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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Death In the Hen House

One of my chicks died last week. It was one of my Easter-egg chickens, the americauna.

These things happen.

I noticed the day before he died that he didn't want to go out in the yard. I tried to put him out but he came right back in. I picked him up and examined him. There was a little food in his crop, and his eyes were still clear. He just wasn't interested in being with his pals.

The next day he was dead.

Birds have alarmingly fast metabolisms. Usually, by the time you know something is wrong, there is little you can do about it. If I had snapped that he might have had problems I could have given him some electrolytes in his water, but that's no guarantee it would've helped him.

It could have been dust, or maybe he dug out a piece of moldy food from under the hay. There's no telling. He was always the smallest of all my chicks, so it's possible he just didn't have the constitution of the others.

He's in chicken heaven now.

Total chick count: 25

I should have sexed them to see how many hens vs roosters I'll have but :shrug: it won't matter in the end. I can only keep one to two roosters per breed.

I have grown attached to one astralorp who was picked on by his mates until I put him with a younger group of americaunas. Unfortunately, he has to go back with his breed when he's old enough. You can see him in the top pictures. He's the solid black chick with his back to the camera. (camera shy)

Unless he can grow some cahonas and stand up to the bullies, it probably won't bode well. I really don't want to put him in the pot. He's a nice bird. Very gentle and friendly.

So far, the astralorps have been my least favorite breed. I've had astralorps before, but this batch is unusually aggressive, except for my poor picked on bird.

Despite my normal crotchety disposition, I do have a soft spot for the underdogs--or in this case, the underchicken.

I try not to get attached but when they need more than normal care like this one did, I can't help it. There's a good chance I might try to get him/her adopted by someone who wants a pet chicken. Yup, that's how much I like the little guy.

Do I have any takers?


Dru said...

Sorry about the little chick.

They're getting bigger now, I can really see them. Cool!

I hope you're able to find a home for the little guy.

Have a good Wednesday.

Marianne Arkins said...

The hardest part about raising livestock are the losses... I read Suzanne McMinn's blog and she's had two goats die, some of her ducks and a few chickens and it breaks my heart.

If I were closer I'd take your little guy!! I love chickens. Are you SURE you have to put him back with those meanies? We always let our chickens all hang out together: leghorns, Rhode Island reds and banties. It never seemed to be a problem...

Marian said...

Sorry to hear about the chicken who died. If you don't mind my asking... what did you do with the body?

Maria Zannini said...

Dru: Thanks. Yeah, aren't they getting big? The astralorps and buff orpingtons are even bigger. They almost look like full sized chickens.

They are two weeks older than the americaunas.

Maria Zannini said...

Marianne: :sigh: Normally, we would let them run together, but we plan on selling pure breed chicks next year so I need them separated.

I am hoping Underchicken is a hen. Maybe once they fall into their roles, they won't be so mean to her.

Maria Zannini said...

Marian: What a smart question!

I buried the chick under a deep mound of compost in our compost bin so that he can still serve the homestead. Circle of life.

There's a chance a wild animal could dig him out, but my dogs are over there so often, I think their scent keeps the others away. I haven't seen it disturbed so far.

Joanne said...

Sorry about the poor chick. Isn't it amazing how the animals all have their own personalities, and we grow so attached!

Maria Zannini said...

Joanne: They do have personalities! And even with 25 chicks I can pick out the troublemakers from the sweet ones.

Shelley Munro said...

It's always sad when a charge dies since you do become attached to them. I'd offer to take your chicken in a heartbeat for my sister, but it won't be practical to send him to New Zealand!

My sister has two batches of halfgrown chickens at the moment. They're not any particular breed but were hatched from two different mothers. She calls one batch the Dixy Chicks, and she has a name for the other set, which escapes me at the moment.

I don't like the sound of your aggressive ones. They wouldn't do for me at all!

Maria Zannini said...

Shelley: Maybe aggressive is the wrong word. They're bullies actually, and only to the other chickies. They're big cowards when they see me coming--unless they see me coming with juicy weeds or worms. Then it's, ah, Maria, my best friend. LOL

They all coming running to greet me then.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

I'm so sorry about your chicken. :(

My kids want to raise chickens, but we just don't have the space. We have a tiny yard.

I saw a program on TV where this hen's chicks were threatened by a hawk and she ran out into the yard and covered them with her wings outstretched, risking her own life. I was amazing.

catie james said...

Aw geez. I don't even like chickens and your story about Blackie makes me want to take him in. My condolences on the chick who passed; I root for the underchick as well.

Maria Zannini said...

Amanda: I've seen mother hens do that in real life. But then moms will do that no matter what their species. :o)

You'd be surprised how little space they require, especially if you only want a couple as pets or for eggs.

If they're tame you can let them roam free and just put them up in a little pen at night.

Maria Zannini said...

Catie: That black chick has been a trooper. His mates really hurt him the first time. It took him a week to recover from the wounds.

He got so used to me handling him that he became very gentle and isn't afraid of me or the dogs.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Hmm, maybe I'll look into raising a couple. The kids would love it. :)
We have a nearby feed store that sells them sometimes.

Maria Zannini said...

Amanda: Here are a couple of links that might help.

It's a lot of fun to watch them and they're good pets for children, especially if you raise them from chicks.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Thanks for the links, Maria. :)