Flirting With A Winking Chicken

We humans have a knack for interpreting animal behavior and transforming this behavior into a desirable action. Take, for example, a puppy that licks your face. Most people would interpret this behavior as “aw … he likes me.” This could be true, or maybe the puppy enjoys the taste of your sunscreen, cosmetics or the saltiness of your sweat.

Still, we can’t help it. It’s in our nature. This was the case with Samson and his pet chicken Delilah.

“Hey, Doc, how have you been?” asked Samson.

“Oh, busy as usual. How’s Delilah? Is she eating well? How’s her poop?” I inquired.

“Delilah is just fine, Doc. There’s been no change since our visit last year. Well, except that my little girl has a new flirtatious habit,” beamed Samson. “For the past month or so, she will wink at me several times a day. What a cutie.”

Hmmm … OK. I had no doubt that Delilah was a wonderful pet bonded to her owner, but flirtatious winking is a bit odd. I proceeded with my exam to see if there was a reason for her new amorous behavior.

At the conclusion of Delilah’s physical exam, I said, “Well, she is fit as a fiddle. I don’t detect anything wrong with Delilah, but she did bat her left eye during the exam.”

“Really,” replied Samson. “She must like you, Doc.”

“Yeah, well … I’m not sure that the winking is normal. It may be a sign that something is wrong with her eye. I can’t see anything at this time, but sometimes chickens get a parasite that can cause eye problems. I’ll be right back.”

I went to get a medication that we usually use for dogs to prevent heartworm disease. Crushing a small piece of the tablet, I then added a little bit of eyewash. I brought this concoction into the exam room and proceeded to place a couple of drops into Delilah’s eye.

What happened next could have been scripted for a horror movie. Tiny little white worms started to wiggle out of Delilah’s eye like tendrils from a flailing octopus. Using forceps (medical term for tweezers), I removed three worms that measured about 1 inch in length.

“These are called Oxyspirura mansoni or, in other words, Manson’s eyeworm of chickens,” I announced, maybe a bit too proudly for my own good. “Chickens get them from eating roaches that have the larvae in their body. These baby worms made their way from Delilah’s gut, up her throat and migrated to her tear ducts. You see …”

Suddenly I was interrupted.

“Doc, you don’t need to go any further.” Glancing over to Samson, I noticed a distraught look on his face as he slowly lowered himself into a chair. “Delilah loves to eat roaches. How will I know if she gets these worms again?”

With a grin, I said, “Just watch for that flirtatious wink.”

I’m not sure what was more difficult for Samson to accept: the fact that Delilah had wiggly worms in her eye or that she was not really winking at him.

In truth, it was probably the latter. I probably should have warned him about watching for any signs of a sassy sway when Delilah walks. After all, joint disease is nothing to smile at.