15 years experience couldn't prepare me for this........(graphic)


8 Years
Mar 2, 2011
I have been raising/breeding chickens of every type and size for the last 15 years. I am also a breeder of show quality American Gamefowl (both standard and bantams)........

Now I have a question that neither me or my veterinarian can answer.

Where I live (the hills of Appalachia) the weather has been very hot (exceeds 95 most days) and very humid. This makes putting a heat light on chicks that age very dangerous and irresponsible. So, I took my chicks (mixed breeds and some SQ AGF) and placed them in their "Summer Home". It is a simple "A" framed coop with some low roosts and completely covered in wire for good air flow. There are twenty five chicks all together in this coop.

They have constant access to clean, fresh water and plenty of food. I feed them dried worms and table scraps as a treat. I free range them for a couple hours each day as well for the fresh grass.

Well one day, while they were free-ranging, I heard a very loud (and disturbing) form of a common distress call from a chick. When I went to check on them, I found my favorite bantam chick crying very loud about three feet from the coop. She was the very first chick I hatched this year and since this is the first year I have had AGF bantams, I fell in love with her from birth. She is very special too me.

I picked her up and her middle toe was half-way gone! Her bone was exposed at the end and she was in obvious pain. She couldn't walk.

That was about three days ago. I have a very close friend who has been a veterinarian for many, many years. She specializes in "small-barnyard" type animals (pigs, poultry, goats, cats, and dogs mostly). She has faith that the chick will grow into a very healthy , almost normal chicken. She may have some trouble roosting but other than that, she may limp for quite awhile if not forever. Today she is flying on the roost and walking with a very slight limp.

My (and the vet's) biggest question is, what type of predator would have bitten off the toe and left the chick both alive and crying? My first instinct was a rat but if it had been a rat, we don't think this very, very small bantam chick could have got away. Not to mention, rats are nocturnal and this was in broad daylight and rats always come back and this is the only incident to date.

The vet and myself have absolutely no idea what kind of predator did this or how to find out. She says that most of the local wildlife (cats, owls, rats, or snakes) are night hunters and very rarely leave survivors in their path. Also, they will return for the others at some point. I have a Great Pyrenees dog that was "off-duty" at the time (he was being used as a stud) or I may have been alerted quicker.

I am asking any BYC member for ANY type of guess they might have as to what type of animal did this. Remember I live in far south-eastern Kentucky (just to give an idea of local wild life) I lost a very special (and beautiful) show rooster to a possum this month as well but neither the possum or my rooster survived this. The vet doesn't think that a possum is responsible because they kill and don't quit until they do (plus they too, are nocturnal) She also doesn't think the other chicks did this because they are all within a week of each other in age and are too young to be strong enough to remove another chicks digits that cleanly.

ANY idea could possibly help prevent another chick from suffering this type of injury. I feel so bad for letting them out and not watching them closer. I am completely responsible for this happening and have beat myself up for days. This chick did not deserve this. PLEASE give any input to help me take better precautionary measures. I still free-range them but under better supervision (both me and my dog).

She is doing very well. She still favors the leg a bit but I have faith she will get better. She is in the house with me and I spend alot of quality time with her to so her how sorry I am. She is the sweetest bird I have ever had in all my years working with them. I love her.

Thank you all in advance!

Here is a picture of the little girl when she was about two days old..... Isn't she beautiful?.....and I am not 100% sure she is a "SHE":


Timothy in Kentucky
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oh poor baby

my first thought was ants? kind of a long shot maybe but some type of bug might be able to cause damage like that without killing the chick. especially if she'd stepped in something "tasty" that stuck to her middle toe. otherwise i dunno =/
That is the craziest thing I've ever seen. I'm going to go with your gut instinct and say rat, but then I had another thought... were there any adult chickens out free ranging around the babies? (Silly thought...) I have no clue. Best of luck with the little bitty. S/he is a cutie.
I once had 3 day old chick that lost a couple of toes to the other chicks. They didn't eat it, they just pecked it off. Once the initial injury occurred they kept pecking at the blooc.
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Well , to answer the questions, yes there were some older hens (red-sex links) free-ranging but they tend to stay in the back yard (that's why they call it BACKYARD CHICKENS i guess) and the chicks never seem to roam beyond ten yards from their coop which is in the front yard. Also, there was no warning, no squawking or clucking just a sudden distress call out of nowhere. I was in my kitchen and from the window it was about twenty yards to the chicks coop/range-area. I would have heard something, surely. However, given some thought, it is more common than a carnivorous predator because they would have killed. I just can't see my hens acting that way towards chicks. The hens are usually very friendly and have no pecking order that I can see. They are actually somewhat cautious of other chicks/chickens and avoid them completely.

I am still unsure.........
Might be possible that she did it to herself- got it caught on a wire or something sharp and in an escape attempt twisted it off. It's amazing the kind of conundrums these babies get themselves into.

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