We are sad to report the loss of one of Rory’s chicks. When we went to the coop the other morning I noticed that one of the chicks was off to the side and, while it was standing, it was not looking the greatest. “Oh no!” I thought, but I didn’t say anything. As I quickly refilled their water bell The Little Fulla started yelling at me. “Mummy, there’s a problem chick!” I was amazed that my three-year-old had noticed that one of the chicks had a problem.
Of course, it was the Annie chick, the most important one. My heart dropped. It was still cheeping when I picked it up and walking a little bit, but it was closing its eyes intermittently and looking weak. I first gave it a bit of vitamin water to try and pep it up, then checked it over. No visible parasites, no visible injuries… Then I noticed that its crop felt quite full. Squishy full. A lethargic chick is not normally a full chick. I surmised that it could be a crop issue. I massaged its crop a bit and couldn’t feel anything hard, so I thought it could be sour crop. But I was unsure. I’ve never had a crop issue with a chick, only adults. Could a chick less than a week old even get sour crop? I thought about trying to make it spew, but that would be tricky and dangerous. I gave it some Epsom salt water, as I would for an adult, to flush out its crop. It was going downhill so I put it in a small box with a cloth under the brooder to keep it warm. The poor thing didn’t make it.
I was gutted to lose this chick. Not just because it was an Annie chick but because I was busy the afternoon and evening before so didn’t pick up on the issue sooner. They were shut in the coop while we were out so I hadn’t seen much of them. I took the dead chick outside and pondered whether I could handle cutting it open to ascertain the cause of death. Quite frankly I couldn’t. I was feeling too sad and bewildered, with The Little Fulla tagging along, interrupting my thoughts with constant conversation. But I didn’t have to do an autopsy. As I ran my thumb over the chick’s crop, a drop of liquid dripped out. I went over to the compost and massaged its crop. A bunch of liquid stuff dribbled out, which had a sour whiff to it. Sour crop.
How on earth did that happen? I’ve always let the chicks have some outdoor time from a few days old. I suppose the downside to a hypo-foraging mother hen is that the chick could have eaten something too big for it to handle. Or just too much of something. Was it the one that ate the crane fly-type bug on its first day? I can’t remember. Something got stuck in its crop and I didn’t know until it was too late. Maybe I should have tried to make it spew up but I suppose the issue would have been too much for its body to cope with anyway.
I don’t normally let chicks have as much outside time in the first week as these ones have had, but Rory has been making such an excessive mess in the coop. I have the feeder and drinker hanging up from a roost or sitting on a brick, and she’s still flinging mounds of wood shavings into them, scratching right through to the coop floor all day long. Now I am trying to decide if I should keep them shut in the coop until they’re a bit older, which means they are mostly eating stuff, including wood shavings, off the floor, or whether to keep letting them have access to the outdoors, which means they have access to whatever is in the pen, but at least their food and water vessels are up on cinder blocks and don’t get much stuff kicked into them. I don’t know.
The one good thing is that The Little Fulla is learning how to spot sick chickens, which is very helpful. This isn’t the first time he’s alerted me to a chick situation. When Frodo was raising her chicks in the Corner Pen, one chick got under the chicken wire that’s across the gappy brown fence behind the Cedar Tree, the part of the fence that hasn’t been demolished yet where the dirt is eroding, and up onto the dirt between two fence planks. It couldn’t get back down and under the wire. The Little Fulla quickly came and told me that a chick was stuck and I got it out. I am very proud of the animal skills he’s developing.
In the Annie offspring department, that leaves us with the black 6-week-old, who I’m quite sure is a boy. This could be good, as I’m wanting to replace overly-dominant Darrington, but this chick is a little highly strung at the moment. I’m quite sure that its dark blue hatchmate, offpspring of Frodo, is a boy too. I’m sure I’ve heard a little crow a couple of times in the morning, so there’s at least one cockerel in there. The lighter blue Frodo chick is almost certainly a girl and the two Dorkings look like girls. The suspected boys will be getting more handling to try and settle them down. Otherwise, there are the seven Annie eggs in the incubator. I haven’t got a more precise thermometer/hygrometer yet so I’m having another crack at trying to get the settings right. The air temperature has been hot but much more steady than the ups and downs of last time, so hopefully that will help.