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My One-Legged Midget Chicken and Other Lessons in Chicken Raising

In the past two weeks my adventure in learning to rear chickens has moved back and forth on my two lists: Something I’ve Always Wanted to Do List and What Was I Thinking List.

Here is a message that I sent to friends the past Tuesday, Valentine’s Day:

Well. I read some happy Valentine’s day sharing and thought: blah! I’m in a bad mood. It is over these *$#! chicks. I had no idea of all that would be involved! I had no idea of how complicated I make everything, and how much I had to learn– and all Again! How many times have I done this in my life? I want to back up and have a do-over about these chickens. This morning I noticed a couple of runny poos. Yikes! Of course there is no telling from which one. Maybe they have the dread disease that I cannot pronounce and all because I did not use the medicated feed, that a number of people told me I did not need. People have told me all sorts of conflicting advice. And I’ve discovered that keeping the flock in a wire cat carrier similar to the ones as the feed store that looked so ideal has a large drawback. One can only get in it through a side door. Getting harder and hard to clean the dang cage with the chicks in there. They scramble around in a hazardous manner, and are very hard to catch from the side angle. They fly and flap all over, likely to get injured. One chick, who I’ve been concerned about for days as she is not growing and thriving like the others, got a hurt leg. Or had a stroke, I don’t know. All I can tell is that her right leg and foot is not working, and let me say that a chick cannot hop around on only one leg. I had to separate her out, expected her to die, but she did not. So now I have a stupid one-legged chick, still peeping, in a little box, with my desk lamp for heat, eating and drinking out of my grandmother’s cut crystal ice tea coasters.

My friends flocked, to use an apt expression, to bolster me, reminding me in so many words that I was indulging in listening to doubts, and that  there are trials in any learning experience, and laughing with me, too. One friend also pointed out: “How many people do you know who have a one-legged, midget chicken?”

Friends are invaluable. They help pick you up when you have a leg that has collapsed.

Handy husbands are equally invaluable. DH, probably in self-defense, fearing I was teetering on the edge, went to work designing and building a wonderfully larger brooder cage that is accessed through the top. And equally important, it would be placed in the garden room at the end of the garage. He even made a divider to give our little one-legged midget chick– we’ve named her Princess Puny– her own safe space.

By Wednesday morning, Puny was observed putting her foot on her crystal feed dish. Thursday, when we moved all the chicks to the new chicken condo, she was hopping around.

I just came in from the garden room, where DH was dropping dug worms to the chicks, and they were all, even Puny racing around chasing the lucky sister who caught the worm, while DH laughed with delight. Maybe the chicks were not only for me.

DH made a handy divider in order to give Princess Puny her first night by herself. Now she's back with her sisters, fighting over worms.

I’ve learned in these past two weeks that I embarked on keeping chickens with far less knowledge than I had believed and many more misconceptions. All perfectly normal, and due to the fact that experience is the surest and most truthful of teachers. No matter what the books have said, not just any old thing will do for a chick brooder; get something accessed from the top. The chicks don’t see you coming and you can grab them easily. Also, chicks, like fish and visiting relatives, stink in the house after a week.

I’ve relearned that when anything dire seems to happen, wait three days before one panics, and by then most things are resolved, one way or another.

Princess Puny is a bit smaller than the others, but that isn't stopping her from joining right in.

I’ve learned it’s awfully nice to sit in the garden room with DH, both of us on up-ended buckets, and watch the chicks just poking around. That really sounds odd, but the critters are mesmerizing, so besides the hope of eggs, they provide some relaxation away from the real world.

When I learn something new – and it happens every day – I feel a little more at home in this universe, a little more comfortable in the nest.–Bill Moyers

Blessings,
CurtissAnn

12 Comments
  1. Re-read your post and I think these chickens have it pretty darn good and probably don’t want the word to get out about these type of “digs”.

    That cozy chicken-watching? One of nature’s built-in “right-brain” nuture time; bet it hushes up the left-brain chatter and gives you a great co-experience of life just happening.

    February 19, 2012
  2. Hi CurtissAnn!
    I love the part about eating and drinking from your grandmother’s cut crystal drink coasters. Just think what an “ingrained” good self-image that chick is gonna have! She’ll be a regular beautious Southern chick Sistah!!

    Are you raising chicks for eggs? I didn’t catch the beginning of this I think.

    February 19, 2012
  3. I loved reading this blog post and was nodding in agreement with your statement that not just any old thing will do for a brooder box. I have been raising three young Australorp chickens since last October and worked out very quickly that top access is a must. Mind you, my chicks (huge chickens now, really) give the airborne predator alert when they see me coming nowadays! *laughing*

    I spend hours every day just observing my flock of chickens too and can’t imagine my life without them now.

    February 19, 2012
    • They have an airborne predator alert?! Oh, I will listen for it. I’m finding it does not matter how much one reads or is told about raising chickens, one must learn from the experience. Maybe it is mostly this way with everything. :) So glad for the connect with you!

      CurtissAnn

      February 19, 2012
  4. You must REALLY love eggs.

    February 18, 2012
    • Denise– well, I thought I did. :)

      February 18, 2012
      • Sister…You just take a big ol’ stock pot out to that coop and show it to them and your chickens are gonna lay the best tasting eggs you EVER had! Count on it!

        As the Bible says…train ‘em up in the way they should go. I’m sure that can be applied to chickens as well as children. ;)

        February 18, 2012
        • And Sister, you are too clever! Thanks for giving me a great laugh. I was just out at the garden room, feeding the chicks, and enjoying myself. I think I’m being trained up. And so it is–

          Sending hugs, dear friend. CurtissAnn

          February 19, 2012
  5. Brenda M in Oklahoma #

    How do we get experience? By doing something we know nothing about. And sometimes it turns out well and sometimes we learn we don’t want to do it again. But, then we think of all the good we learned from it and soon forget the bad (like childbirth). If we had hindsight, we might not ever try anything new.

    Baby anythings are the cutest ever! They will get kind of ugly when their feathers start to grow in.

    Did you buy all pullets or a mix? My family always got the mix and then we had meat for the freezer when they got to be about 6-8 weeks old. That’s a whole ‘nother story.

    Wishing you continued good luck. Looks like things are not too bad, but they are a lot of work.

    February 17, 2012
  6. Curtiss Ann, I love your chicken tales. My father was part owner of a chicken ranch in FL for a year or two, and I loved going there to play as a girl. Who knew you could get so attached and worry so much? Hope you’ll keep telling their stories.

    February 17, 2012

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