Sadly, the smallest chick was looking very weak last night and despite our optimism, his abnormal abdomen and tiny body were clearly causing problems. We hand-fed him some hard-boiled egg, which was eaten reluctantly, and we noticed he was either lying down, standing shakily or staggering about. My mother came to see the brood and have some supper with us, so while I prepared our food she continued to try to give him, and the other, stronger late-comers, a little nourishment. Later, we de-pasted the bigger chicks in the main brooder however (two or three had slightly messy vents), with James cupping each in his hand so their fluffy yellow bottoms facing me, I washed the minuscule droppings away with damp, warm cotton wool. We looked in on the little guy and it was obvious that he was suffering and that he’d only become worse. The sturdier pair also seemed to be picking on him and the thought of him being bullied while being so defenceless was too much to bear. James, Mum and I were all in agreement that ending his life was the kindest thing to do. Thankfully, James is able to perform such tasks – I would like to think that if he wasn’t here I could do it, too, but I’m not so sure. At times like that, I always get the feeling that I’m a fraud, not a real henkeeper, let alone smallholder, being unable to put an animal out of its misery. James buried him down at the end if the garden where he would eventually have been kept should he have survived, which I thought was lovely. We had known it was likely that he was wouldn’t live, but you always like to think you can make animals better, so I couldn’t help shedding a few tears over this tiny creature.
What is remarkable is the two chicks James took out if their shells (above) seem to be eating well and growing nicely, so although we aren’t assuming they are out of the woods yet, they are lucky to still be with us several days on. I am looking forward to being around more at the weekend and able to check on them regularly. Below is a mini film of the gang of five acquainting themselves with the new chick crumb feeder – they genuinely seem to grow overnight!