Diary of a Crossbeak: Support for Special Needs Chickens and their Keepers

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Nimby Chickens, Feb 11, 2012.

  1. Nimby Chickens

    Nimby Chickens Chillin' With My Peeps

    644
    21
    133
    Oct 20, 2010
    Central FL
    I will start by saying that I wasn't sure where this thread should go, and chose this sub-forum because I wanted to make a thread for chickens with genetic issues and I felt it did not belong in Emergencies, Diseases, Injuries, and Cures since it was none of those things.

    Any sort of special needs chicken is more than welcome here. I would like for this thread to become a wealth of information for owners of these animals, a line of support for those not sure what to do, and a place to share pictures and be proud of our special chooks. They may not be the prettiest birds but they more than make up for it in personality. :)

    Let me begin by introducing my feathery dog, Bird.

    [​IMG]

    Bird began her life at a hatchery and it was sheer luck that I found her at our feed store. She had made it past the cull squad with a severe crossbeak and a crater where her eye should have been. I saw her, felt intense pity for her, and offered to buy her. They said if I bought a normal one, I could have her for free. I agreed and went home with two black stars who would eventually be named Sally Sweet and Bird.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    While Sally grew up normally, recognizing that she was, in fact, a chicken who liked to do chicken things, Bird has none of these notions. Bird likes to consider herself people. She doesn't like being outside, doesn't like other chickens, and is pretty convinced she needs to live in the house with the other people. She follows me around and if I am going inside, she ninjas her way in with more deftness than my cats.

    Having both Bird and her direct hatchmate has given me an interesting look at what Bird would have been, and is a way to see just how far behind she is. Her deformity, in the beginning, only made it hard for her to eat, but now it is very close to impossible. I tube feed her these days, and I want to be able to teach others how easy it is to do this.

    Bird is shockingly smart as well. For a chicken with a slightly-smooshed-in-the-egg skull, she is insanely bright. This is a picture of her after she snuck onto the porch with the singular intention of jumping into the food bag and cutting out the middle man. I found her like this, gleefully flinging food around in the bag and pecking haphazardly into its depths.

    [​IMG]

    Her personality and antics have made her by far my favorite chicken, and I love her very much. She is unique, talkative, smart, hilarious, and so worth all the work I put into taking care of her- and honestly it is not that much.

    So if you are on the fence about whether or not to cull your chicken with a deformity, we would be more than happy to help you out here.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2012
  2. BlackBrookPoultry

    BlackBrookPoultry Chillin' With My Peeps

    3,250
    110
    241
    Jun 15, 2010
    Western Wisconsin
    I have a 13 week old black favorelles that has cross beak. I'm pretty sure it's a rooster and being that its a batam he cannot be butchered and eaten. I haven't decided what to do with him. I'm interested to hear others' stories.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2012
  3. robinwiththechickens

    robinwiththechickens Chillin' With My Peeps

    126
    30
    123
    Apr 28, 2011
    Riverton, Wyoming
    I am so, so glad you started this thread! I am subscribing and am anticipating lots of great advice. My 2 cross-beakers Britney and Lindsay have been with me about 6-weeks now, and I love them already!

    Britney Spears:

    [​IMG]

    Lindsay Lohan:

    [​IMG]

    Here is a video of them enjoying some yogurt.


    This is the only treat I have found so far that they can eat. They really seem to like it, but they sure do make a mess!
     
    2 people like this.
  4. Nimby Chickens

    Nimby Chickens Chillin' With My Peeps

    644
    21
    133
    Oct 20, 2010
    Central FL
    Awww, your gals are so cute. They look really good! I love the way they were eating yogurt, you could almost hear the 'numnumnumnum' sounds.

    Earlier you asked for a tube-feeding tutorial, and I'm here to deliver!

    TUBE FEEDING TUTORIAL

    First, you will need supplies.

    [​IMG]
    Pictured: olive oil, 20-ml syringe, feeding tube (it's in the olive oil), and Polyvisol.

    The feeding tube can be bought from a vet (that is where I got mine) just make sure you mention chicken size. Mine was $3.00. The tube is also known as a red rubber tube and come in sizes called French (Fr.). Most standard sized chickens are probably going to be about a 10 or 14 Fr. Also, the larger the diameter of the tube you can get, the less likely you are going to have to deal with clogs.

    The vet gave me the syringes as well for free (no needles to go with them obviously, just the syringe) and the rest can be bought at the store. The bigger the syringe, the better since you don't have to draw up more often. If you can get a 35cc syringe most women with average sized hands find these easiest to work with. Most vets would be able to get you a 60cc syringe, but unless you have large hands these are a real pain when they are full and you're pushing the food through. If possible, many people find catheter tip syringes easier to use with a red rubber tube. The 20cc syringe shown in the tutorial is a leur-lock syringe, leur-lock syringes have threading at the tip that helps hold needles in place. It doesn't do much for a red rubber tube but will work if you have nothing else.

    I use the oil to grease the feeding tube and also the plunger on the syringe to make it go down smoother.

    Blending the Food

    I use a cheap, Walmart blender that cost maybe $13. If you have a nicer blender, that will work too! The only important thing is that it have a liquefy setting or something similar. Do not use a food processor as in my experience they do not work for this.

    I use a different mixture depending on what I have handy, but generally here is what I put in:

    chicken crumbles
    very hot water
    yogurt or heavy whipping cream
    mayonnaise
    olive oil

    I then blend the bejesus out of this mixture, leaving it on liquefy for 5 minutes and adding hot water if it is too thick, and then blending some more. The blender is your friend. You want the end result to be a velvety-smooth goop that will flow easily through the syringe. However, you will get clogs no matter what you do. I advise NOT trying to force it because I did once and the tube popped off and I squirted goo all over my poor fiancee. Just pull the plunger back and forth until it frees up, or if it is really bad, disconnect it from the tube, poke a needle through the tip to see if the clog is there, and try again.

    [​IMG]
    Velvety goop! (I dropped poly-vi-sol on top so I could make sure she gets some in her.)

    Inserting the Tube

    I need my fiancee' to help out at this point. It's very hard to insert the feeding tube alone. So grab a buddy, wrap your chook in a towel or shirt, and have them hold your chickeny friend like this:

    [​IMG]

    Holding them like this, they can't escape and your buddy can feel the feeding tube going down into the crop. The first few times you will be terrified of getting it in the wrong hole, but after a while you will be a pro. Another tip, make sure the chicken's neck is extended. Chickens and other birds have a sort of S shaped neck when they are holding it naturally, and this can make it more difficult to pass the tube. If you look at the pictures in you can see that my fiancee has Bird's neck extended so that it is more or less straight for the feeding.

    [​IMG]

    You want to aim the feeding tube down the LEFT side of the chicken's mouth if you are facing her. The crop goes off to the chicken's right side. You can feel the crop and jiggle the feeding tube to be sure it's in the right place. When you are sure it's down the right hole, attach the syringe to the feeding tube and fill your chicken with goo! Do not overfeed or you'll have a chicken squirting food out of her mouth.

    Important note: Don't force the tube! It should slide down the esophagus into the crop smoothly and without resistance, especially if you are using olive oil to lubricate. If you have to force it, you're in the wrong place and you need to pull out and try again. If you stay to the right side of the mouth/throat (your left if you are facing the chicken while doing this) then it should slide in easy and you'll be fine. Red rubber tubes are a very safe way to tube feed. Some people also use metal gavage tubes, but these can be dangerous if you don't know what you are doing because they can cause tears to the crop if force is used, the red rubber tube doesn't have enough substance to it to cause the crop to rupture unless you are using what will obviously be too much force.

    Bird fights a little because I think the feeding tube feels weird and a little uncomfortable, but she settles down after a while. She is able to take 6 1/2 syringes full from the 20 ml syringes I have.

    I would like to thank AinaWGSD for her contribution to this tutorial and Bird for being patient while I took pictures. :)
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2012
    4 people like this.
  5. buckabucka

    buckabucka Chillin' With My Peeps

    3,126
    95
    231
    Jan 13, 2010
    Fairfield, Maine
    My Coop
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/gallery/image/view/id/4702674

    Keeping a chicken with deformities is not for everyone. I've had 2 cross-beaks. One that I should have culled (I was not willing to hand feed), it grew a little and then died, the other, aptly named "cross-beak" is still with us. The photo is of cross-beak flying over the poultry netting, which she does everyday in the summer.

    I have found 2 tricks to help her eat. One is to provide moistened food. I mostly did this the first year. She would not go out to free-range with the others, but stayed behind to eat, so I could slip her a bowl of moistened food without the others gobbling it down.
    The other approach I take is to give her a mix of crumbles and pellets. She can't pick up pellets, so straight pellets doesn't work for me, but if she is throwing her beak into a pile of crumbles, occasionally a pellet gets stuck in her beak, giving her a bigger bite or food. Remarkably, she lays a beautiful blue egg, just not as frequently as the other EEs, and never in the winter.

    Crossbeak definitely has a big personality, and will come up on the porch in the summer looking for handouts of grapes or cherry tomatoes. She can eat these foods, as long as she has time and no competition.

    I hear that cross-beaks are more common in EEs. The trait can be passed on, so I certainly won't be breeding mine. Too bad she is my only true blue layer.
     
  6. CMV

    CMV Flock Mistress

    6,771
    130
    281
    Apr 15, 2009
    I am glad to see you started this thread Nimby Chickens. I would be interested in seeing how folks care for these birds with special needs. I had a BR with a mild cross beak at one time. She was so mildly afflicted that it was really a non-issue. I had feared for her, though, because she appeared to progressively get worse over time. Fortunately, she stopped growing out shortly thereafter and the problem stopped progressing at the same time. She was fine afterwards.
     
  7. buckabucka

    buckabucka Chillin' With My Peeps

    3,126
    95
    231
    Jan 13, 2010
    Fairfield, Maine
    My Coop
    Oops. The link to my photo of flying Crossbeak is wrong. You have to hit "previous" to see the correct photo.
    i do not know how to put my uploaded photos here (at least using an IPad).
     
  8. buckabucka

    buckabucka Chillin' With My Peeps

    3,126
    95
    231
    Jan 13, 2010
    Fairfield, Maine
    My Coop
    Testing this out. I think I know what to do now;
     
  9. Nimby Chickens

    Nimby Chickens Chillin' With My Peeps

    644
    21
    133
    Oct 20, 2010
    Central FL
    This is Bird's house at night. I keep her inside when it is cold so she doesn't waste calories staying warm.

    I zip-tied an empty yogurt cup in there so she can have food whenever she wants even though she doesn't get much when she tries. I keep it topped off.

    [​IMG]
     
    1 person likes this.
  10. Nimby Chickens

    Nimby Chickens Chillin' With My Peeps

    644
    21
    133
    Oct 20, 2010
    Central FL
    I updated post 4 with a tube-feeding tutorial, so please have a look and let me know if I should elaborate.
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by