An Unexpected Guest

OR Closing in on Crazy

A young chick has arrived in our lives and turned our world upside down. Here’s the latest story, told through a series of limericks:

There once was a young chick named Weeble

Who, on first glance, appeared quite feeble.

On her belly, she lay inclined

With a deformed leg trailing behind

And she was being trampled on by her own people.

The call came from a fellow chicken lover who was raising about 15 chicks. About one month along, she had just noticed that one of the chicks was unable to stand. She guessed that the chick’s leg was broken or perhaps that she had had a stroke. In either case, my friend was wondering whether this suffering little chick should be culled or could be treated. When I came over to offer help, I instantly recognized spraddle leg which we had experience with our meat birds last summer.

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Weeble’s left foot is deformed probably as a result of misuse due to the hip spraddle. Her pinkie toe and her thumb are useless.

The cause of spraddle leg is elusive and could be due to incorrect incubator temperature, poor nutrition or slippery floor surface (none of which seems to apply to this chick’s situation). The chick’s leg tendons are not yet formed nor strong, causing the leg to twist around in the hip socket and trail behind. If noticed and treated in the first week of life, the abnormality can be reversed. Last summer, we ordered 25 meat bird chicks, five of which developed spraddle leg and we helped three of them recover completely. The other 2 had to be put down due to the severity of their deformation. We blame the long day of travel that those chicks endured on their hatch day.

Knowing that this chick was far beyond that first week time window, correcting her leg was a long shot but, when I held her in my arms to diagnose the problem, she snuggled down deep with happy peeping and I decided to play the odds.

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Day 2 – Tiny, exhausted and so happy to be with her new flock. Elbow nooks are her favourite.

There once was a chick named Houdini

Whose leg was spraddled extremely.

We would bind her legs tight,

Getting alignment just right,

Yet she made her escapes look so easy.

And so. I brought her home and, together with FM, we worked tirelessly on correcting her leg. The idea is that you coax the rotated leg around to its correct position and then bind the two legs together, forming a hobble. This completely immobilizes the chick, locking her in a forced squat, so that the tendons can stretch and heal over a period of +/- 8 days. But, due to her age, she was already quite strong and those tendons seem to be stubbornly formed. We would create a hobble and she would pop out of it. We would try a new design and she would cast it aside. It seemed that every two days we were having to come up with a better idea. We used band-aids, elastic bands, pipecleaners, styrofoam, straws, bike inner tube, athletic tape, electrical tape and the dreaded duct tape. We trimmed the feathers from her legs. We tried binding her legs above the hock as well as below. But nothing has worked.

Either she gets her legs all tangled up, or she is unable to right herself, or she escapes and is right back in the position I originally found her in. We have to have food and water right in front of her and the waterer needs to have pebbles in it to prevent accidental drowning.

There once was a chick named Pretzel

Whose sinistral leg triumphed over her dextral.

Her back leg was so terribly angled

Becoming hopelessly entangled

So that she barely appeared bipedal.

More than two months have passed and, to be honest, little to no progress has been made. Her bad hip is locked in a backwards rotation. We have come up with a few stand-by hobbles which prevent her bad leg from extending all the way back and force her up on both feet. When her legs are loosely bound together, she can sit upright, eat, drink and snooze, and she can get where she wants to go by rocking back and forth from leg to leg in a slow spin.

She has recently taken to flapping and sort of tumbling to a new spot. But she cannot take a step forward and we have stopped trying to correct her gait. Instead we have made adaptations for her deformation – like a padded shin guard on the bad hock to prevent abrasions and to give her some height.

There once was a chick named Ampersand.

Our love for her you may not understand.

Whenever she sees us, she tweets.

In our elbow nooks, she sleeps.

In our hearts, she holds the upperhand.

Many of you will not be surprised to hear that we have tipped over the edge of crazy as we adapt our lives to accommodate a permanently-disabled chicken as a pet. We have never had a pet before and this seems odd, to put it lightly. If we had gotten a puppy, friends would understand and even come over to meet it. But, for some reason, a lot of people think that a chicken pet is inferior to a canine or feline pet. But she is cute, calm and quiet; she guards her flock and is thrilled to see us each time we come near.

She couldn’t survive without us and I think she knows it. She really is no trouble.

The trouble is … what if she is a he??

One thought on “An Unexpected Guest

  1. Love this story!! Martha – you and Bruce have the biggest hearts for our feathered friends. It is no surprise that you have adopted Weeble as a pet and that she feels so secure with you. A perfect match I think!

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