September 23, 2005

We picked up the chicks at the feed store last night, 25 little yellow fuzzballs with a fleck of black here and there on top of their heads. They looked very robust and healthy. This was my first experience with mail-order chicks, and having them go to the feed store like this was the best of all worlds; they are picked up and cared for first thing in the morning. While we were there the store owner noted that one of the Silkie chicks from another order had a bad leg (spraddle leg), and said she’d give it to us if we wanted to take it. This bird isn’t sexed, so it could be a hen or a rooster. It is a black, smaller fuzzball, but definitely a Silkie. Lots of extra toes, and little fuzz all over the legs and feet. We took them home and got everyone in the brooder. I think the setup (which we have fussed over for days) will work well. We have 2 inches of sawdust over an inch or so of newspaper, with black 6 mil plastic around the exposed sides of the 4’x4’x4′ cage to keep out drafts. One permanent lamp for heat, and a second flood lamp on a timer to add extra heat at night. Food in a feeder tray elevated on two paving stones, and a suspended waterer hung so that it just touches the ground (can’t spill or get as much sawdust in the water). We added a cup of Gatorade to the water just for a boost (sugar, electrolytes). After everyone had something to eat and drink, we went to work on the Silkie. We took about 2 inches of Scotch tape and carefully split it lengthwise. We folded it over on itself and then wrapped that around the lower leg of the chick; same thing for the other leg. We gauged what was tight enough to keep the bad leg from sprawling, but loose enough so it could walk. We taped the tape into one piece, and trimmed everything carefully with some nail scissors. If all goes well, this can come off tonight. Chicks with simple problems like this can almost always be saved by some little intervention done right away. It immediately lets them stand and walk correctly, and in a day or so their little muscles take over and all is well. I guess many people just don’t know how easy of a fix it is, or they don’t have the time.

And, I pretty much wasted the rest of the evening watching them. New chicks are better than an aquarium. They race around, they screech to a halt, they peck everything, they chirp, they fall asleep standing up and keel over, they pass out spread-eagled under the heat lamp. Very cute!

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