But for some reason, i started having some formation anomalies in some of my chicks in every single hatch. In the beginning, i didn't have any place set up to keep any special needs, chicks, and i assumed it was an anomaly, and not a trend. So....i would do the wise farmer thing and um....return the deformed chicks to the earth, so to speak.
Pretty much always, the deformed chicks would be "late hatchers." They would take longer to make it out of their shells than the main group, and all too often not make it, in spite of my attempts to help.
In response to this pattern, i became very frustrated, instituting a policy that late hatchers would not be helped - or even allowed to try to finish hatching - once the main group was finished hatching and ready to go to market, remaining eggs, mid-hatch or otherwise, would be "cleaned up."
This policy lasted about one hatch.
My chicken hatching friend assured me that my policy wasn't heartless and cold, but ... the giant efforts of tiny lives, to survive and to thrive, soon re-encaptured my attention and my compassion. This is when i established a special needs unit in my outdoor brooder.
Every hatch had plenty of healthy chicks -- and a few who couldn't keep up. So the healthy ones were sent off to market, and the late hatches were added to the special needs unit. Soon, my special needs unit grew to around a dozen chicks, of varying ages, and of varying needs.
At one point i even purchased some special needs chicks from the feed store and brought them home so that they would have a chance at survival.
And my policy changed. Now, the rule became, "whoever tries to lives, gets the chance to try." And that's that. A few tried and didn't make it. Others hatchlings became entirely normal, with very little intervention, and are now a part of my flock. I became in awe of how much healing took place in my little special needs unit. It was just a lot of unexpected life.
And then there's Tilt.
See how the circled chick is kind of on her belly, instead of on her legs? This is Tilt. Some chicks get what is called Spraddle Leg, where their legs don't stay under them, and they kind of spread to the sides like Bambi on ice. This condition i have treated many times, with a band aid strip that holds their legs in correct position and helps make sure they don't start growing in that incorrect position. In simple cases, it only takes a day or maybe two days, and then the chicks are pretty much fine and dandy.
But in the case of Tilt, her legs wouldn't correct. They sort of kind of corrected a little bit, but after a while, i realized that one of her legs was actually growing in the wrong direction, kind of out the side of her body. I didn't get an x-ray or anything, but it appeared to me that her whole frame was kind of tilted, thus her name.
Now, i know that i could get a lot of advice on this little girl about "putting her out of her misery," and such and the like. But i have this new rule, remember? Whoever wants to live, gets the chance to try. And Tilt..she tries hard. This girl figured out how to push herself around the brooder, eat, drink, travel, socialize.....she looks funny, but she gets where she's going. And she has grown and grown and grown.
Eventually, Tilt moved with the rest of the chicks, into the big chicken coop, where she pushed herself around, ate, drank, socialized, etc. As her contemporaries started spending their time outside, and i was pondering how i could build a ramp of some sort that would allow Tilt to enjoy the great outdoors, she started pushing herself out the chicken door, throwing herself off of the one foot drop to the ground, so that she could be with the other chickens. This chicken wants to live.
However, it has become painfully apparent that she is enduring some serious bullying from her coop-mates, and no matter how many seminars you give to a flock of chickens, they have a really hard time learning to be sensitive to those with different abilities. A really hard time. Like they don't even get it at all.
So today, i had to remove Tilt from her flock, for her own protection. And now she's alone, in a crate on my porch. Lonely, but she doesn't have to compete for feed, and no one is pecking her in the head.
But this won't last, as chickens need other chickens in order to thrive, and now Tilt needs a new home. With nicer friends.
And if anyone of my local chicken-loving friends are interested and think you might have an ideal situation for Tilt, please contact me asap.
For fun, here are some pictures of beautiful chickens. Many of the little ones, are formerly special needs chicks, who are now gracing my chicken yard with a lot of beauty.
This is Tilt. She's about 8-10 weeks old. She's a white rock, and she really wants to live.