We prepared ourselves for mistakes. Two years ago, when we began giving some foundation to our dreams, we knew that we would succeed and we would fail and we would learn the hard way sometimes. But we didn’t get stuck in the “what if’s” and instead did a little Internet research, book research, and took the approach that Hank likes to call, “Ready, Fire, Aim!” That’s pretty much how we decided to become Chicken Farmers.
The latest long story short is this: There is a process of introducing young chickens into a flock of larger, older birds, and we got it almost right. We separated them with a temporary fence so they could see each other and get accustomed to each other for about a week, allowing the babies (seven weeks old now and fully feathered) to have the large coop and the big girls (a flock of five) the small, temporary coop. We removed the temporary fence two days ago in the evening and they did fine, with the older girls bullying the babies a little, but no real scuffles happened.
Yesterday, about mid-morning, I walked out to the pen to check on them, and our mistake was evident. We shouldn’t have left the smaller coop in the pen; the smaller birds could get cornered easily and killed. Sure enough, the big girls had cornered about half of the babies in the smaller coop, and in an effort to protect themselves and/or get away, the babies had piled in a wedge between a screen and the back wall of the temporary coop. Piling is bad. VERY BAD. When I found them, I had to get Hank to come help me by carefully lifting the temporary coop while I tried to wiggle the babies out. One of our Buff Orpingtons had been smashed to death, and one Buff looked VERY bad. One of the Red Stars was pretty gimpy, too, but seemed to limp off and recover pretty quickly. I picked the injured Buff up and held her for a while, but she wasn’t breathing well and underneath each eye was pretty banged up from being picked. She was very still.
Hank and I talked a while about culling her from the flock and we made the decision to do so. She was in pretty bad shape. I dipped her beak into some water and she drank a little…I just felt so sad. I felt like we had made a huge mistake in combining all of the girls. When Hank returned from taking the temporary coop to the dumpster, I told him that I just wanted to try to nurse her back from her injuries. I had checked under her wings, and there were more wounds, but not too bad. Neither wing seemed broken, so I placed her in our pet carrier with some water and food and ran to the feed store for a spray to treat wounds that I read about here.
I treated her wounds three times yesterday.
I put her back in with the flock this morning after checking her over. I read that you shouldn’t keep injured chickens separated from the flock for too long or they’ll lose their “rank” in the pecking order and really get picked on. She’s walking around, not quite as peppy as the others yet, looking a little like Rocky with a swollen eye, but she’s just fine.
I feel more accomplished today than when I received my Master’s Degree.
Hashtag FARMERMARY, y’all.
P.S. No photos today. Just letting her be.