Belfast Telegraph

Cornflake the hen has rejected new prosthetic beak

By Ivan Little

A traumatised hen who underwent a pioneering procedure to give her a prosthetic beak after she was viciously attacked by a stoat has rejected the new metal transplant.

Cornflake, a three-year-old former battery hen, was saved more than a year ago by Moira woman Barbara Mladek, who runs the Nuthouse Hen Rescue organisation and who gave her to a friend for adoption.

One morning her pal Karen Matthews, who runs the Almost Home Animal Rescue NI centre in Moira, discovered that the hen's face had been virtually ripped off by the stoat

"She had no nostrils, no top beak, no nothing," said Barbara, who has changed her name by deed poll to Mama Hen.

"I rushed Cornflake to a vet and luckily she had no puncture wounds to the skull, but because she had no top beak she couldn't eat on her own and Cornflake had to be fed by hand."

Mama Hen took the chicken back to her rescue centre and has been feeding Cornflake a paste made up of pellets, rolled oats, barley, maize and water since last Easter.

Then vet Barry Palmer from Vets4Pets at Sprucefield and Mama Hen decided to investigate the possibility of having a prosthetic beak made from a lightweight metal with the help of a 3D computer.

The beak was designed from precise measurements to fit the hen's face for her comfort, and after it was successfully completed discussions turned to how it would be attached to Cornflake's face.

Said Mama Hen: "She had to have screws and bolts put into her skull for the beak to be put into them. We had great difficulty finding the right screws and when we did get them we had to leave them to set for three weeks to make sure everything was all OK."

After the experts gave the green light for the procedure to go ahead, Cornflake was given an anaesthetic and the new beak was finally put in place.

"It was all looking good" said Mama Hen. "But after Cornflake woke up with the new beak on she got very distressed.

"She managed to rip the side of it off her face, and to stop her hurting herself even more we decided that the beak would have to be removed."

However, the rescue team haven't given up hope of finding a solution to Cornflake's problems.

"We are considering the idea of getting a recently deceased hen's beak sent off to the manufacturer to see if he can make one that Cornflake might be able to cope with.

"In the meantime I will continue to feed her by hand. It would be no big hardship to me to feed her like that for the rest of her days.

"We are all very fond of Cornflake. I would love to be able to give her back the ability to be a normal hen and pick things up off the ground to feed herself, but she may well want to stay as she is."

Several years ago another hen called Beautiful Becky rescued by Mama Hen had a less sophisticated prosthetic beak glued on, but she died from cancer shortly afterwards.

Mama Hen is hoping for a happier ending with Cornflake, who may well become a film star in her own right as a documentary maker is making a short film about her remarkable story.

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