The first, as I mentioned previously, was dead on arrival. The second had either a leg injury or congenital deformity, we aren't sure which. We made an effort to save it, scouring the internet for causes and cures. We found information on an "orthopedic chair" for chicks with leg problems, here, but the instructions didn't transfer the "how to" from the writer's head to ours. I managed to give it water with an eye dropper and food with a tweezers, but it continued to grow weaker and started to have trouble breathing. I didn't like to see it suffer, so after much emotional turmoil, I made the heart-wrenching decision to put it down. We had already determined that our chickens were not pets, but livestock. We knew that some of them would eventually be butchered. Still, I wasn't mentally prepared for this so soon. Since DH was on the road, the job fell to me.
Then yesterday morning I heard a tiny (but loud) squawk from the brooder box. I looked to see one of the remaining four Barred Holland chicks being run over by another chick. Nothing unusual about that. But when it didn't get up, I took a closer look to discover that this one too, had a bum leg. There had been no sign of it until now, so I don't know what happened.
I called the hatchery (Ideal) and they were very helpful. They credited my account for three chicks and offered explanations and advice for leg problems. Besides slippery surfaces, leg problems in young chicks can also be caused by a vitamin E deficiency. They recommended a vitamin/electrolyte additive to the chicks' drinking water.
The last chick died shortly after that, so there was no prolonged suffering nor a need to do something about it. I'm thankful for that. Still, it leaves us with a bit of an emotional dilemma to resolve.
We plan to take the best care of our animals we possibly can. We will treat their injuries and ailments when we can. But we don't want any of them to suffer needlessly. DH and I realize that death is a part of life, and that sometimes life and death decisions have to be made. We faced that when Rascal was diagnosed with Feline Lymphoma, and fortunately our decision has given him a prolonged, happy, and useful life.
As much as we value life, sometimes death is kinder, even if an animal can be "cured." The question then becomes, "am I doing this for the animal's sake, or mine?" It was difficult to make the decision to put that chick down, and it was difficult to do it. But the relief that followed, from knowing that I had made the right choice, more than made up for the inner struggle I experienced beforehand.
Well, let's end this post on a positive note. Here, as requested, are
Three Days Old
Three Welsummer chicks and one Ameraucana chick on right, with black Barred Holland looking to climb over the pile. On left, yellow Delaware chicks. They are already starting to scratch to look for feed.
Ameraucana chick with wee, budding wings.
Yellow chick on left is either a Delaware or Ameraucana. The other two are Ameraucanas.
Four Days Old
I had to replace the brooder box because somehow they managed to dump out all their water during the night and soak the old box, without tipping over the waterer.
I installed them in a new box, covering the litter with paper toweling, until they can learn not to eat their litter. Even so, we noticed that they still managed to discover pieces of litter under the paper towels. This created no small uproar and a great chase around the box. Everybody wanted it.
I tossed a couple pieces of dried grass into the box and waited. These strange objects were suspicious at first,
But as soon as one of them was brave enough to pick it up, the chase was on.
After the games....
A change of litter paper and a nice nap.
Five Days Old
They really like the vitamin and electrolyte flavored water.
The Ameraucana chicks are beginning to develop the facial "muffs" characteristic to the breed. You can see the muff just beginning to puff out under this chick's eye.
Trivia question? What is the difference between Ameraucanas and Araucanas?
Trivia answer. True Araucanas are rumpless (tailless) and have ear tufts. Ameraucanas have tails, facial muffs, and beards. Both have pea combs, red earlobes, and lay bluish green eggs. (Q&A source - Ameraucana Breeders Club).
Delaware chick with developing wing feathers.
Tails are coming along too, as sported by this Ameraucana.
Welsummer and Delaware chicks trying to roost on the feeder.
This was the day I removed the paper towels and allowed them to roam on the pine mulch (way cheaper than pine shavings in the pet department). The chicks now know the difference between it and their feed, and are enjoying scratching around in it.
text and photos copyright 16 February 2010 by