When we chose to hatch out 15 chicks, I promised myself that I was going to be a responsible adult and only keep the hens (like everyone says). Well, spoiler alert, it didn’t happen. I fell in love with Cosmo Kazoo right away. His beautiful sing-song voice had me smitten. Instead of chirping or peeping like everyone else, Cosmo wanted to sing. Plus, he is drop. dead. gorgeous. Little did I know his sweet nature was going to mean he was at the bottom of the pecking order.
I came home one day after the chicks had been in the big coop for about two weeks, and Cosmo just wasn’t his usual charismatic self. He was reserved, quiet, and sitting down. Bad sign. I went over and gave him a once-over and noticed his crop was empty. So, I ran in for some feed and put it out for him. He seemed slightly interested, but not enough to put any effort into getting up to eat. So, I broke out the meal worms; when he didn’t try to eat any mealworms, I started to freak out.
I brought him inside and eventually realized that while he was attempting to eat, he seemed to be unable to physically make contact with the food. As hubby and I watched him desperately try and eat, panic set in. Was it neurological? We went through all of the natural pest aids we’d been using in the raised beds. We posted in chicken groups and forums, read a ton of articles online, and eventually we wound up at the vet.
And, which is typical, the vet had no idea what was wrong. They sent us home with some antibiotics and directions to keep him isolated and calm. I decided that meant within 6 inches of me at all times, so I brought him with me everywhere. Hubby and I fed him a mixture of poly-vi-sol without iron, honey, and raw egg yolk every few hours- and he gulped it up.
Believe it or not, he was so sick Tuesday we were considering euthanasia, and by Friday night he was back to sleeping in the coop. I was shocked at his tenacity. Then- I learned that breeds with excessive plumage (like silkies and polish cresteds- which Cosmo is) are prone to vitamin/nutrient deficiencies.
I can’t stress it enough- it’s important to get out there with your flock and give them a once-over at least twice a week. Check their crops to check for squishiness, emptiness, or compaction. Checks their bodies for lice/mites, scratches, bald spots, injuries. Check their feet for bumblefoot. Give their eyes, combs, and vents a once-over for any abnormalities. It is much better to catch something before it becomes a problem. I know it sounds excessive, but it doesn’t take any more than a minute. Who doesn’t want to snuggle with their babies for a minute?
We got so lucky with Cosmo- but it taught us a valuable lesson. If we had been checking up on him every few days, we would have noticed sooner that he wasn’t getting his fair share of the feed. Now, I check (almost) everyone (almost) twice a day to make sure they all have full crops. If they don’t, I’ll supervise them while eating.