Several weeks ago, my family and I got home late one evening, after dark. My husband was out of town on a work trip so farm duties had been left solely to me. (Luckily my parents are close by and could lend a hand to watch the kids when needed. Thanks Mom and Dad!!)
This is when our now free ranging Sicillian Buttercups and Orpington chickens were still in their large brooding box on the back porch. As we walked up (my parents were with me), we peaked in on the little ladies. We happened to notice one not walking. Concerned, I took it out and put it in a box in side with its own food and water. Perhaps it was just being picked on by the others and was weak and needed a rest.
In the morning, it was worse. The chick’s legs were weak, and couldn’t put any weight on them. It was lethargic, tired, and wouldn’t eat or drink when prompted. As is par the course for me, I immediately start worrying and having anxiety.
Is the chick in pain? Am I going to have to cull it? When do I know where that line is? HOW would I kill a baby chick?
What caused this? Does it have a disease? Is it just a birth defect becoming present now? If it DOES have a disease, does the rest of my flock have it? Is it treatable???
You can see how my mind freaks out. This and a million other questions gnawed at me continuously. So I turned to the world wide web, as you do. I got a lot of great suggestions of what to do. There were several suggestions of things it could be, from something benign (dehydration), to concerning (Coccidiosis), to fatal and contagious (Marek’s Disease). Of course my mind jumps right to fatal, and now I’m concerned my entire flock has it and all of my poor birds are going to die. Just my luck after getting meat chickens!! Maybe I wasn’t meant to have chickens. Maybe I wasn’t meant for this lifestyle at all.
(Okay, so you see how my brain works. I get anxious easily, and over worry at the drop of the hat. I realize a lot of these things are irrational, and panicky. NOW. But in the moment, I was on the verge of a breakdown. If ya have anxiety issues, ya get me.)
So first, I treat it with electrolytes in the water. Because that will help regardless of whatever little chick had. I had to pick her up and dip her beak in to force her to get at least a few drops in her. I tried the same with the food but she wasn’t having it. I finally was able to get her to eat a little bit by having her eat out of my hand.
Next thing, vitamins. This isn’t quite as simple as one might think. You give the medicine in an eye dropper or syringe type thing. You wrap them up in a towel, then pry their beak open, holding it so you can put a couple of drops in. However, this is a little trickier than it sounds because you have to be careful you don’t get it into their lungs as they can easily aspirate.
More anxiety around that.
After a day or so of this (3x a day) she started to perk up. Not as lethargic, but still not walking. I still feared Marek’s and checked on my other chicks for similar signs like you would a newborn baby. So far, no other symptoms.
I decided to go ahead and treat for Coccidiosis, since, at this point, that was the only other thing that I knew to do. I bought the medicine and put it in the water of both the chick and the others, just in case. This went on for two days. On the third day, I woke up and as had become my routine, went to go check on my chicken, preparing myself to find a dead bird.
SHE WAS STANDING!!! Not walking around well at all, but STANDING! This was HUGE. I literally squeeled. Then of course I snapped a picture and sent it to basically everyone I knew. (Because obviously they were losing sleep over this as much as I was, right??)
Over the next few days, she got stronger and stronger. I put her out in the day time with the other chicks, then back inside at night. She grew a liking to me, and whenever I’d sit outside she would hobble over and jump in my lap.
Now she is back with the other chickens full time, and is too cool to come over to me most of the time. But that’s okay.
I don’t know for certain if it was Coccidiosis or if she just needed some TLC. In the end, I made it through my first “crisis”. (Even if it WAS little chick sized.)