Thursday, April 19, 2012

# 251 - I've Turned into a Mama Chicken; checking for feathers momentarily...

These two baby chicks found our way to our home after they were discovered in one of Stefie's friend's garage, after Easter. They had obviously been Easter chicks that had been discarded and somehow found their way to shelter in the garage. It's amazing they survived as long as they did

Stefie's little friend was trying to do a good deed by helping the chicks, but she was terrified of them and needed to find someone here, in a Greater Metropolitan area, that could take chickens. Not an easy feat. Fortunately, the chicken's had guardian angels who directed them to a place where people love chickens...our house.

Our two large dogs, each about 50 pounds, absolutely LOVE chickens. Lilya is especially giddy over the little chicks and has a motherly instinct that kicks in immediately. She wants to lick the chicks and care for them. Howdy, the Aussie, is extremely protective over the chicks and stands guard at their box, pacing and not letting anyone, but Deputy Dave and I, get near the box. He curls his lips back and growls and makes it clear that these chicks are his shepherding duty.

Liyla is simply so darn happy to have chicks again. We keep the chicks in our master bathroom and can hardly get Liyla to leave the room for us to close the doors. Howdy also is content to lie at the foot of their box and to be on guard. These dogs are truly amazing in their gentle, protective nature toward chicks.

And then, the unthinkable happened. Our little 6-7 pound Yorkie that we rescued last year found her way around Deputy Dave while in the bathroom and she suddenly went into attack mode as a chick was being put back in the box. In a flash, she lunged for the chick's head and managed to bite off the beak, mostly the top beak.

I'd been just around the corner from the bathroom and heard Deputy Dave repeatedly saying, "Oh my God" and I heard the horrible screaming of a chick in distress. I tried to prepare myself as I came around the corner to find his large hands cradling whatever was left of a chick and blood running down his hands, dripping onto the floor.

His hands were so big, I couldn't see what was left of the chick. But, the other chick was screaming too. It was another moment of chaos at the main homestead in the city!

Honestly, I stood there thinking that he was holding the remains of a chick that had been beheaded. In addition, Deputy Dave was thundering mad at Belle the Yorkie; she was in BIG trouble and running for the closet. But as I told Deputy Dave...she's a TERRIER; she's a HUNTER. Her breed is designed to search and attack, ruthlessly. You cannot turn your back on these dogs, especially with chicks. They are prime targets. But, I still love little Belle. However, we will have to turn up the senses a few hundred notches to compete with a terrier's determination. Around here, we are the bosses...she's learning.

So...Deputy Dave was fully traumatized. Here this big man is cradling an injured chick and devastated while at the same week he is working every day in criminal courts for a brutal Capital Murder trial. Not a good week. Same for me...I can't tell too much of what I'm doing right now, but it pretty much involves being exposed to some awful criminal cases that can turn your stomach, so both of our tanks were pretty much on empty already. Isn't that how life goes?

Immediately after the injury. After getting Belle into her kennel so that SHE could live another day...I flew into action online. I quickly went onto to search injured chicken beak data. Then, I posted a very fast blog to reach out to blog buddies. I did get some very good information and suggestions. One was to check to see if the nostrils were damaged. Man...I learned quickly how to find nostrils on chicks!

The chick, after the attack, clearly showed signs of distress because she could not stand. She wobbled, laid on her side and kept crying and bleeding all over the place. I was thinking, "How much blood can a chick lose?!"

It was horrendous to see a creature, a BABY creature suffering. I must admit, I had instant thoughts of taking the chick outside to put it out of its misery, on my own. However, my rapid on-line search had me second-guessing the chick's ability to indeed stay alive. Maybe there was a slim chance she'd make it through the trauma, the injury, and somehow adapt to living without a top beak. We checked for further injuries and could not see anything remarkable, so we decided to give her 24 hours.

However, the other chick instantly began to peck the injured chick's beak. Within two seconds of that kind of activity, we had the chick out of there and separated in another box lined with hay, a water bowl and feed bowl. But, the injured chick left the food and water untouched.

I tossed and turned all night...wondering if I was going to wake up to find a dead chick. To my amazement, the next morning, she was acting perky again. I was gentle and cleaned her beak of the dried blood packed with bits of dirt and hay attached to it. Then, I began to see if she'd eat. Starvation seems to be the main concern at this point. Initially, she wasn't able to peck for food.

Before the injury, I'd hand fed the chicks and they'd vigorously peck the food from my hand. Now, the injured chick would go into a pecking motion, but her beak area would never quite reach the feed in my hand...almost as if she were having "phantom beak" sensations, as if she had the sensation that the end of her beak were still present. 

Throughout the day, I tried to find a way to get food and water into her system. Fortifying the water with electrolytes, I began to take a syringe filled with the water and to put drops of it on the tip of what was left of her beak. Eventually, her little tongue would appear to swipe the water away and she'd throw her head back to swallow. TRIUMPH! After doing this for a bit, she figured out that the syringe was a source of food and water, so she'd eagerly down some of the goodies coming to a squeezing drop off the end of the syringe (open ended syringe for administering measured liquid medications).

I must admit, I felt a bit like a PROUD Mama Chicken.

I used my mortar and pestle to ground up her feed into a fine grain...she ate it. Deputy Dave even went to the store and purchased her Gerber Baby Food, pureed green beans! We were determined that this chick would have every chance to survive.

After he got home from work that next day, he sat on the floor of the bathroom with this chick and took his turn, even though he was exhausted, and made sure he got more food and water into her system.

Today, Deputy Dave felt her little throat area and could tell that she's again putting down food. She's looking good. Or rather, HE is looking good. We still don't know if this chick is a He or a She. As previously written about in a former blog post, I am sexually-illiterate when it comes to chickens, especially.

I'll just have to wait and see what we've got in a few weeks from now...kind of like a special Chicken Christmas present. Is it a Cock-A-Doodle-Do or Not?

Stay tuned. You'll find out the moment that I do!

I just hope it survives. If it's a rooster, we're not getting rid of this one. I don't know what we'll do. I don't have ready answers for this dilemma.

It's day by day.  Right now, even though I had a nap earlier in the afternoon, I can barely hold my head up to get this article posted. I'm off to hit "publish post" and go to bed.


Mike said...

Let's hope you can hand-feed long enough for 'Beaker' to adapt and make it past this.

Rae said...

Lana, you guys are troopers! What a horrifying thing to deal with! Good idea on the syringe. Hope baby continues to improve.

I can understand Deputy Dave's differing reactions to people awful vs animal awful. LJ is the same way, as he often has to deal with some horrible stuff at work (which doesn't phase him much), yet can not handle critters in pain. Gotta love a big strong man that has a weakness for critters. :)

Anonymous said...

Maybe this is just what you needed to take your minds from what you are going through otherwise.
But, goodness, surely it didn't have to be so dramatic to take your mind elsewhere. Beth

LindaG said...

Really glad to hear that the chick is doing okay.
You can both be proud!
I expect taking care of the chick is very therapeutic for Deputy Dave; just like aquariums and pets are for some people. :)

Belle may be a hunting dog, but she needs to learn what can and can not be hunted. Fortunately when you get to your property, there will be plenty of things to teach her yes to.

*hugs* ♥