Every year, new chickens come into our lives between February and April. If you don’t have chickens you might not know that they actually arrive from the hatchery in the mail.
These little characters came to me through a friend who ordered something like a 100 chicks. The picture shows their final ride home. I say “final” because my chickens usually start off life traveling from hatchery to store to the house, all in the first couple days of their lives.
But once they get home, they stay there. They aren’t allowed to leave the yard for the rest of their lives.
A newly hatched baby chick looks a lot like an egg-shaped cotton ball with legs and a beak. They grow very fast. In the first few days I check on them frequently and often find a cage full of exhausted chicks sprawled out in the pine shavings, asleep.
It’s exhausting being a baby.
A Tale of a Disabled Chick
Most of the time they all grow up with no problems, but this year one little chick had trouble standing and walking. I fretted for days as I watched her progress. While the others were running around like cotton balls blowing around the cage, she would rest under the lamp, alert and watching, but not joining them.
Would she be able to walk as an adult? Or would I have to cull her? I tried putting a brace on her as one does for splay leg, but she was so miserable I took it off again.
The chick was doing fine with her cohort of chicks, but what would she do when I put her out with the big chickens? They hate new birds and try mightily to kill them until they get used to them. Would she be able to get away?
A Visit to the Doctor
Finally, desperate, I took her to Dr. Melanie Marsden at Pikes Peak Veterinary Clinic. We have a rule in the house, “No Animal Experimentation”, which means that I don’t like to use advice from the internet without checking with a real expert. I don’t always take sick birds to the vet, but if I think we can help her and I can learn something then I’ll make an appointment.
“Will she be able to walk as an adult? I don’t mind putting a diaper on her and making her a house chicken, but if she can’t walk at all then that’s no way to live,” I told Dr. M.
The good doctor told me she had probably just been in a weird position in the egg and her right leg was slightly twisted inward, making it hard for her to walk.
“Will she be winning any chicken races?”, replied Dr. Marsden. “Probably not. But she should be able to get around.”
They gave her some sort of magic laser treatment and she is worlds better! I don’t think she’ll have to be a house chicken after all! And I think she is relieved too. No chicken really wants to wear a diaper.