My Special Needs Chick Can Fly

Chick shoes

No, that’s not a euphemism. I have an actual chick, hatched from an actual egg, that has a few ‘issues.’

He (I have no idea, we just call it he) has one enormous eye – it appears the eye has either popped out of the socket or the socket never formed properly. I assumed he was blind in this eye or soon would be, I was just worried about how delicate it would be – would it get pecked or knocked? He also has extremely curled toes so that he couldn’t walk but was shuffling around on the sides of his feet.

After a couple of days I worked out how to make little ‘chick shoes’ that straightened his toes out and he started standing up and eating. That was very exciting because we lost some chicks in an earlier hatch, so if he’s eating and drinking on his own that’s a big step to making it.

But it soon became clear he wasn’t doing well. He spent most of his time sitting against a fence or the edge of the box, and he sits with his blind eye out. It must be blind now, most of the time it’s covered in dried tears although there doesn’t seem to have been any infections and it’s cloudy. I probably made it worse by putting some betadine on it – there was some blood and I didn’t want to risk infection, in hindsight I probably should have just left it alone.

We kept him inside for a bit when the other chicks went out, just to make sure he was walking ok and could get to the food without competition – not only is he unsteady and half blind, he’s half the size of the other chicks. There was another chick with a cut on its back we were keeping an eye on and had the two of them together for company. But after the second chick was ready to go back, there wasn’t any real point keeping Bung inside.

Through it all he’s been an amazing little fighter – he obviously has huge problems, but he can move around, he’s trying to scratch in the dirt, he finds the food and water and even though he’s tiny he’s developing little feathers. We keep preparing the girls that he’ll probably die, but every morning he’s still there. It might sound a bit cruel to put him out, but what else are we supposed to do – this is a chicken we’re talking about. If he can’t walk, scratch and find food and water he’s going to have a pretty miserable and short life, so better to find that out now and deal with it if we have to. Starvation and bullying is a nasty way to go. We’ve only given him minimal help – some splinting on his feet, keeping him warm and a bit sheltered. At some point we need to see if he can live as a chicken, so out he went.

The chicks have a separate enclosure in one corner of the chicken run. It has their own food and water in it but no lid. It’s a bit protected for the little ones and under the cover so no predators can get to them, but everyone is getting to know each other and getting introduced. Bung has been doing fine, he’s happier with the other chicks but he still seems to spend all his time curled up against the fence. At least they aren’t bullying him and he’s obviously eating and drinking because he’s still with us.

Seeing there’s no lid on the chick cage, as the little ones try out their wings they go up and over. There’s generally one or two racing up and down the outside trying to work out what happened and where everyone went. And this morning it was Bung. Something pried my special needs chick away from his secure fence and tempted him to fly.

I wouldn’t want to push it too far – these are chickens we’re talking about. But I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there.

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