Star's Story

PrairieChickens

Songster
7 Years
Jun 29, 2012
1,682
354
221
Kansas
It was that time of year again when the local farm supply store rearranged its displays and made room for the rows of brooders full of adorable peeping chicks. Since by this point, my husband, parents, and I were all thoroughly addicted to chickens, we stopped by to see what they had the moment that "Chick Days" banner went up over the front door. We ended up going home with 5 "assorted bantams" and 4 black australorp chicks.




They spent a few days indoors in a temporary brooder until we were able to fix up their brooder in the coop and move them out there. All was well until one night...




A blizzard blew through and knocked out power for the whole town for several hours. Lest they freeze to death, my parents tromped out into the snow to rescue the chicks from the coop and bring them back inside. Once again, the chicks found themselves in the temporary brooder. It was a less than ideal situation--the temporary brooder was little more than a large bucket with no lid, and we'd already lost one bantam chick to one of my parents' cats. My parents laid a board over the top of the brooder to help keep the cats out, made sure there were no sneaky felines in the room, and then shut the door.

The power finally came back on and we were able to give the chicks their brooder lamp, but the storm was still bad outside and we didn't think it wise to take them back out to the coop just yet. We decided to leave them in the temporary brooder for the time being, with the heat lamp on and the top mostly covered by a flat board. We made sure the cats were closed out of the room, and thought all was well.

That afternoon, my mother checked on the chicks. Popping her head into the living room, she asked us, "did we have three of the bantams left, or four?" Well, we all knew what that meant. We immediately went into the bedroom to look for the missing chick. We found it stretched out on the floor next to the brooder, cold and lifeless. Somehow the poor thing had escaped the brooder and couldn't get back in again. With the blizzard still howling outside, it hadn't taken long for the little one to become chilled.

"We lost another one," I thought with disappointment.

I reached down to pick up the tiny body, but as my fingers touched it, it moved! The eyes were still shut and it didn't make a sound, but its beak opened and its wings stretched weakly. The chick was alive! I cupped the tiny chick in my hands and held it close to my body, warming it up with my body heat. Little by little over the course of the next hour, it came back to life. The stiffness in its body ebbed, it's skin warmed, and then it began cheeping--a small, raspy cheep at first, then stronger. Only when it had opened both of its eyes and could stand on its own did I put the tiny chick back into the brooders with its flockmates.

I will name this chick "Star", I decided. Lucky Star.






Since I couldn't tell Star apart from the others yet, I put a little blue mark on one foot so I could check up on him later. It's a good thing I did, too. After two days of seeming perfectly healthy and recovered from his ordeal, Star suddenly... couldn't walk. In fact, he couldn't even stand! When I prodded him to try to coax him into moving, he just looked up at me forlornly, one eye partially closed as he sat there like a stone. I knew that left alone in the brooder, this chick wouldn't survive the night, so I decided that there was only one thing to do. I finished taking care of the other chickens, tucked the paralyzed peep into my coat, and went back to my house.

Once I got home, I faced another dilemma... where to put this little guy? I had three cats and a dog who loved nothing more than murdering chickens, so I needed someplace secure to keep him. The only room in my entire house that would work was my home office, so I set up a little plastic tote with a brooder lamp, some bedding, and food and water. when I placed star next to the food and water, however, he wouldn't eat or drink. He just stared at nothing, one eye shut, the other half-closed, and breathed heavily.

"This chick isn't going to last the night," I thought, but I still had to try. I mixed a little chick starter and water together, then lifted the dish so that the tip of his beak touched it. He blinked, pulled away, then swallowed. His eyes opened a little, he looked at the mash. I touched his beak with it again, he swallowed again. He took a few bites on his own, then settled down to rest. I turned on the radio to a Classic Rock station so he wouldn't feel alone, set up a webcam over his brooder so I could keep an eye on him, and got back to work. Every so often, I'd repeat the process of reminding him to eat, though I still did not have high hopes he would live. That night, I went to bed convinced that I'd wake to find he hadn't made it through the night.

I didn't sleep well. Every time Star peeped or cheeped, I jumped out of bed to check on him. Is he too hot? Is he too cold? Is he lonely? Since Star lacked the ability to move closer to or further from the lamp with any ease, my biggest concern was temperature, but all was well--at least, as well as could be expected for a chick that was doing so poorly. At 3:30 AM, Star woke me with loud cheeping, and I went in to check on him. As I approached the brooder, he lifted himself weakly onto his feet, wobbled, and sat back down. It was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen in my life. I fed him some mash, wished him goodnight, and went back to bed.

The next morning I awoke to silence. Apprehensive, I went into my office expecting to find that Star had given up the fight after all. Much to my surprise, however, my determined little chick was alive--if not well. He turned one open eye to look at me, the other still fully closed, and sighed.

I made my little patient some fresh mash and encouraged him to eat again, set up the webcam, and got back to work. Every time he took a bite of food without encouragement or did his awkward, flopping shuffle to move from one place to the other, I felt a little surge of victory. Periodically, I'd fuss over him, make sure he ate, talk to him, and make sure he knew he wasn't alone. Even some of my friends online began to join in, watching Star's cam and cheering on the little patient to recovery, but his continued paralysis and lethargy was still so severe that recovery seemed unlikely. That night, I left the radio playing and went to bed, once again convinced he wouldn't be alive when I woke.

Star let me sleep through the night this time, but woke me bright and early with his loud cheeping. Bleery eyed and still half-asleep, I tended to my patient. I made him fresh mash and replaced his water, talked to him and gave him cuddles. My friends online, who had been watching his cam through the night, gleefully informed me that Star had fallen asleep on top of an add for 99 cent chicken legs. Though he could barely move, my little chicken was already a celebrity.

His progress in the third day of recovery was significant. While he couldn't even stand when I'd first brought him home, now he was able to manage a hobbling, wobbling walk, though he fell over frequently and flapped his wings wildly to stay up. Bit by bit, step by step, he was getting his strength back, and his fanclub online was growing. Before long, more people were watching Star's cam than my own! That night I went to bed, confident that Star would be there to greet me in the morning.

By day five of his recovery, Star was moving around with vigor. Although he was no where near where a chick his age should be, I no longer had to worry that he wouldn't be able to reach his food or water, or that he'd overheat because he didn't have the strength to move away from the heat lamp. I kept the radio playing for him, day and night, and cuddled him often. When sunlight streamed through my office window, I set him in a flowerpot in the sunshine and let him bask in it. I don't know if it was because of the sunshine or because he was recovering, but his appetite returned with a vengeance that day. I had to refill his little dish of mash several times, whereas before he had never cleaned his plate before I'd had to toss out the old to make fresh.

Star was doing so much better at this point that I thought it might be time to reintroduce him to his broodmates. I took him back to my parents' house and put him in the brooder with the others, but even though Star was stronger than he had been, he still wasn't strong enough for their rowdy antics! After a couple of hours with his flockmates, I packed him back up and brought him home to my house, and as much as I knew Star missed being around other chickens, I could tell he was also relieved to be someplace quiet again.




The next day was much the same routine I'd become used to over the past week or so. While I was working, Star began to cheep loudly, so I got up to see what was the matter. I offered him a dish of food, but Star--much to my surprise--walked right over it, climbed into my hand, then snuggled down and went to sleep. I'd be lying if I said I didn't melt just a little bit right then and there.




After that, Star got into quite a habit of insisting I cuddle him, and particularly enjoyed snuggling into my shirt or jacket where it was dark and warm. Although I'd constructed him a little box that achieved much the same effect, given the choice he preferred to cuddle me than be in his box. The warm and fuzzy feeling I got from being so thoroughly loved by a chicken was mitigated slightly by the fact that he kept pooping in my blouse... but only slightly. After all, poop washes out, but being loved by a cute fluffy chicken is an experience you treasure forever.

Things progressed very quickly over the next few days. Star outgrew his little hospital brooder, so I had to clean out my office closet for him. He became well enough for some company, so I brought a small chick from a younger brood home to socialize with him. The moment I introduced the other chick, Star perked up. He became much more mobile and interested in his surroundings. He ate and drank more, explored more, and slept less. He no longer flapped his wings when he walked, and he could stand for long periods of time to eat. After only a few days of living in my closet with the other chick, Star was finally well enough to go home, much to the disappointment of the online fanclub that had become accustomed to watching his cam.




This little chicken who had been probably only a minute or two from death, who overcame hypothermia and paralysis and all the odds stacked against him was finally back home with his fellow chickens. But lest you think he forgot about me the moment he had real chickens to interact with--Star still comes running at the sound of my voice and loves to cuddle up into my jacket for a nap. As for the radio that was playing the whole time he lived with me? All I have to do to lull him to sleep is sing a few lines of "Highway to Hell."




Star is still a little smaller and less developed than the other bantams of the same age, but that is to be expected after his ordeal. He is almost fully feathered out now, and is quite capable of holding his own against the other chicks. He may yet turn out to be a hen after all, but until I know for sure, I will continue to refer to him as "he".

In this video, Star is the very first chick who races up to the camera.

In this video, you can see several of the chicks fighting to establish a pecking order, including Star who flies in out of nowhere to challenge "Gryffindor", who was already in a confrontation with another chick.

Star takes a while to make an appearance in this video--that is, if you don't count his butt feathers obstructing the view at the very beginning--but he is in here!
 

Dowie

Songster
8 Years
Apr 29, 2011
873
18
131
What a great story. So wonderful he survived. And now you have a chicken that likes cuddles - which is wonderful too. Thanks so much for sharing it with us! Please keep posting pics of him as he grows.
 

PrairieChickens

Songster
7 Years
Jun 29, 2012
1,682
354
221
Kansas
He does indeed enjoy cuddles! We had a nice long snuggle session today while I watched a movie with my hubby, and was quite upset when I had to put him back in the brooder with the others. I'll try to get more pictures this weekend, as he has already changed so much from the last photo I took.
 

Dowie

Songster
8 Years
Apr 29, 2011
873
18
131
He's such a cute/funny looking teenager. He has a very earnest expression, but also looks so heatlhy which is great! I so wish I could an opportunity to get a chicken young enough so it will learn to cuddle me.
 

PrairieChickens

Songster
7 Years
Jun 29, 2012
1,682
354
221
Kansas
Star enjoyed last night's snuggle time so much that I decided to bring him in again. It's hard to get a good photo in the low light, so I had to wait until he settled down for a nap to take a decent shot.


 

ChickenChatten

Chirping
6 Years
Mar 15, 2013
299
15
81
Aw... I can't get over how adorable he is, even if he's in his awkward teenage stage... I love snuggly chickens!
 

Dowie

Songster
8 Years
Apr 29, 2011
873
18
131
Star enjoyed last night's snuggle time so much that I decided to bring him in again. It's hard to get a good photo in the low light, so I had to wait until he settled down for a nap to take a decent shot.


I can see he'd be happy to stay there for quite a while - all night preferably!
 

PrairieChickens

Songster
7 Years
Jun 29, 2012
1,682
354
221
Kansas
As much as he enjoys the company of his fellow chickens, he does seem to enjoy being brought into the house for some people-time, too, especially since everyone keeps feeding him little goodies that he doesn't have to share. I am seriously considering investing in a chicken diaper for him just so he can be the lap chicken he so desperately wants to be.



Another photo from last night. Not the most flattering picture of me, I'm afraid.


These are from today. I let the "kids" out to play. They've been cooped up ever since the weather turned nasty Thursday.






 

Dowie

Songster
8 Years
Apr 29, 2011
873
18
131
I love his trousers. He looks like a toddler wearing his older brother's cast offs! What sort of chicken is he?
 

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