I got 8 chickens in April 2015 when they were 4 weeks old - 1 blue andalusian, 1 splash marans, 2 white marans, 2 easter eggers, and 2 salmon faverolles. They were great! I loved every single one of them and they taught me so much in just a few weeks.
Then I found BYC and read about free ranging chickens and all the benefits. I decided that when they were older, I definatley wanted to do that. I also read about broody hens and saw pictures of little baby chicks following behind their mamas. I saw pictures and videos of mama birds teaching their young how to eat, drink, and roost. I then decided that some day, I wanted to hatch out my own babies. I wouldn't want to spend a lot of money on hatching eggs off ebay, so I knew I'd want a rooster.
I contacted the woman who I originally got my hens from and told her that I wanted a rooster. She offered to split an order with me so I could order the breed of rooster I wanted. I decided on a salmon faverolle rooster and a buff orpington hen to keep him company. They hatched out June 1 and I picked them up from her house on the sixth. Unfortunatley, only 6 weeks later the two chicks were victims of a predator attack and didn't make it.
I still wanted a rooster and when the lady who sold me the original 8 heard about the losses, she offered me her favorite rooster and a pullet of my choice for free. The rooster was on the bottom of the pecking order at her house because she had two other resident roosters and she thought he'd be happier with his own flock all to himself. I went and picked him up that weekend. When I got there, she loaded him into the crate and allowed me to pick any pullet I wanted. I already had my eye on one from the moment we pulled into her driveway. She was a sweet little golden cuckoo marans pullet that was in the same order that my chicks were. It was easy to catch her and load her into the crate. This was either late July or early August.
That night when we got home, I put the two new birds into the coop and locked the rest out so that they could see and hear each other while giving the new birds a chance to explore the coop. I had already named the pullet - Vivica - on the way home but the rooster didn't have a name yet. Only a half hour later, I went in to make sure they were doing ok and had food and water. As soon as I opened the door, the rooster ran right past me into the pen with all the other girls. I held my breath and waited for disaster to happen. He and my most dominant hen, Dixie, got into a scuffle but that was it. He dominated the rest of the hens and started to forage like nothing was out of the ordinary. I thought, "Wow, this is so easy!" and let Vivi out of the coop. She walked out, head held high, and looked around her. The girls picked on her relentlessly so I brought in a bully cage and put all the bullies in the cage.
They seemed to get along ok after that so I put Vivi on the roost for the night and woke up extra early the next morning. That was a mistake and I found Vivi lying on the ground with Daryl (the rooster) hovering over her. I picked her up and she had several feathers pulled out from the back of her neck and was bleeding.
I brought her inside, cleaned the blood off of her, and set her up in a crate.
She seemed fine after that and ate, drank, and pooped as normal. She looked great, besides the few missing feathers, but she was a little afraid of two particular girls - Dixie & Daisy, partners in crime. I kept her out of the pen for several night and tried again at night on the roost. That morning, I found her perched up on the 6 foot door of the coop, fine, but scared. I brought her inside back to the crate and she returned to normal. I tried again a few days later and this time, Vivi had to fight for survival.
That morning, I woke up early, but not early enough and when I went outside she was laying on the ground, appeared dead, and was limp when I picked her up. Luckily, she was alive, but had terrible injuries. *Gross Pictures Below. Proceed w/ Caution*
Her injuries were so deep that I could see her muscles moving when she moved her tounge and she couldn't keep her eyes open for long. I cleaned out her wound and hoped for the best. That night, it just appeared worse.
The wound was swelling up because of the fat cells being exposed to air. My mom and I cleaned out her wound every couple hours with a peroxide/water mixture and then wrapped it with gauze and an antibacterial cream.
The poor girl was in so much pain, we considered ending her life but we decided to keep fighting because she was. Vivi ate, drank, and rooster as normal in the chick brooder she stayed in. She slept a lot, but in her circumstance that was ok. It broke my heart every time she yelped in pain or shook her head to get the liquid off.
As Vivi healed physically, she began to go downhill mentally. Not only was she expiriencing symptoms of slight brain damage (loss of balance, confusion, etc), she was also going into depression because of being away from the other chickens. Her comb and face got very pale, almost transparent, she stopped eating, and all she wanted to do was sleep. She stopped struggling when I picked her up and she stopped complaining about the treatment. Vivi began to give up, but at this point, that wasn't an option for me.
I wrapped her in towels and carried her around the house with me, wherever I went. We watched movies together, played games, and did homework. She skyped my friends, posted on threads here at BYC, and even took naps together. Wherever I went, Vivi went. We continued her treatments daily, but slowly weaned her off the peroxide.
When her wound began to shrink and close, I took her outside more often. She would follow me around the yard and every time she heard the crow of Daryl, or the cackle from a hen, she would run to safety under my legs. She encountered the neighbor's free range hens, Martha & Henrietta, and as fearful as she was, she made friends.
^Notice how pale her face and comb are.
She continued to lose weight and lose all confidence. She gave up on herself, but I refused to let her go. I knew she could do it. I considered rehoming her when she was healthy, because I never expected her to learn to trust the other chickens again. I continued to carry her around in a towel and I continued taking her outside whenever it was nice out. Still, she didn't get better.
Then, I began free ranging my chickens. That first day of free ranging, I held my breath as I set Vivi down on the ground, at least 50 yards from the other chickens. I nervousley watched as the other girls saw her for the first time but I relaxed when they went back to searching for bugs. I chased the rooster away when he ran at full speed to Vivi to mate with her. She wasn't ready for that. I smiled as I watching Vivi, slowly but surely, wander closer and closer to the flock.
^Notice Vivi in the very back.
I did this every day with her and then one night, Vivi followed them into the run to sleep. I let her be but I woke up an hour before they did and moved her to a crate in the run where she stayed the day. Then after school, I let them all out to free range. A week later, I found this:
Over the course of the next couple weeks, Vivi slowly gained weight. Her comb and face began to get their color back and for the first time ever, I witnessed Vivi with a full crop and I smiled ear to ear for my girl.
She followed the other birds around the yard and picked at the ground when she thought they weren't looking. She still had zero confidence, and would run away if another chicken even looked at her. She walked low to the ground and ran to me for safety when the other girls got closer.
But slowly, Vivi began to fight again.
One night, as I was throwing some scraps on the ground for the chickens, I saw Vivi sneak up, steal a piece of lettuce and run for her life. Nobody chased her. Nobody tried to take it from her, and she came back for more. They let her eat as part of the flock.
At this point, I was still putting her in a crate inside the run during the day because I was too scared of leaving her out. One morning, as I went to put her in the crate, she was dustbathing with another girl so I left her alone. I could only think and worry about her all day, but when I came home and she was fine, I knew that Vivi would be okay.
She's been in with the flock 24/7 ever since then. She'll never be completely normal, as she still gets confused easily and sometimes forgets what she's doing. She still loses her balance sometimes and she freezes when it starts to rain.
Vivi has finally began to live like a chicken. She finds tasty critters to eat (her favorite is earth worms). She roosts right next to the other birds, not by herself on the bottom bar. She loves carrots and pineapple. She runs full speed to get some treats, in fact I've seen her chase off even Dixie (the biggest bully) for a certain goodie.
Vivi is happy, healthy, and the best part...she's CONFIDENT. She stands tall when she walks. She accepts her spot on the pecking order, and embraces it. She jumps up on the roost bar, all by herself, every night without hesitation. She runs with the food she finds, and doesn't let the other girls bully her for it. She makes me so proud and I can't help but smile every time I see her out with the flock, doing silly chicken things with her silly chicken family.
Here's Vivi now. Look at how tall she stands and how proud she looks:
^Dixie is in the very front.
The other day, I opened the run door to let them free range and Vivi jumped and flew over all the other girls for 30 feet straight. She is so happy now, and I am so happy for her.
I just wanted to post this because I belive Vivi's Story should be told because a chicken can be tougher than you think if you don't give up on them. My girl amazes me every single day and she will always have a place in my heart and she'll always have a place in the coop. She's taught me to not give up hope, because anything is possible even if your chances are slim.
Now at 29 weeks old, Vivi is thriving and she is beautiful. It may have taken a lot of hours of my days (and nights) and months to get her to this point, but I wouldn't have changed a thing and I will never regret spending so much time on a chicken, even though people told me to just give up and cull her.
Oh yeah, and she's still my best buddy (and my favorite selfie partner)!
Vivica passed away. My border collie/lab mix was let outside for not even a full minute unsupervised but that was plenty time to get to Vivi. It was quick and painless for my girl though. She will forever be missed and remembered as much, much more than just a chicken. This little girl taught me more about hope, determination, and never giving up than I could ever learn by myself. She has inspired me to push forward and conquer everything that will try to push me back. She got through her health issues, and I will with mine too. Rest in peace, sweet, sweet girl.