More than Livestock, Not Quite Pets

web-chixThis year when I could not tell the packing peanuts from the keepers, I ended up with 20 baby chicks for the first time.  My normal number of chicks is between six and ten.    When you have as  many birds as I do this year the are too many to name, and “really get to know.”  So they are a flock of little chicks.   This has been a learning experience

They are living in a brooder in my studio space and in less than a week I am ready for them to move outside.  They have generated more dust and are already getting stinky.     Unfortunately the weather is still so cool here that I don’t feel I can set up an appropriately warm brooder yet outside in the shed.   This flock is almost 4 weeks earlier than usual, and this inability to move the out to the shed and keep them healthy really sucks.   But I am charged with their welfare so for now they will continue to live in my favorite personal space. .

Twenty chicks in a brooder, means the weaker chicks have less chance of survival.  On the first night I had one chick who by all outward appearances looked fine, never found her groove.  She was by far the smallest.  No matter what we did, she would not drink or eat.   She passed away the first night of what I call failure to thrive.   It has been several years since I have had that happen to me, but it does happen.     I now have a chick that arrived in good shape, but some other bigger bully or maybe it was just curiosity picked at her eye  and  she is now blind in one eye.   She isn’t doing so well any more.   She is not putting on weight, and is hanging in the corners.    The human nature in me says isolate her and work with her, but a single bird taken from the flock is hard to reintroduce and much harder on the bird.   We are keeping an eye on her and trying to coach her along to eat and drink.  If she continues to fail, the humane thing to do may be put her down.   This really sucks too.

It is some of the hard realities of having animals.   These chicks living in my studio are not some anonymous chickens that arrive in the Styrofoam containers at the supermarket.   Yet they are not my pets.   I am charged with practicing good animal husbandry.  Sometimes that sucks.


14 comments on “More than Livestock, Not Quite Pets

  1. OK – just let me know. I have to go to town later today, so I think I’ll treat myself to a stop at Murdochs and see just what they do have. I don’t suppose you want any goslings – I think they had some last year and one of the high spots in my audio memory was the sound of my 3 goslings the one year I had them – a story unto itself!

  2. Tough times. It’s funny how animal babies are so very tough in many aspects, yet so very fragile in others. When I was getting mail order chicks when we lived in the Helena Valley, their first home was down in the barn in an old metal washtub with sawdust or wood shavings in the bottom and a 4-bulb brooder light hanging over them. The light hung from a chain hung on a nail, so I could adjust the height of the light to adjust the heat for them. By the time they outgrew the tub, they were still in an enclosed (indoor in the barn)
    space and the light was still on and they seemed to stay under the light on their own. A fringe benefit was that their water never froze, either. With any luck, the deceased were fillers, not your special-orders. I think Murdocks here has their chicks in now, so if you find out you need to replace a special breed chick let me know! That’s the kind of errand I love to do!

    • Thanks Janie! I know that they should be able to with heat lamps go out to the shed, but I like to do the first couple of weeks in the house. It is that human tender heart of me. I am going to have to looking at what I have and what we might need to fill in with pretty quick otherwise these will be too big. I surely don’t want to do two clutches.

  3. We kept a blind chicken once. The other hens/chicks (they were only about four or five months as I remember) pecked her eyes out. We kept her in a rabbit hutch and the kids doted on her. I loved to let her out because she would follow the sound of my voice and stick close to me as I gardened. Sadly, after about six months she wandered in to the dog’s area and was killed. We were all so very sad, unlike when we’ve lost lots of other chickens over the years. “Kernel” was a pet. Hope your little girl makes it. Animals adjust to handicaps better than people do. Blessings!

    • Those chickens that turn into backyard pets really are just like silly dogs, who are always glad to see you and adore you. “The Dolly Brahma” is still one we talk about and compare all others to. She had a big ole chest like Dolly Parton, and the calming personality of the Dali Lama. She was great b/c we could always pick her up for little kids who visited to pet and hold.

  4. I totally understand what you mean. Culling and humanely dealing with severe injuries is my least favorite part of having a backyard farm. But it is part of the big picture. Sorry you are dealing with that right now.

  5. Survival of the fittest still sucks! But sounds like u will have some cockerels for the freezer! Keep on keeping on! I have 27 coming in a month and am super excited… Keep the pics coming… What breeds did you get this time?

    • I will posting some on each of them in the upcoming weeks. Also see the tab at the top Backyard Chickens for info on my birds since I have been blogging. I am really sorry that I lost the partridge Chantecler as I think the are just beautiful hens.

  6. Wishing you good luck with the chicks and hope you don’t lose too many. I enjoy reading about your chickens. My mother had them when I was little and I even had a pet hen! Also pet bantams.

    • I have had two hens that were so wonderfully friendly, they were like outdoor pets. Some of them make perfect pets. I could not bring myself to send them to freezer camp. Fortunately for me has only happened that one time.

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