Monday, April 2, 2012

The Blind Chicken


When we decided to get hens again, after the gradual loss of my previous flock, I researched lots of different breeds. I settled on 3 that looked to be hardy and fun to raise. We ordered Buff Orpingtons, Ameracaunas and Cherry Eggers. We ordered 5 of each breed and anxiously awaited their arrival. I was so excited driving to the post office after I got the call that they had a "chirping" box waiting for me! I got them home and put them in a warm box with their food and water and just watched them explore their surroundings. They were 3 days old at this time. A few days later, I went to check on them one morning and found 2 cherry eggers soaking wet and struggling to breathe. One made it but, sadly, the other died a few minutes later. I didn't really think too much about it as I knew to expect some of them to die in the beginning. About a month later, I was checking on them and noticed that one of the cherry eggers was having problems holding her head up. She would raise it up and it would just flop back down on the ground. Hard.  After trying to help her and holding her, I realized that she needed to be put out of her misery. Soooooo, another cherry egger gone. Fast forward several months to the other day and I was out early letting the chickens out of their coop when I noticed one of my 3 remaining cherry eggers was having trouble getting down from the roosting bar. She is always the last one out of the coop in the morning but, this morning, she just seemed to be a bit "off". I went into the coop and picked her up and carried her outside with me. I held her for a couple of minutes and then put her down with the other girls. She seemed fine and went about eating her breakfast. Later in the day, I noticed something odd about her eyes. Each of the other hens had bright gold circles around the black center part of their eyes. This little girl had very hazy eyes that looked almost like they were closed. Both eyes are hazed over.
 It doesn't seem to bother her as she finds her food and water. More importantly, it doesn't seem to bother the other hens. Chickens are notorious for being exceptionally mean to any other chicken that is "different". They will peck to death a weak or hurt chicken. Thankfully, they don't seem to notice anything strange about her. I was really observing her, just to make sure she was okay and I noticed how she compensated for not being able to see where she was going. She must have been able to see at some point in time, or she isn't totally blind, because she knows the perimeter of the yard her coop is in. She follows the fence line and listens to the other chickens making noise and makes her way to them. Sometimes she bumps into them and then she adjusts her direction. I will admit that I am quite fascinated by her. Hubby asked me if I wanted to put her in a fattening pen and then...well, you know...I told him ABSOLUTELY NOT! I do not make a living off my hens. They are there to provide us with eggs, poop and cheap yard labor. So far, she has been able to do all that so my girl has a home until she goes to the big chicken coop in the sky. It really is a good thing that I don't raise livestock for a living because I could NEVER cull a weak animal simply for blindness or any other deficiency that doesn't cause any suffering. Moral of this story is stay away from Cherry Egger chickens. They are just NOT very hardy. Cute, but not hardy! Of the 3 chickens that had problems, all 3 were cherry eggers. I am also not completely sure that the 3 remaining are laying eggs. I have 14 chickens and get 10-12 eggs a day so I don't know who is not giving me their fair share. They ALL go into the chicken coop throughout the day and lay in the boxes, someone just forgets to give me eggs!

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