One-legged chicken gets cancer treatment

WHEN a one-legged chicken contracts cancer in that leg most farmers would admit it's time to give up.

Will Clarke

WHEN a one-legged chicken contracts cancer in that leg most farmers would admit it's time to give up.

But this lucky fowl has been taken to experts for specialist cancer treatment after her owners became so attached to the bird.

Chris and Elaine Denny, the owners of Eve the chicken, have taken the bird to the Animal Health Trust, near Bury St Edmunds, which has one of Europe's top animal cancer units.

They travelled from their smallholding in Worcester yesterday for a crucial appointment with Dr Sue Murphy, head of oncology at the trust, after their vet recommended the centre for its first-class care.

Best known for treating racehorses worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, the trust's expert staff are now doing their best for brave Eve - a Sussex Buff cross.

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And distance was not the only barrier. The couple battled prejudice to get the care they believe their “pet” deserves - other oncology specialists laughed when they heard the patient was a chicken.

“She is just a pet to us. It doesn't matter if she has four legs, two or in this case one. She jumps round the garden and responds to her name just like a cat or dog,” said Mrs Denny.

“We would do this for any of our 15 chickens but we do have soft spot for Eve. She is so bright and breezy - I think she can pull through. If I thought she was suffering we would not go ahead with it.”

Mrs Denny, an accountant, has been caring for the chicken while the bird convalesces in her office and Eve is now famous for laying eggs during meetings with clients.

Chris Denny, who is not a vegetarian unlike his wife, said he was fully supportive of the exhaustive chicken therapy. “These are Elaine's animals - they are her diversion from the office. But I am an animal lover too and I am supporting whatever Elaine wants,” he said.

“Most chickens don't get treated this way but this is a pet and we want to do the best we can in the same way anyone would for a cat or dog.”

Dr Murphy admitted the hen was an unusual patient for the trust but said she gladly gave her precious time to help Eve after hearing the Denny's plight.

“We believe this will be the first treatment a chicken has ever received for a squamous cell carcinoma - so it will be pioneering.

“Firstly we will reduce the size of the tumour in surgery before administering radiotherapy using either strontium or iridium. It is complex and expensive - whether it is worth it is up to the owners and these are very committed owners.”

FACTFILE

Mike the chicken was also a great survivor. It is reported to have lived for 18 months without a head after a freak slaughtering accident in 1945.

Chicken is Britain's most popular meat - 855 million chickens are raised in the UK each year.

Fear of chickens is known as alektoraphobia.

Today's chickens are thought to be descended from Indian and Asian jungle fowl.

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