Thursday, April 8, 2010
Law and Order: Special Chickens Unit
Law and Order: Special Chickens Unit
In the criminal justice system, baby-chick-hurting offenses are considered especially heinous. In Everett, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad know as the Special Chickens Unit. These are their stories.
1932 PM, Garden Shed in back yard, Everett.
It was unintentional. I swear. I was checking on the babies (who we had only had for three days), and one of the boards balanced on the top of the brooder box fell in. Five chicks scurried out of the way. One got trapped under the board, and it struck hard when it came down. I gasped, then quickly removed the board and saw the damage. The poor little Blue Wyandotte was lying on her side, limp, barely squeaking her protest. I picked her up and cradled her in the palm of my hand. We had weighed her the day before, and she came in around 55 grams. Just to put this into perspective, the smallest eggs we collect from our Hamburgs weigh in around 42 grams. The biggest eggs, which are laid by Raquel, weigh in at about 58 grams, not including double-yolkers. This chick was tiny.
I figured I had broken her neck. I rushed into the mudroom with her, urgently yelling at Aimee to come lend moral support. I felt horrible. I had unwittingly killed a tiny baby in her first week of life. I gently stroked her little, fluffy body. We debated how best to dispatch her, and I wavered in my convictions. We had only just discussed slaughtering and butchering our own farm animals that morning on the dog walk. That part of me dissolved into guilt and anger at my own clumsy ways. Killing a healthy adult chicken who's had a long life of grass and sunshine is far different from haphazardly wounding a baby who hasn't had a chance to see the world beyond her brooder box.
Ultimately, we decided to let Nature take over. "If she's got any fight in her, let's let her fight," I said. Aimee agreed, and I think she was relieved to know that neither of us then had to "do the deed," at least not that night.
We set her up in a cardboard box in the brooder box with her own heat lamp, a tiny lid of water, and a miniature pie pan of food (we had just made mince pies, oddly enough). I felt that it was important for her to hear her sisters nearby as a comfort, rather than passing away all alone, even if she was in the house near us. I fully expected to check in the morning and find a dead baby chick. It was also decided that a wounded baby in the house would only prevent us (and mostly me) from being able to sleep peacefully. As a result, I slept clean through the night and awoke to a sense of dread for the brooder box inspection. Much to my surprise (though you all know what happened), little Winona was awake, peeping, and moving around in her box. She was weak, and she kept falling over to the right, but something in that little animal had refused to give up.
I promptly moved her isolation ward into the house, ultimately setting her up in the bathroom (where crazy dogs could not get to her if we left the house). Over the course of the next full day and night, she recovered enough to be reintroduced to the flock. I distracted everyone by also giving them a clump of dirt and weeds to play with, a tactic I will most certainly use in the future.
And so, Winnie is once again a whole chicken, despite my efforts to behead her. She still isn't quite right. Her balance leaves a little to be desired, she's a bit slower than the pack (though she darts around the box full tilt every so often), and her left eye seems to only open halfway. We're hoping that her extreme youth will help. After all, babies are growing so fast that healing happens almost overnight with many injuries. In the end, Winona has endeared herself to us in ways I cannot explain. She was originally destined to move to our neighbor's house with three of her sisters (one Brahma and two Sussex), but she will now be a permanent part of our flock. I can't bear the thought of letting her go after all we've been through.
Despite my attempts to be neutral, to refuse to get attached to new babies who won't be staying, sometimes little critters have a way of willing me into emotion. All I can say to the other five is, good freaking luck with me around.