Monday, May 26, 2014

We Have Chicks

I was intentional about not buying chicks this year.  We have raised a handful the last few years, a few pullet chicks to replace the aging hens each new laying season.  I wanted to keep the 1 acre homestead easy maintenance and we three more footloose and fancy-free this summer.  Alas, I let Gabe put eggs under a broody Maran, Marley, in the high nesting box.  21 days later, Gabe came into the house shaking from head to toe with adrenaline and holding an empty egg shell.  He had messed with those eggs the whole time, marking them, arranging them, cleaning out the nesting box under Marley, and shaking the eggs in the last week to see if they were chick laden or not!  I was horrified with the shaking and relayed all the dire admonitions about egg shaking from google search.  He asked if we could pray for miracle chicks.
Next morning after praying for "miracle chicks," we got our first fuzzy ball of fluff on Friday morning, May 16th.  Miracle was a strong ball of black fluff with pale yellow head markings, a Maran-Delaware cross that got booted out of the second story nesting box by mother hen.  We put a broody box together, and Miracle was a thriving chick until the little life snuffed out in the water dish late afternoon.  Wow, life is fragile!  We don't realize as a rule how thin the line is between life and death!  All life is a miracle!
Gabe was devastated, skipped ball practice, and deliberated on how to save the rest of the potential chicks in the nest box.  We attempted to move Marley to the chicken tractor with her nest, so we could leave her undisturbed at ground level to finish setting and hopefully raise a small brood.  Instead she fluffed, strutted, paced, cackled in low stressed grumbling sounds, and smashed the green egg with the pip hole to smithereens.
Gabe picked up the broken egg with chick, and the wet little thing fell out of the remaining shell.  Gabe came running into the house with it cupped in his hand.  We put the defenseless limp chick under the 100 degree heat lamp between two wool socks, and I told Gabe it wouldn't survive being prematurely hatched, blood vessels violently detached, swollen abdomen with bleeding umbilicus, and unabsorbed fluids in the egg shell.  We went back to the dire conversations on google.  One glimmer of hope was that the yolk sac was not evident and must have been absorbed.  Sure enough, Chip, hatchling from Chipper's green egg, began to move and fluff in the heat hours later.  A real preemie, Chip was so darling, finding legs, and learning to run around, peck, and scratch without doing somersaults.  We learned firsthand that chicks are indeed innately social.  This one was not happy being left alone in the broody box without a brood.  The socks were a comfort but far from adequate.  We went to the farm store and came home with a pair of bantams.  Ended up being a perfect arrangement.  Chip was beside herself with delight.   She had play mates, and they taught her all the proper chick behavior, including how to drink safely from the (now rock filled) water dish.
A day later, Gabe was still checking three more eggs under Marley, returned to her nesting box in the hen house.  He knew one was alive with movement and some peeping.  It was an Araucana egg that had a pip hole on Sunday.  Monday morning, he was focused on that egg and was very surprised to find an empty light brown shell and a fluffy yellow chick in the back of the nest box!  Daisy joined our brood.  She was a roly poly lemon yellow fluff ball that caught up to speed with the rest very quickly.
The green egg chick gave up its attempt to "unzip," and Gabe brought it in the house, pulling off shell that had begun to dry and adhere to the chick.  Crook was hatched late term, neurologically disabled with severe wry neck and loss of function to one leg.  There are stories of massage and vitamin E and Selenium for cases of wry neck.  We put Crook under the light, and he fluffed fast.  I dribbled kefir whey, apple cider vinegar water, and crushed antioxidant tab into his mouth.  Goodness sake, this chick is living a week later.  Neurological condition has not improved, but the chick holds onto life with tenacity.  I haven't had the heart to end it.
The last egg was a dud.  Marley, chickless, continues to sit on a nest and brood.  The story of our "miracle chicks"....  Any life lesson or understanding gained?  Just a fuzzy reflection of the mystery of temporal life, our very breath an interaction with the Divine, instinct and interference, finite elation and loss, undulating frailty and strength, seeming perfection and anomalies.
First Hatch
Broody Box with a "Miracle" fluff on the left.

Chip a couple hours after being prematurely hatched.

Chip has fluffed!  Ameraucana-Delta Cross

Second "Miracle Chick Chip" eased the loss of "Miracle" number one.
Chip with her Bantam friends; live cuddle mates are the best!
Daisy, far right joined the brood!
Brood is coating my house with a fine layer of dust.  Got to get them out soon!
Crook holding on.

Crook in a sock to hold him upright.  He can self feed this way.  Hoping his little life goes out comfortably.

1 comment:

Slambert said...

Ok, those are the best descriptions of chicks I have ever read! I love your reflections on the frailty of life and the Divine intermingling with our everyday- both striving and bumbling attempts, along with the Heroic!