the pudgy rooster, who — when he isn’t eating — is sleeping in his food.
I promise this will be my last consecutive post about chickens. But the reason I haven’t posted lately is because, well, my life has been taken over by chickens… so I need to throw at least one more post on the topic out there into cyberspace.
Update: All seven older chicks have spent two days and nights out in the newly-reinforced coop. The coop now has a solid, half-inch plywood floor, not to mention newly-reinforced doors and hardware cloth all over every single ventilation space. There is no way a fox can dig its way into this coop — although Emmett and I have been camping out by the coop for the past couple of nights just in case. The ladies are loving their new abode, and are especially enjoying the recently-added chick sauna: a cardboard box (the half-box you get when you buy a dozen Mason jars) full of dirt, perfect for dust-bathing. This box has finally led to the naming of the lone White Leghorn of the bunch: the leghorn likes it so much she sullies her pretty white feathers, so we’re calling her “chiminey” after the Mary Poppins chimney sweeps.
Sadly, Eileen/Cassidy/Su/Gimpy passed away. We think there was something wrong with her besides her leg: she hadn’t grown a bit, and by the time she passed at a week old, the other chicks were twice her size. Her wing-feathers kept growing, though, so she looked rather like an angel: a tiny little body with long, graceful wings. One day, she simply stopped eating and drinking, and despite our attempts to force-feed her (at that point, the only fight she showed was irritation when we dipped her beak in the water), she was dead the following morning… her little wings extended, like an angel in the pine-shaving snow. It was sad, but we know we did our best, and sometimes fragile little things just don’t make it.
Speaking of not-so-fragile little things — now it’s on to our story of the evening: the itty-bitty, roly-poly, meanie-weenie rooster.
A day or so after the little broken-leg one passed away, I went over to the brooder and noticed that another chick had issues. Not a runt, mind you, but rather the biggest, fattest chick of all — one who was so fat, in fact, that we’d tentatively named him Santa. But when I saw him, he wasn’t ho-ho-ho-ing: rather, the rooster was flopping/hobbling in the center of the brooder — and on closer inspection, I realized he was essentially walking on his knuckles, instead of the pads of his feet. His little claws were all curled up, which pitched him forward (and provided little grip), so he couldn’t properly walk. Fortunately, I already had a mini-hospital-brooder set up, so I grabbed him and plopped him down in it.
According to folks at BYC, curled toes are a fairly common occurrence in chicks — sometimes resulting from a thiamin deficiency, sometimes from genetics, sometimes from growing too fast and becoming too top-heavy. Suggested treatment: give chick vitamins containing thiamin (in water or drops) and access to yogurt (which contains thiamin, along with extra calories). Oh, and put boots on it.
Boots? Yes, boots. So now, not only have I wiped chicks’ bottoms, I’ve also fitted a chick for fashionable, functional footwear: a cardboard-cut out sole, with tape placed over it so that the chicks’ toes are splayed out and stuck onto the cardboard — which allows them to reform to the “normal” chicken-foot position after a few days of continuous wear.
Note: aforementioned fashionable footwear is prone to falling off when chick walks through water dish and/or yogurt, and thus the fashion (yellow Cheerios box, plain brown cardboard, blue scrap cardboard left over from something-or-other) changes multiple times a day as we’re forced to make new boots to replace the soaked ones. Unfortunately, aforementioned rooster does not particularly like aforementioned footwear, and so he seems to seek out the water dish out of pure spite.
This little rooster is really something else. While most week-old chicks are frightened by the presence of a fly, he snaps at it. He’s unfazed by loud noises: shut car doors, trucks driving by, people entering or exiting a room — he doesn’t seem to care, he just kind of fixes the offending object with a steely glare, don’t try that one again, buddy. When we put a lady visitor in his little infirmary and she tried to peck at a piece of food stuck in his backfeathers, he pecked right back at her — not so much to clean her, mind you, but in a “watch it!” kind of way.
And when he wants attention, he screams for it. He woke Emmett up in the middle of the night with his ear-piercing cheep (never mind that he’s about three inches tall and behind a shut door). The way this little guy cries, you’d think he was dying — and sometimes he cheeps if he gets his boot awkwardly stuck behind him, which is understandable — but most of the time, I think, he just wants company. And, since he’s so prone to getting his booted feet tangled together, he spent most of yesterday in the car while we harvested, weeded, and watered at the farm. That way, we could check on him and untangle him as needed. Under the sun, with windows cracked, the station wagon was just about the perfect temperature for a chick.
What to make of this little firecracker? More importantly, what to name him? Since, sadly, our last joint naming attempt passed away, maybe you can help me out with suggestions on this one. My current thoughts are: Santa (we tentatively began calling him this before he got hurt, since he was always the fat, jolly chick… but he seems to feisty for this one now), Johnny Walker Red (since he’s a Rhode Island Red, and needs a walker, and has some kick), John Wayne (because he’s fat and feisty), Boots (for obvious reasons). Currently, we just call him Rooster, which has echoes of John Wayne (as in Cogburn), but it seems too obvious.
Enough obsessing over chickens. My next post is going to be about produce. I swear