I feel like a horrible chicken caretaker/mama/owner/person.
In the last week and a half, I’ve lost three baby chicks. The first last Sunday, was the egg I found half broken and half still alive. The second, Thursday morning, the last to hatch and our much-hoped for 2nd Easter Egger.
The third, this morning’s tale of woe.
One of Abby’s seven remaining babies somehow spent the night outside. ALL night.
Please don’t ask me how, because I’ll be honest with you, she has been keeping them close to her and inside the coop. I hadn’t realized he or any of them had gone outside at all, or else I would have have looked for him last night and he would probably still be alive.
But that’s jumping the gun. Here’s what I DO know.
Last night, we counted heads and locked up, as usual. Little Dude counted the heads of all the older ones. 28, including Abby. Her little chicks were tucked up in under her for the night, except three who had their heads sticking out from in under her.
I went outside to lock up the coop door and get the treat dish.
This was at 8:30-:8:45ish. They usually start going inside about 8-8:20, so this gives everyone time to find a spot on the roosts and tuck in.
I must have walked past the spot where I found the baby (a Chocolate Orp), two or three times but in the shadows, I didn’t notice it.
This morning when I went to let them out, I realized Abby only had six babies trailing after her. NOT the right head count. I freaked, especially after we had found poor little Stevie crsuhed in the wood shavings last month.
Then I went outside, thinking maybe he got brave and went out with the big girls.
That’s when I saw three of our pullets walking near (not touching) something brownish and fluffy on the steps near the waterer. He was tucked up like he was sleeping and I swooped in to pick him up. He was breathing, but gasping and his poor little body was limpish and cold.
He must have slept their all night, getting colder and colder as the night air leeched any remaining sun-warmth from the concrete steps.
I both marveled that he wasn’t injured visibly and that nothing had eaten him outright. He would have made any predator a good snack.
I tried to get Abby to stop trying to teach the others to scratch long enough to sit on him and get him warm, but she was in Busy!Momma mode and didn’t seemed to take much notice of the limp, gasping bundle in my hand, so I took him quickly with me to wake up My Girl (Little Dude was headed to Hershey, PA with his grandparents today so I was on my own), and together she and I got our med-brooder set up under a heat lamp. I had her take the Vitamin B solution I used when Baby was doing poorly back in March because I am out of Sav-a-Chick electrolytes (the irony, I almost bought some this weekend), and told her to put some in a little dish of water. My hope was to get him warm enough to drink and eat and beyond reason, pull through to go back to his momma.
While I waited for her to get a small dish for the water, I dabbed some by finger into his mouth and laid him in the med-brooder, and went about the regular chores because the coop still needed cleaned and the chickens still needed fed.
About that time I heard a weird sound, like a cry, and I went to check on him and saw him attempting to move around. Breathing heavy. He thrashed a bit, rolled over and got stuck on his back.
And then, suddenly, the thrashing stopped and his legs stiffened up. His breathing ceased.
My Girl arrived just then with the water.
She says she blamed herself for not coming quick enough with the vitamin water.
I could say the same for not seeing him in the shadows last night at lock up. What kind of caretaker does that?
I’m a little too shell-shocked to be sad. More like stunned and emotionally worn from losing so many so fast.
My chickens have been my happy place for the last year and three months, since we brought the first box of twenty (seventeen little golden roosters and three sweet little hens) home to live with us. They’ve given me joy in times when the rest of my life was raining down sorrow. Amusement whether I needed a laugh or not. Smiles because how can you not smile at a happy chicken doing their thing? They’ve given me something to focus on when I needed it the most.
More than a hobby, or livestock, or pets.
They don’t hate or judge or make demands on me that I can’t meet. The only thing they ask for is love, a clean coop, fresh water, food… and treats.
I feel like I failed these three dead chicks. I know I couldn’t have done much to help any of them, but I feel like should have been able to.