A matter of life or death

I had to run into work this morning quickly before going down to the allotment. Upon my arrival, I was met with some bad news about one of the chicks. Cliff had checked on Emily this morning to find her and only two chicks. No sign of the third.

After several minutes searching he found it huddled up, half frozen and half dead. It hadn’t managed to get into the nest box overnight. Cliff and Geoff got it back under Emily but they weren’t hopeful. I arrived not long after and we moved Emily off to find the chick unresponsive.

I lifted it out and was delighted to see it open its beak and give a weak cheep. We whisked it up to the clubhouse where we wrapped it in a warm tea towel to try and warm it up. Rachael got busy with the kettle to warm up a bowl. We put the chick in the tea towel into the warm bowl hoping it would be more effective. I tried to warm it up by breathing on it. Eventually, it started to move it’s head a bit and we tried to get some water down it. It was difficult to keep the chick warm so I dashed back home with Rachael and set about trying to get it warmer.

I couldn’t find a hot water bottle anywhere so I continued to boil water and poured it into a bowl to heat it up. Next, I threw the water away and transferred the chick in the tea towel into the warm bowl. I kept swapping the chick into new warm bowls as I waited for the oven to heat up the ceramic dish. The ceramic dish is designed to keep hot and would therefore be better for the chick. I waited for it to cool to a reasonable temperature and swapped the chick into it.

Within a few minutes, the chick started to cheep louder and more insistently. I managed to get some water down it and even a bit of yoke from an egg. Cliff suggested it as until a couple of days ago they were feeding from a yoke. I discovered using a skewer worked well as it give a little water or yoke without overwhelming the chick.

I gathered up my keys and headed back as soon as it tried to start climbing out of the dish. Without running but not exactly dawdling, I walked back to the allotment. Once there, I showed Cliff and we put the chick into the nest box. Emily was outside in the run with the other two chicks but didn’t seem inclined to go into the nest box and check on her third chick. Taking his life in his hands, Cliff picked Emily up and held her whilst I transferred the other two chicks into the nest box and closed the door to the run. Cliff deposited Emily into the box and we shut the lid. We left her for a couple of hours in the nest box in the hope she would accept the chick back.

Cliff and I got thinking and we decided in order to prevent this happening again, we needed to move Emily and her chicks into the greenhouse. We used the bottom section of the two tiered rabbit hutch as their nest box and Cliff attached a small run to the front. Greenhouses usually run 10 degrees hotter than the ambient temperature. This should ensure that no chick catches cold and as an added bonus, the greenhouse is fox proof.

As Cliff started to sort out the coop, I went off to help Steve look for the Queen. He split the hive yesterday and wasn’t sure whether the Queen was in the hive or the nuc box. We tackled the nuc box first and couldn’t find her.

We moved on to the main hive which looked extremely busy. Despite being split, it’s still massive and Steve is hoping to split it again in a couple of weeks. The top super is completely full of honey and weighs around 40lbs. Once removed, he lifted off the bottom super. Unfortunately, several of the frames had stuck to the super and as they fell off the bottom there was an almighty and angry buzz from the hive. Luckily, Steve escaped being stung and we quickly sorted out the frames.

Both brood boxes were busy and we had to comb through it twice over to find her. Steve spotted her in a middle frame in the bottom broody box. Finding her means that Phil can order a Queen for the nuc box. We reassembled the hive and I went back to see what Cliff was up to.

By the time I had finished with the bees, Cliff had done a spectacular job on the new coop in the greenhouse. I dashed around to find wood to form a step so the chicks can get in and out of the nest box. Then I moved the water, food dispenser and dish with chick crumb into the new coop ready for them to be moved.

We then walked down to the broody box to move them all. Honestly, I don’t know how Cliff does it, but he got hold of Emily in one swoop and bundled her off up the path. I was left to catch and transport all three chicks. They are still small enough for me to hold all three in my hands. I found myself cooing over them as I walked to the greenhouse. We put them into the greenhouse and I mollified Emily with some mealworms and Cliff gave her some lettuce. We left her to settle in for a while.

Our next job was to move Cliff’s broody into Emily’s old broody box. I was in charge of moving the eggs and Cliff picked up his broody who gave him no trouble. Clearly she is a well behaved chicken, unlike Emily! She spent quite a while out in the run, enjoying the sunshine and having some food before heading back to her eggs.

I wandered back to the greenhouse and spent an enjoyable half hour watching Emily with her chicks. The little one seemed to be a little unsure on its feet but it kept up with the others. I was so pleased to see it drink and eat independently and watched with a smile as it made short work of some mealworms it stole from behind Emily’s back. Exhausted but pleased we managed to save the chicken, I went home.

Enjoy this video of Emily and her chicks enjoying their new home in the greenhouse

Here’s hoping the chick manages tonight!


4 thoughts on “A matter of life or death

Add yours

    1. When I first picked it up I was convinced it had died. I was astounded at how quickly it recovered – it went from unresponsive to trying to climbing out of the warm oven dish in an hour. I am just hoping it’s a hen so we can keep it. If it’s not, then I may just have to keep it at home because there is no way I am letting this little fighter go!


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