Experience with a Rescue Chick

Advertisement Purina Flock Layer


5 Years
Aug 4, 2014
Cayman Islands
There are plenty of websites out there just like this one that give advice on various aspects of chicken ownership, including raising your own chicks to add to your flock. However, there didn't seem to be much in the way of rescuing chickens. Nonetheless, for two months I hand raised my own orphan chicken, and for the benefit of others in the future, I figured I might as well recount my story.

I live in Grand Cayman, which is overrun with wild chickens. What breed are they? I have no clue. There are so many color patterns that it's actually ridiculous. Unfortunately, a high population of wild chickens in a city also means a large amount of chicken roadkill. These are usually eaten by the high population of feral dogs.

One day, my mom was walking home and found a hen lying dead on the side of the road, with four chicks. One chick was already dead, two others seemed lethargic, but the fourth was actively avoiding her. Being a veterinarian, she took the two lethargic ones and asked me if I wanted to take care of them, since she wasn't home enough. These chicks couldn't have been more than a few days old; the only feathers they had were tiny ones on their wings. Obviously I agreed, and a short while later I managed to catch the fourth, more energetic chick. She was yellow, unlike the mom and the other three chicks who were black.

Whether by dehydration, or hypoglycemia, or some other unknown cause, the two black chicks died early on, leaving me with a single, lonely chick.

I kept her in a large cardboard box in my room, with a towel floor. I put my winter hat in there so she could curl up in it (which she did)

I also had a heating pad. Before you flip out, yes, there was open space where she could avoid it if she wanted.
We got some generic parrot pellets and ground them up with a mortar and pestle for food. Every time she started crying I'd go upstairs and interact with her a bit, and it wasn't long before I'd taught her to drink from the water dish and to eat that food as well.

Every day, at least twice a day, I'd take her outside to forage. I kinda had to teach her that too, but she got the hang of it fairly quickly. She also started following me around when I walked. Interestingly enough, every time I did this, there was a mockingbird that would show up nearby and start doing a sort of whistling sound, which I'd never heard them make before. My mom suspected that it might have been trying to imitate the chicken, since, as you all know, they can be quite loud.

She would fly up onto my legs or my hands occasionally, I guess to make sure I was still there. I don't have many pictures for a while, but I paid attention to what feathers she started getting. When they started to show up on her neck, I would imitate preening by gently pulling on the pinfeathers, and she seemed to like that. I already knew a basic idea of avian body language from my reading about parrots, but I still became more and more in tune with what she was telling me as time went on.

Then, when she was probably almost two months old, I moved her place of residence to our porch.
I had made a guinea pig house out of legos, and it was big enough for her at that point, so I used that, used a towel, and crafted a small cage out of those connecting shelf pieces and screen we bought at the store for like $10. I would leave her outside with water during the day, watching her to make sure she was still okay. I'd go outside as well and interact with her, but I wanted her to start foraging by herself. Gradually, I stopped needing to supervise her all the time, and by the time I took this picture, life was nice.

I would only refill the food once or twice a day in order to encourage her to become more self-sufficient, as heartbreaking as it was to find her pacing back and forth at the door, asking for food. Even the local rooster started coming over too, and I gradually became friendlier with him.

When I saw Chykka fly up onto the porch fence one day, though, I became confident in her abilities, and I started leaving the cage off at night. It did concern me, but she was not to be my pet, and she would have to learn to avoid cats on her own.

And for a while, she did fine without me. I would go outside every day, and she would fly up onto my lap and my shoulders, watching my mouth intently as I said the word 'pipe' over and over again.

However, though, a few days ago my dad found her in the grass, dead and covered in ants. I'd been through quite a few pet deaths before, but none of them hit me as hard as this one did. As painful as it is, though, I gained a lot from the time I did have with her, and I fully understand why chicken owners can't just keep two or three. Through this, I've also seemed to prove to my parents that I am, indeed, capable of having pet birds. It's a huge amount of effort to raise an orphan chick, but there's nothing quite like kneeling down and seeing your adopted feathery child run toward you at full speed. I think I imprinted on her more than she did me, which only made her end more painful.

Now, though, I still put food out for Castiel the rooster, and yesterday I managed to play an entire game of mahjong by myself while he stayed on the porch, trying to fall asleep. I have a newfound love and respect for chickens, and despite my goal of becoming a pilot, I hope I can someday live in one place long enough to build my own coop and rescue more chickens.
Bravo for your story! I admire the amount of time, persistence and love you must have put into this one chick. I hopr your dreams and aspirations come true....

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