Leatherface's Scalping Injury

*Warning Graphic Images*

Leatherface is a two-year-old hen who was first presented to Dr. Rebecca Gounaris at Pleasantville Animal Hospital of Fallston about a year ago. The hen's previous owner brought her in with a horrific scalping injury. It was suspected that Leatherface had got herself caught up in some sort of fencing. The injury was so extensive that you could see most of the hen's skull.

Yet, Leatherface was still active and alert, walking around and drinking like normal despite the head wound. Many people might assume this meant Leatherface wasn’t in any pain, but they would be wrong. Since chickens are prey animals, they instinctively hide pain. Therefore, even if a chicken doesn’t “act like” they’re in pain with an open wound, they most certainly are and deserve pain medication just like any other pet. Therefore, Dr. Rebecca immediately gave Leatherface pain medicine and put her under anesthesia before examining the wound more extensively.

Leatherface Scalping Injury
Leatherface's injury on closer examination (left photo) and removal of her left eye (right photo)

Further examination revealed that the damage caused by the injury had completely obliterated the hen’s upper eyelid and left most of her skull visible. Dr. Rebecca was concerned about having enough skin to close the wound, as there was not much left to work with.

She determined that there was enough skin to save the hen’s life, but sadly the eye was not able to be saved. Dr. Rebecca proceeded with an enucleation (removal of the eye) surgery before closing up the horrific head wound.

When suturing, Dr. Rebecca had to be careful about how much tension she closed the skin with, because if pulled too far over, it would cause the eyelid on the other side of the chick to shift above her right eye so that she couldn’t see.

Fortunately, Dr. Rebecca found a sweet spot and was able to stitch together the remaining skin, but had to leave a small area open, which healed by second intention.

Leatherface came out of the anesthesia without any complications. That evening she went home with Dr. Rebecca. Leatherface was kept inside to allow her wound to heal. She received pain medication (meloxicam) and antibiotics (Clavamox), and lots of treats and love!

Leatherface Recovered
Leatherface one week after her surgery. View of her left side where her eye had been removed (left photo) and right side where her right eye is fully intact (right photo)

Once Leatherface was fully healed, Dr. Rebecca integrated her in with her own flock of chickens. None of the other chickens cared about Leatherface having only one eye, nor did anyone pick on her. Within a couple of weeks, Leatherface was officially one of the gang.

Although Leatherface is unable to see to her left side she has adapted very well. However, she does have to depend on the other chickens in her flock to alert her about potential predators. They don't mind one bit, as that is the value of living in a flock. It also helps to have their rooster looking out for them all as well!

Leatherface is an amazing testament to how well chickens can handle surgery and how well they can heal wounds that seem unfixable at first glance. Chickens are quite resilient. If they're given the opportunity to receive proper medical care (aka taken to the veterinarian) and given time to heal, they usually recover!

Becca with Chickens on Instagram
Follow Dr. Rebecca on Instagram at @beccawithchickens!

About Pleasantville Animal Hospital of Fallston

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Pleasantville Animal Hospital of Fallston, located in Fallston, Maryland, is a family-owned, full-service hospital that provides veterinary services for dogs, cats and birds. Their expertise in the field now spans over three family generations, and they are very proud of this unique heritage. The hospital has an in-house laboratory, allowing for rapid diagnostic testing for critical care patients, digital radiography (xrays), surgical suite, and an on-site pharmacy. Dr. Scott Gounaris has been practicing veterinary medicine for 35 years and founded Pleasantville Animal Hospital in 2002. His daughter, Dr. Rebecca Gounaris, now works alongside him, and they approach each case as a team.

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About Dr. Rebecca Gounaris

Dr. Rebecca L. Gounaris is a small animal and backyard poultry veterinarian at Pleasantville Animal Hospital of Fallston in Fallston, MD. She is a 2016 graduate of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. In addition to her lifetime love for cats and dogs, she has a deep passion for birds and participated in externships at several exotic veterinary clinics during her senior year. She worked for many years at Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research in Newark, DE, where she formed the foundation of her career caring for birds in need. Dr. Rebecca acquired her first flock of chickens in 2019 and has completely fallen in love with backyard poultry. She now has close to 30 chickens (yes, they all have names) that live on her wooded property in PA, where she lives with her husband, Brandon, and baby boy, Ezra. One of her greatest ambitions is normalizing medical care for backyard poultry.

About Dr. Scott Gounaris

Dr. Scott Gounaris graduated from the University of Florida Veterinary School in 1982. His lifetime love for animals drove him to choose veterinary medicine as he wanted to help animals that could not help themselves. Dr. Scott Gounaris enjoys the teamwork that we and the pet owners employ to work together for the welfare of their pets. The greatest reward for him is a positive outcome for his patient and their owners. With over 40 years of experience in the veterinary field, Dr. Scott Gounaris has seen it all. Prior to opening Pleasantville Animal Hospital of Fallston, he worked for his father, who was also a veterinarian. Now the father of a recent veterinary school graduate, a current veterinary school student, and a college undergraduate, he has shared his love of the profession with the next generation of Gounaris doctors.