Hi everyone, I'm new here (although I've already asked my first question successfully!) and I wanted to share our little story...
Me and my partner stumbled into the chicken world completely by accident and rather quite suddenly!
It all started with us being given 3 eggs (to EAT!!) by my uncle with the warning that they could very possibly be fertile... so for "a laugh" rather than eat them we decided to incubate them to see if anything would hatch. The joke suddenly wasn't funny anymore when we candled the eggs after borrowing an incubator from another uncle.
We saw that one of our little bantam eggs had tried - but failed to survive, another was infertile but the third had life... and movement. Guesstimating that the egg had been a week old when given to us judging on what we were seeing as absolute novices, we got straight onto google and stumbled onto Backyard Chickens where we lived for the next two weeks. We also figured out that the egg was a mix of a silkie and a pekin.
Our miracle egg hatched one evening around 18 weeks ago and out popped our new little yellow chick, Phantom. It looked to be a hard hatch, with us playing other chick noises from youtube to egg (excuse the pun) her on. Since then we have been head over heels and on an absolute roller-coaster of emotions.
In week one we figured out (with the help of Backyard Chickens) that Phantom had spraddle leg (with an attempted fix by us on day one) and a respiratory illness, and although it didn't seem to affect her attitude (or appetite) off we took her to the vets to get checked out... for two weeks she was fighting well and getting stronger apart from her left leg. Although the right one had straightened up, the left one seem to be jutting out at a funny angle. Although the first vet had assured us it was spraddle leg and to keep them vet wrapped we decided, as this was our baby, we would take her for a second opinion at another veterinary surgery. This vet informed us that Phantom had a bone deformity in her leg causing it to grow twisted. He admitted that fixing it was above what he could do and referred us to an avian specialist half an hour away. Here we were told the same about Phantoms leg and told that the only way to fix it would be a rather expensive procedure where they would break her leg and reset it round the correct way. Being our only little chick we chose the expensive procedure (using our savings for our future mortgage) as at this point the three of us had bonded pretty hard. When we picked Phantom up she was her usual boisterous naughty self and not an ounce of her attitude had disappeared.
A few weeks after the procedure we decided it was time to introduce a few more chickens to our flock (we had been advised by the specialist to wait until the respiratory infection had cleared and her leg was fully healed before introducing more chickens). As Phantom was still living in my bedroom in a large crate my dad (who has also fallen head over heels for this little chicky) had kindly made we thought it would definitely be best to get two more chickens around the same size.... unfortunately when we went to a local breeder and saw there were no bantams we were assured that a an 8 week old cream legbar and a rhode island red would be absolutely fine to go with our precious little Phantom, and sure why not? They were all the same age right? Enter Esmeralda and Delilah.
Oh how wrong we were, the shock we had when we got them out of the carrier when we got home and putting them up against our little Phantom. Clearly we couldn't keep them in her crate, they dwarfed it completely. Luckily after my mum and dad had decided we could keep them (we opened our home to them, we couldn't bear to send them back) super dad and partner put up a temporary run with the hen house kindly given to us from my partners sister and Esmeralda and Delilah quickly settled into our garden.
Sadly this still left the problem of Phantom being all alone in my room while me and my partner were off at work. Luckily my dad would love taking her downstairs to watch the tennis with him for that week to keep her company. The following weekend we found ourselves at a local farm picking out chicks from a box to find a match for Phantom. Enter Banshee our beautiful little lavender pekin (who suspiciously looks as though she may have some silkie or frizzle in her). We brought her home and it was love at first sight... for everyone. She was the perfect match for Phantom in every way, especially with how gentle she is considering Phantoms dodgy leg.
Preparations began a week or two later to move our two little bantams outside and for a proper coop to be made. Sadly when it was all finished and we were close to moving the bantams out we noticed that Phantoms leg was suddenly not looking too good again. Back up to the specialist we took her, where we were told it was a slipped tendon due to her leg still being slightly twisted. Quite upset we opted for another expensive procedure (more of the savings gone), this time with a metal rod and pins inserted into her leg. The operation went well but with a three week recovery time we were obviously very nervous.
Then at one of the check ups before the pins were removed we asked the vet to check to Banshee's heart as we noticed it was quite loud and "wooshy". When he did so he informed us that it sounded most likely that she had a hole in her heart and that there was nothing they could do... her days were numbered. Heartbroken we left the vets and decided that no matter what, Banshee had been given a good life no matter what the length of it, and that we would treat her and give her all the love we could for as long as is with us.
Taking Phantom back to get the pins removed was a success and she has been on the road to recovery since making progress everyday. Walking isn't as easy for her as her foot had to be twisted so the tendon doesn't slip again but in the 18 weeks that we've known her I've never seen a single thing she's been through stop her, get her down or remove her appetite! Even the vets were amazed with how well she coped with it all and of course they fell for her charm as well. Banshee is also still with us and still running round as quick as anything - you wouldn't really know anything was wrong.
We can both honestly say that although many people have told us we're crazy, all the heartache, stress and money have been more than worth it for all the joy our chickens have given us. As I write this I have both Phantom and Banshee settled down on my lap purring like crazy and I honestly couldn't be happier. I would do it all over again if I had too.
I would like to thank the entire Backyard Chickens community as I don't know how far we would've got without all the advice we have read through every time we have a problem!
Hopefully everyone should begin laying soon so fingers crossed for us that everyone carries one doing as well as they are.
Here's some pictures of our beautiful babies;
Phantom and Banshee
Delilah and Esmeralda
Phantom on day 1
Phantoms first leg procedure
Phantom's second leg surgery