Warning: this post is depressing. Don’t read if you’re already feeling blue because it definitely won’t make you feel better.
We’re sad to report that the black chick we assisted out of its shell yesterday had to be euthanized. Its legs didn’t work properly and it couldn’t stand or walk normally. We tried putting a “boot” fashioned from a plastic bandage on one foot that was twisted to the side to try to straighten the curled toes, but the chick’s joint in that leg was seemed to be frozen (unable to extend), so the problem could not be corrected. Maybe this is at least partly why the chick couldn’t get out of its shell. The frustrating part is that the chick was active and clearly had a strong will to live, but this type of problem would likely only become worse with age – as the chick grew and gained weight, the strain on the weak legs would have become even greater, so we would have been delaying the inevitable. Knowing this, however, doesn’t relieve you of the weight of having to end its life.
Some of you may be wondering why this would feel different than, for example, culling an aggressive rooster. Older animals have at least had a chance to experience life…this chick only lived a day, most of it in an incubator. It feels, viscerally, unfair – through no fault of its own, this chick had no chance to live a good life. In a flock, chickens that are disabled or different often become a target for the others, and can be injured or killed. We briefly put the chick in with the other hatchlings and they practically swarmed it. In addition, a chicken that can’t walk properly would be easy prey for a fox or hawk.
Rest in peace, chick. We hope the need to cull a chick in the future is rare, but we accept responsibility for doing what’s necessary.