Fuzzy, baby chicken butts!!!
They make all things right again and spread the warm fuzzies like nobody's bidness!! Sorta like when George, the largest of the babies, gets on my shoulders and craps down my back. I even have a feel-good, warm fuzzies story to go along with them.
The baby you see pictured here is Tilly, the youngest and smallest of the four new bitties we got a couple weeks ago. They all seemed quite healthy and active when we got them but I noticed a few days after they had been here that Tilly just didn't seem to be as active. She stood in the corner a lot and always wanted in my lap when I would go visit them, where she would quickly fall asleep. A heavy rain shower came through one afternoon and it turned unusually chilly afterwards, so I went out to check on the babies where I found Tilly huddled in the corner once again, shivering a little. Now, for some reason she is kinda bald on her lower back, and baby chickens need a lot of warmth, so I scooped her up and brought her into the house. I had also noticed that her crop never seemed to be anywhere near full and she didn't seem to like the chick starter meal we had gotten them.
I pulled out a box and made Tilly a quick bed within it on an old heating pad. A soft, stuffed dog took the place of Mama Hen and it wasn't long before Tilly was nice and warm and sound asleep. I had gotten her to eat several raspberries beforehand but I knew it wasn't going to be enough to last.
The next morning we took her out with the others but she just didn't seem to be eating like they were. I experimented a little and found that, alone with me in the yard, she would forage and gobble up stuff as well as any other chick though. Now, Tilly must be about half the age of the other chicks she came with because they were SO much bigger than her. They never attacked her or anything but if you have ever had chickens you know that they get very excited around food and Tilly was just getting knocked around every which way when she found a bug or whatever and was usually coming up empty handed, so to speak. The lack of getting much down her gullet was making her weak and further unable to fend against the bigger chicks.
So, I devised a plan. We would take Tilly into the garden with us while we were working, so she could forage all she wanted to with no competition. She loved it. Finally, she could have all she wanted to eat without having to fight those others. And, since she is so small, she is absolutely no harm to the garden. We started letting one other chick (Pumpkin) go with her, so that she would have some company, and it's so much space they would not be competing. I am always with her too, because the garden is not covered and a hawk could, theoretically, swoop down and just haul her off. It worked really well and soon Tilly was stuffed full of bugs and other goodies and even eating her chick starter meal again. She regained her strength and now even takes bugs away from some of the others! She's small but she's fast.
After she regained enough strength and was running all over Pumpkin, we started bringing all four of the chicks into the garden with us while we're working. It works really well actually. They are small enough now that they don't damage any plants or the fruits. Well, they will snatch a strawberry or blueberry if they can reach it but I will afford them a nutritious snack like that. The strawberries are about gone anyway. They run through the beans and tomatoes and squash like nobody's business, eating bugs and such and never hurt the plants or disturb things. George, the biggest, does scratch a little but even he doesn't mess much up.
Little Tilly's legs are so tiny that, even though she goes through the motions of scratching, she's not really moving anything. I'll even sometimes move the mulch for her so she can look for bugs or worms and then move it back after she has scoured the area.
She loves the garden so much now that she runs like crazy to the gate anytime she sees us come around. Unfortunately, we can't stay out there all day with her but she, and the others, do get a few hours a day and they have their regular outdoor run the rest of the time. With this procedure Tilly has caught up enough that I don't really worry about her anymore. Her crop is always about to pop at the end of every day now, so she's getting her fill!
They were also very quick to learn that wherever we are digging there is liable to be worms and bugs to be found A little later I'll finish the brick entryway and side beds that go in this area. If nothing else, Tilly gave us the motivation to work in the garden weeding for longer than we probably would have otherwise, just to give her plenty of time to eat. It paid off for all of us.