Brooding Chicks: Week 1

I am coming to the end of my first week with my baby chicks. It has been a rough start, but now it’s more fun.

I think we picked the worst possible time of year to have our chicks delivered. Because we had planned on taking a trip to Lake Tahoe for Presidents’ Day weekend, we decided to have the chicks delivered the week after, the week of the 21st of February.

When we came closer to the due date, the whole midwest and western United States were hit with record-breaking freezing temperatures and storms. The chicks were coming from St. Paul, Minnesota via USPS Priority Post. I don’t know whether they get shipped by air or road, but either way it was going to be cold.

The chicks hatched and were accepted into the postal system on Sunday, 2/20/11, at 5:49 am (CST). Tuesday, 2/22, at 2:30 pm, the post office called me to come pick them up. That works out to about 60-hours in transit, when they need to have water and food within 48-hours… I think the holiday is what made it take so long – that and I probably could have had the post office hold them at the processing center for me to pick up, instead of my local station.

Needless to say, they were stressed. Out of 37 or 38 chicks, one was DOA, and 4 were not looking good. We started them on sugar water to boost their recovery and introduced chick start (non-medicated) after an hour or so. The four that were not feeling well were isolated in a little box, inside the brooder, nearest the heat source. They were given a mash of sugar water and chick start, handfed, for the most part.

27 of the chicks were picked up by my friends that afternoon, leaving us with 8 chicks: 3 not so healthy. The smaller population reduced the stress on the sick ones greatly for the afternoon and evening. By early evening, 3 of them were ready to go back in with the general population. The last one was showing great improvement by eating by itself and looking interested in the other chicks. Around 8pm we let her out to mix with the other birds. She seemed to be getting along nicely when we went to bed, but we woke up to here passed out and barely conscious. I don’t think she was getting any food or water through the night. I tried feeding her again by hand, but she was too listless. In a short amount of time she died. It was very hard on me. She was a Golden Polish, the breed I was most excited for…and I thought she was on her way to recovering the night before.

That second day one of the others started declining again, a Golden Laced Wyandotte, so she went back into the “ICU”. We handfed her the mash…and hoped…and hoped…then another one started declining rapidly. We must have not noticed her declining, because all of a sudden she was gone, too. The other one held on until the following morning.

In the other population that my friend took home, one of theirs died the next day. 5 chicks lost in all, but one bright note in all of this is that one of the questionable ones is looking like she will make it. She wasn’t showing the same signs as the other chicks that died, more like a spaz…it turned out that she has a problem with her eyes, which it seems is getting better. There was never any weeping or crusties around the eye – they just wouldn’t open all the way. Now one eye, the left, seems fine, and her right eye can only open partially. She is eating and drinking pretty well, and the others are not harassing her. She is still kind of a spastic, though. 🙂 We call her Dorcas. I believe she is a Dominique.

Today is Day 6, and all 5 are seeming healthy and playful – chirping away while I work.

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