Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Deja vu all over again

Those of you who have followed my blog since the beginning will recall my angst at the meanness of my prior flock of chickens - the blood, the bare backs and butts from feather picking, and my many attempts to stop it.

Well, the original flock's offspring are no better. A few days ago, after a couple peaceful days in the big coop, I checked on the chicks one evening and discovered carnage. It was partly my fault: the evening before I saw some little bare spots on a couple of chicks and figured I'd pull them the next day. I acted too late. By the time I got out there to pull those pecked on chicks, one was dead, one was in shock, and two more were visibly bleeding.

I quickly moved the dead body ("Duckling," the suspected Easter Egger cross chick with the yellow and black face) out of the coop and scooped up my unconscious black Easter Egger pullet, whisking her into the house. They had pulled every last feather out of her tail and surrounds, leaving bloody mess. She was droopy, listless, and had her eyes closed. I put her in a cool sink of water to cool down and clean off (it was warm that day), treated her wounds with hydrogen peroxide, and set her on a towel on my lap while I sent 911 messages out to my chicken boards. I did get her to take a single sip of sugar water a within the hour, and when I poured hydrogen peroxide on her wounds she did stand up, open her eyes and squawk, but that was the most activity I got. She died in the night on her towel in the bathroom. Her two bloodied cohorts, Teeny (the runt) and the sole remaining Easter Egger, had been moved to the brooder box in the garage and received hydrogen peroxide and Blu-Kote for their smaller wounds.

Later, Paul and I went out to the coop after dark with a flashlight, Blu-Kote and towels and I proceeded to take two more bloodied chicks to the brood box and I sprayed a couple of others with Blu-Kote to hide their bare spots. The injured and the non-injured have been separated now for a few days. The garage babies are faring a little better in the extreme heat we've had here. I watched the eight coop babies for a while and believe the white chicks might be the instigators of the violence. I plan to construct a small dog kennel pen in the shaded part of the yard, capture the white babies under the cover of night, and toss them in there to duke it out, and move my four garage babies back with the rest of their siblings. I suspect I won't see any more violence amongst the larger, but if I do, I'll use a process of elimination to cull the bad ones out.

I have since learned that chicken breeds bred for higher egg production tend to be more aggressive, and Easter Eggers more docile, so it's likely my Easter Eggers get picked on because of the discrepancy between personalities. I will not allow aggressors in this new flock; I had too much trouble last year. Next time I'm ready to have more chicks, I will skip the Sex Links (red or black) in favor of breeds known to be more gentle. And I will definitely continue with Easter Eggers as I love their sharp looks and green/blue eggs. It will be interesting to see what my flock ends up looking like in a couple of months, once this episode has passed...I have a feeling it will be mainly black, and hopefully violence-free.


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