Well last week I got a new batch of chicks at TSC. I had a little runt in the batch and after watching her like a hawk the first day, I realized she couldn't see, I assumed she was totally blind. Her little eyes were sunk in, and she just stood there looking around in a manner in which I've never seen before in a chick, blanky staring at nothing. She would bump into things, but for the most part she just slept or cried.
I immediately hopped on BYC to see if there was any information on caring for a blind chick, and to see if there were any stories of any that made it to adulthood, after all I did want her to have a good life, not just be miserable. What I found was not a lot. I made a post in emergencies/illness section, but hardly anyone read it and no one responded, so back to the internet I went. Most of the people I found had chickens who went blind later in life, or who still had sight in one eye. So I am making this post mostly to document her progress, and to help anyone else who might have to deal with this in the future. I think most people would have culled her, and some may not have noticed anything was wrong until it was too late. But fortunately I noticed something was wrong, and me being me, I couldn't let her just waste away and starve to death, and if what she was dealing with was not life threatening, and she would still have a shot at a happy life, then that is all the excuse I needed to whisk her away to my little NICU box, or as I like to call it, the CHICU, and nurse her back to health.
At first she looked so pitiful, poor baby. Eyes sunk in, just very depressed looking. I had all the equipment to tube feed her on hand, but alas, none of the catheter tubes I had were small enough. So I had to make due with a syringe. Strangely enough, the cheap, cheesy, flimsy, what-I-assumed-to-be-worthless-and-almost-threw-away syringe that came with the poly-vi-sol I'd bought for some of my other chickens made a great syringe to feed her with.
She did not peck or scratch, so feeding her was all on me. I had to pry her little mouth open and squirt some food in a little at a time. I made up small batches of Kaytee Exact baby bird handfeeding formula, and not knowing how much to feed or or how often, and not being able to get ANY answers to that question online, I used the general baby rule of thumb: feed every two hours. As far as how much, I would just feel her crop to check on the progress, when it started to get full, I would stop. It was hard to tell how much she was getting, even using the syringe because most of it wound up all over both of us. I made the formula watery, but not watery enough to aspirate her, which was a huge concern of mine. For the first couple of days I used egg yolk to help thicken the formula. The nutrients in that yolk could not have hurt her either.
And so I fed her, roughly every two hours throughout the day. If her little crop still felt full, I would hold off until it was empty. At first she gave me no indication of being hungry. When she was first in with the rest of the chicks she just peeped constantly, but now alone in her own little box with her mama heating pad she was comfy and cozy and quiet as a little church mouse.
Thankfully, I have a job where I sit in an office by myself most of the day, so I brought her to work with me so that I could keep her fed during the day.
We usually take a few breaks every day to come outside and soak up some rays and enjoy the beautiful weather.
It was on one of these little excursions outside that I realized she CAN see... she just can't see WELL. I had put her on the ground and there was a shadow. She must have noticed this contrast in light and dark, because she tried to jump over it! I just can't tell you how excited I was to see her jump, this was good, this was progress! This meant we had eyes that WORKED even if they did not work very well! I had started to give up on her a little before this, questioning my decision to try to save her. What kind of life would she have? Would she ever learn to eat by herself? Should I have just put her out of her misery? Was I being selfish? Should I just end it all now?
And then, the most amazing thing happened in the days after I noticed she could at least make out the contrast in light and dark. She started scratching and pecking. I was thrilled! This was awesome, she was starting to act like a chicken!
(You will have to excuse her poopy rear, I keep an eye on it, her pooper works, it's just stuck in her booty fluff)
I could not believe she was finally pecking! It was like she could see the contrast of the black letters on white paper, and it finally clicked that you peck at little things you can see lol. All the while she started getting more and more vocal around eating time. If she was hungry, she was going to be standing on top of her mama heating pad chirping at the top of her lungs. She started getting more enthusiastic at dinner time. She started pecking at my fingers, the syringe, anything in that general area. Plus she was finally making the little happy chirps chicks make when they eat. So instead of having to pry her mouth open and more or less force feed her, she was eating off the tip of the syringe. As long as I held it close enough to her beak so she could feel where it was at, she was golden.
So we graduated from the syringe to eating out of a little bowl. Notice how her eyes are no longer sunk in anymore. And she is FAR from depressed now!
A very tedious task! And messy! But hey, she was doing it on her own! Sometimes she would peck right at her feet, probably because they were covered in formula and she does not like dirty feet, then she would take about 10 steps backwards.
By the time we got done with a meal, everything was covered in food lol.
Then I found that if I mixed her formula with a tiny bit of chick starter, it was much less sticky and did not stick to her feet or her face nearly as bad. I also discovered that if I put her in a little bowl to eat, she would just twirl around in circles eating instead of backing up and making a mess everywhere, and she was much more efficient in her eating. This really seemed to work like a charm.
After a meal, it's back to mama heating pad for a good warm snuggle and nap.
This is my mobile CHICU. I took a copy paper box and lined the bottom with paper towels, then I took a small piece of cardboard and folded it in half like a tent. I made holes in the tented cardboard and stuck the corners of an old kitchen rag into four of them and made what was supposed to just be a something warm and soft to snuggle into, but she prefers to use it as a hammock.
Just look at that sweet little face!
Then I put my heating pad on top of the cardboard, followed by a towel. to keep the heat in.
And then some paper towels for poo protection.
I have another mama heating pad set up at home for my two smallest bantam chicks, they were being picked on and knocked down by the rest of the chicks. So in the evening when we get home from work she gets to go in with the other babies and mingle. I am hoping she enjoys their company and will eventually learn some things from them. Sometimes she seems a little miffed because they bump into her and she just wants to sleep, but for the most part I think she enjoys being with them.
I can't tell you how thankful I am for this website and all the things I have learned on here. Thanks to all of that and a little intuition, she has made it this far and is as happy as can be. I am very pleased with her progress and hopefully one day she will be the roommate to my crippled hen who got stepped on by a cow. I am going to keep updating this post as she grows just in case anyone else is ever in the same situation as I am and has questions but can't find any answers. And also for the encouragement factor. It's always so encouraging to read a post documenting some illness or condition in a chick that ends with a happy adult. I hope and pray we make it that far, but if not I will know at least she had a shot at life and that I made it as happy for her as I could.