Aspen was a black Spanish turkey I purchased. She was an adult and had grown up semi-wild. She had very little trust in me.
As turkey hens do, Aspen went broody in her first spring with me. She chose a large wooden cupboard for her nest. And as turkey toms do, Pip the tom started to get restless after all of the hens disappeared to sit nests. To my dismay, he found Aspen in her cupboard and attempted to pull her out off the nest to breed (I talk more in-depth about tom breeding behavior problems like this in my publication “Re-think: Small Livestock”, which is very near completion at the time of writing this story). Aspen refused to budge from her nest, so instead Pip tried to get in the cupboard with her.
The next morning I checked on Aspen, as I did daily, and found her cupboard spattered with crushed egg goo. She looked very ragged. Disappointed, I let her be. But the next day she didn’t leave the cupboard, even though her nest had been destroyed. So I extracted her, much to her distress and protest, only to discover that he femur had been snapped by the tom.
The poor lady! This was the first broken bone I’d ever had to deal with in livestock. Not entirely certain what to do, and after some contemplation, I splinted her leg with some wood and vet-wrapped the leg from the thigh down to her ‘drumstick’ so the joint was stuck totally straight, she couldn’t bend her leg at the knee. Vet-wrap is the strange word we use for that self-sticking-but-not-adhesive medical wrap tape that is used to cover plaster casts, in case you’re not familiar with the word.
Hoping I did the right thing for her, I isolated Aspen in a small pen where she couldn’t move much. I checked her daily and delivered food and water to her. She mostly sat uncomfortably on the ground and cowered when I came too close.
It took about 5 days, but she started standing and walking again. Her cast came undone on its own with this movement. I hesitantly released her back into the flock. She recovered rapidly as though nothing had happened, laid a new clutch of eggs and went back to sitting. She had no apparent lasting damage from the break. The ordeal had also taught her to trust me on a deep level. She was a very sweet and personable hen after that.
Birds, like many animals, produce allantoin in their body under oxidative stress. This chemical is found in high concentration in comfrey family plants. Humans do not produce allantoin, so it takes our bodies exponentially longer to heal wounds than it might take an animal to heal the same wound. Allantoin stimulates tissue repair and may dramatically speed healing of skin, tissue, and bone alike. This is why comfrey and its relatives have been given common names such as “woundwort” and “bonemend”.
It’s important to set a broken leg in a bird as soon as you discover it. I have cared for multiple hens who suffered broken legs from aggressive toms during the breeding season. All of them recovered rapidly and wonderfully. However I once had a mean, half-wild turkey tom that broke his leg fighting. I couldn’t handle or catch him, and he was MEAN. I left him alone hoping the leg would heal naturally without my intervention. It healed alright! But it healed backward! His leg healed twisted, leaving his knee joint facing backward and crippling him. It was a grim scenario, but that violent tom was destined for butcher as it was, so I my guilt was limited. It was a valuable lesson learned.