February 16, 2010

Problems With My Barred Hollands. And Chick Pics

We interrupt our philosophical musings to bring you an update on my baby chicks. Unfortunately, I've had problems with my Barred Holland chicks and have lost three.

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 some lots tons of chick pics.

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 


Theresa said...

Oh yes, way to cute! Love the chase scenes with the grass. Glad the cause has been found and a fix for it.

gavgams said...

I have 15 chooks at the moment.
I always use a broodie hen and have never had any chicks with leg probs.
Some have not hatched out of shell, but maybe that's meant to be.
Maybe it's a weakness in the breed?
The mother hen manages and teaches and protects them from the start. I don't even like to handle them because of the general upset.
I find incubators and broodie boxes and heat lamps unnatural and unnecessary. There's enough human dominion in the world.

Good luck with the little ones though. I feed mine mainly starter pellets then mix up with bits of bread, fruit, soft grass and chook grain/seed mix in increasing quantities. I worm after a couple of months and keep them with mother until she gets sick of them - couple of months.

Anonymous said...

I am SO sorry you had to deal with chick problems!!! I thought I was going to loose some of mine because of pasting on their bums, but I did the job of a mother hen and they were good to go! I wonder if, like gavgams said, its a weakness in the breed? I have no idea- we just went with RIRs since thats what RNH's grandma raised, they were pretty easy. Sheesh! You've already had to deal with so much!!!

I love the pics though! My favorite part of raising chicks was their akward "teenage" years when they were getting their feathers! TOO cute! Have fun with your babies and keep us updated!

Leigh said...

Theresa, it sure seems to have helped. I had one more Barred Holland that I though might not make it, but after getting some of the vitamins and electrolytes, it's doing a lot better. It's still the littlest and least active, but I suppose somebody had to be. :)

Gavgams, the breed definitely is smaller and slower starting than the others. The two chicks with leg problems had it on the same leg, so I've wondered if it was congenital and if they were from the same mother.

I'm very glad to hear about your system of raising chicks, and indeed, plan to do something similar as soon as I get eggs and a broody hen!

WFR, yeah, some of those chick chores would be pleasanter if left to their moms! Fortunately I've only had pasting with a few of them. I almost got RIRs but in the end (as you can see) changed my mind. :)

Julie said...

They are just so sweet! But that is so sad that you have lost a few, but I'm happy that you now know why!

maggie said...

Oh, I am sooo sorry Leigh. Keeping animals is wonderful, but does involve those tough calls that never really get any easier. It sounds like maybe that batch of Barred Hollands started out on rocky ground to begin with. You made the right decision. A suggestion for the future: make available sprouted grains (and maybe some tiny worms if you have a worm bin).

Theresa said...

So Leigh, what do you know of geese?
Here's my store of knowledge...good watch dogs, good for the grass, assuming we had any, can free range and long lived. They seem easy birds to deal with. Done any research on your end? Guinea Fowl?

Leigh said...

Julie, I hope that's why and I hope that's it! I did assume we'd lose some though, and made my order accordingly. In the end, I'm hoping for about 10 hens and a roo.

Maggie, thanks to you and Gavgams I started thinking about fresh foods for the peeps. I did give them a few alfalfa sprouts, about which they were only somewhat curious. I did notice later that all the sprouts are gone.

Dan and I realize that dealing with killing animals has much to do with our mindset. That's one reason I'm not giving the chickens names. It may never be easy, but hopefully we'll come to terms with it.

Theresa, I remember my mother telling of visiting the family farm in Indiana as a little girl and being chased all over the place by a big goose. She hated geese from that day forward, *LOL. I had a friend in North Carolina who had geese and absolutely loved them. She did say they poop a lot, so where they're kept can make a difference for foot traffic through the area. DH doesn't want them, so other than what you've already mentioned, I'm not very knowledgeable either.

Dan did want guinea fowl however, so I researched those some. Excellent for eating ticks and keeping the yard clear of insects, but noisy. Every little thing can set them off, which didn't make them a good option for us, considering how close the neighbors are. :) They would be good watch birds for that reason though. Nothing could sneak up on your place without them sounding the alarm.

Are you thinking of getting geese and guineas???

Laura said...

I'm getting some more Dark Brahmas next week to supplement the 5 hens and 1 roo that already live here.

The 30 cornish cross come the middle of March. I love having chicks around - the cat likes to watch them, but this year I'm going to brood them in the barn.

I have a 100 gal. stock tank that I use for chick starting, hanging a heat lamp into it. When they're big enough, they go into an X-pen, either covered with feed sacks or small chicken wire so they don't squeeze out. They're in there until they have enough feathers to be moved into the chicken tractor out on the grass.

In addition to a possible Vit. E deficiency, it could be an inbreeding problem. I am just a little suspicious about that because the light brahmas that I used to have were WAY smaller than the dark brahmas, but the size was supposed to be reversed.

Glad they like their "go juice" - I'm going to do that with the turkeys this year (end of May and June).

Love the pictures!

Lee said...

I'm sorry you had problems and lost a few chickies. But it is really common to lose chicks when starting out, and they're such delicate little animals, it sometimes just happens :-(

But there's no such thing as too much cute! Please post more piccies! :-)

Dorothy said...

Those poor little Barred Hollands must have been sickly from the start.

Judging from your photos the others are growing and thriving, I love the photos. You must be doing a good job of keeping Rascal well away from them! I dread to think what would happen if my cats found any fluffy little chicks.

Benita said...

I had to call Scott over to look at the cute babies. They are adorable!!! Gosh, this reminds me of being a kid any playing with the chicks and ducklings.

And you did the right thing by putting down the ones who weren't going to make it anyway. As young as these guys are, they would pick on weak members and the sick chicks would have had a miserable time of it.

Randy said...

Leigh, the babies are just too cute! I had my chicks and guinea keets on paper towels for the first week, in a large aquarium with a heating pad underneath. they LOVED the warm floor. Then they were moved into the chicken coop with 2 heat lamps- they were still small and I was worried about them out there! But they were fine. Because I handled my chicks they all were VERY friendly, and still are as adults. I love that about my chickens.

When they were less than a week old I started everyone veggies, in addition to the chick food - broken up into tiny, tiny pieces. They're all time favorite food was and still is steamed broccoli. They just went crazy over it. I figured the vitamins would be good for them. When the chicks were about 40 days old, they got sick and needed antibiotics. One of them got so sick it had to be put down at this time.

One of our Americana pullets had what appeared to be a genetic defect - a twisted leg/foot - when she was a chick. She limped, and when she was about 3 months she had to be put down because she could hardly walk, needed special attention, was so much smaller than everyone else, and I felt it was more than I could handle.

I didn't want to name our chickens, especially the roosters. We plan on keeping the hens only for eggs, not to eat. But I've gotten attached now. We plan on keeping 2 roosters and selling the rest because I just cannot eat the roosters that I hand raised.

Good luck with the babies... post lots of pics!

Sharon said...

Oh, that's a way lot of cute. Periodically my dad would have to put one of our animals down and he hated doing it. He even put down my dog when he started killing chickens and felt terrible, but knew that was better than taking him to the pound where he would be scared and lonely and was too old for adoption.

Leigh said...

Laura, a stock tank seems perfect for a brooder, I wish I had one but am making do with cardboard boxes.

I thought about inbreeding too. It wouldn't be surprising considering the breed is not common and that there is limited availability. Of the 3 Barred Hollands I have remaining two are doing quite well but one seems something of a runt and several times I thought it wouldn't last long. The next thing I knew I'd find it chowing down and drinking fine, though it's still small and a little wobbly on it's feet. I guess we'll just wait and see how it does.

Daharja, thanks. I knew there would be loses but pretty much just expected to find them dead, not injured and suffering. That made the decision making hard. Just shows the discrepancy between head and heart sometimes.

Dorothy, it certainly seems that way. For the most part Rascal hasn't bothered them. He's curious, but I showed them to him and told him "chickens" and then "no." Still, we keep the door shut when we aren't in the room (I have them in my studio until we move them out to the hen house.)

Benita, it must have been fun to grow up with chicks and ducklings. Chicks were always something I wanted for Easter but my folks always said no. Of course, now I realize that was for the best.

Lynn, I've been wondering about moving them out to the coop, especially if that heat lamp will be enough when our nighttime temps are in the 20s. Not to mention getting their brooder area in the coop preheated before the move! I think I need to get another heat lamp and then I'd feel better.

I'll have to remember that about the broccoli. We still have a little in the garden. I'm hoping not to get attached in the sense of these as family or pets. Only time will tell how well we'll do.

Sharon, I don't guess anyone who takes good care of their animals likes killing them. Still, the decision about the dog was the only logical one. Unless you had been ready to get rid of all your chickens.

Tina T-P said...

There's never too much cute with baby chicks - Oh, I miss having them - but I can't get around well enough to take care of them and The Shepherd is getting tired of taking care of the three geriatric hens that we have left (I think they are 10 or 11 years old!) It seems like if you get them past 2 or 3 years of age, they'll live a long time. Have fun with your new babies. T.

bspinner said...

So cute!!! It's amazing how fast those little chicks grow.
Sorry you lost some of them but I think you and your husband have a great attitude when it comes to your "live stock".

charlotte said...

It's so sad that you lost those chickens, but at least you know why. Good look with the rest of the chicks!

Anonymous said...

sounds like mereks or you need to put pine shavings instead of paper towels.