Last time I posted about the chicks there were 13. Most of them hatched on Tuesday and one or two hatched on Wednesday morning. Then there was an anxious wait for the last three eggs. Unlike her usual staunch self, I found Frodo off these eggs a few times, or leaning forward helping the chicks, not covering the eggs properly. I don’t blame her, there were so many babies that were demanding her attention. One of the eggs had a crack in it all day but nothing had happened so I nervously opened it at the end of the day. It was the last of the Waikato Australorps and it was dead. Seeing a chick at the almost hatchable stage was sad. It looked like a blue one.
I was going out on Wednesday evening and before I left, one of the last two eggs, the only Northland ‘posted’ Australorps, had pipped. I got home late but decided to check on the chicks. Good thing I did. The wee chick was out of the nestbox in front of Frodo, hardly moving. I picked it up. It was very cold but I could still feel its heartbeat. I quickly brought it inside, heated up my wheatbag, wrapped it in a cloth and held the wheatbag around the cloth.
I sat with the chick for two hours. I didn’t know if it would survive or not but I was sure going to fight for it. After a while it started to cheep and I was relieved. I talked to it. Its eyes opened and its fluff started to dry out. It became increasingly fidgety and noisy and when it got quite fidgety I happily took it back outside to Frodo at 12:30am. I was a bit concerned about its legs though. They seemed a bit malfunctional, but I thought maybe it was just taking time to find its feet and gain strength.
In the morning, wee Orphan Annie, as the chick became known, was fluffy and warm but was definitely having trouble walking. I had read about splayed legs or spraddle leg in chicks and how you can use tape or a hairtie to strap the legs together. Her legs weren’t terribly splayed out to the side but she was having trouble walking and keeping her balance. She fell over a lot. A visit to The Chicken Chick website showed me what to do and told me it was an easy problem to fix. I used strips of self-adhesive bandage to wrap little anchor points around each of the chick’s legs then one strip across the legs to hold them together at a distance a little wider than normal stance. I also helped her learn to eat and drink since she was behind all the others. Then Orphan Annie went back to Frodo and her hatchmates.
Then we get to the last egg. Frodo and chicks were sitting out of the nestbox that morning and the last egg was cold, but it had pipped. Oh dear. After tending to Orphan Annie’s legs, I had to open this egg, as Frodo had given up on it and it was now or never. The wee blue Australorp inside was quite cold but still alive. I wasn’t hopeful about this situation but I had to try and save this one too.
I put the wheatbag and the cloth-wrapped chick inside a small box in the hot water cupboard. Aside from an interrupted, cold start to the world, the chick’s umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around one foot and when it moved it caused a hernia as the umbilical cord pulled off the chick’s stomach. A little piece of something came out. I was hoping it was just tissue but worried it was a piece of intestine. Of course, this was the morning I had to leave the house early to get to The Little Fulla’s last plunket nurse check-up, followed by my physio appointment, so I had to leave the wee thing in the hot water cupboard and hope for the best as I ran around like a maniac trying to catch up. When I went to get The Little Fulla up he’d done a bed poop. Of course there was a poohsplosion on a morning like this! So, that meant an unexpected quick bath as well and a spasm-y back.
The chick was still alive, cheeping and squirming around when we got home but not drying out particularly fast. I knew hernias were usually a bad thing but some quick reading revealed that some chicks could survive a hernia if their innards hadn’t been damaged and it healed over. The chick did not survive. It was very sad, especially when I was in the midst of a hard week running the household on my own with a back injury while The Husband worked days and evenings. I was gutted that I couldn’t save it, but at the same time it wasn’t surprising and it was probably for the best. I didn’t need a needy, unhealthy chick in the midst of everything else and it wouldn’t have made a healthy chicken in the long run. Plus, I already had one problem chick!
The Little Fulla had his first lesson about death. I showed him the wee chick and explained that it was not asleep, it was gone and we couldn’t fix it. Together, we buried it in the garden and dropped little daisies in its grave. In The Little Fulla’s ‘Nightly Digest’ that evening, in which he chatters to himself in bed about things he’s done and practises his words, the words, “Poor chickie” were heard.
On a happier note, Orphan Annie is doing heaps better and got her strapping taken off after two days. I said I would be happy if even one of the posted Australorps hatched after their misadventure, and I’m more than happy to have one alive! She is smaller than the others but she’ll catch up and she can run around now. She is actually one of the more confident, chilled-out ones, which is interesting. The Lorelai babies are all scaredy-cats for some reason.
And so, Frodo has 14 babies. I’ll bet she’s wondering what on earth she got herself into now. Here’s hoping we’ve swapped the rollercoaster for a more leisurely ride. The chicks are eight or nine days old now and are learning about the outside world and how to get up and down the ramp. Ramp training is always a bit time-consuming and patience-testing, but it is definitely easier this time with one side of the ramp against the coop wall. Of course, there’s a loopy one, and this time it’s the blue Lorelai chick. If it would just take a chill pill… Even so, it’s got nothing on Mr Collins.