two longest sets of stitches. Uh-oh. I took her to an exotic animal vet in a nearby city.  The vet, who has chickens of her own, was amazed. She said the swelling was just an air pocket, not to worry, and to bring Frankie back next week for stitch removal. Turns out chickens need longer to heal. The vet didn’t charge, so Frankie laid another egg for her. I wanted to say, “You go, girl!” — even though she ate my orchid and made a mess wherever she went.



Now, here I am in Seattle on another emergency medical mission. One of my sisters was sick and another just had surgery when I got a call for help. My step-dad had gone to the ER with major heart problems. Although he got medicine, and he’s improved, he has an appointment with an oncologist next. Mom can’t take care of herself. She’s wheelchair bound. We can’t talk them into moving to assisted living. Yada, yada.

I’m not sure what the moral of the story is. Life happens? I can’t fix everything? I get that. But for one chicken (who had her stitches removed after I left), my urge to fix things made a difference.  So maybe the moral is not to give up, to keep trying. I don’t know, but that’s what I’m going to do. And for the first time in at least a year, I wrote a story. Not exactly down on paper, but done. That’s something.

So, what’s your insecurity?




Share A Heart

Indie author-friendly freelance editor, children's book blogger for picture books through YA, kid lit, SF/fantasy lover with special fondness for middle grade, pun-loving SCBWI member, meter-maid for poetry and rhyming picture books.


  1. Oh. My. Goodness. That’s quite a story.

  2. Wow, I can’t believe you saved that chicken! You might have a future in chicken medicine.

  3. I think the moral of the story is that life presents plenty of fodder for us to use when dreaming up storylines. Change the chicken to an alien and you’ve a great story here.

  4. Pingback: IWSG: Insecurities x 3 | Sher A Hart: Written Art

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