This 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.