As most of my readers know, I have bantams – tiny chickens who weigh less than a pound fully grown. And they tend to be prolific, which means no matter how hard I try to collect every egg every single day, we always end up with chicks.
This year is different. I’ve scoured the barn, the run-in, the horse trailer, the coverall, and the coops, grabbing every egg I could find and sending mothers-to-be squacking. I am the pariah of chickendom, worse than the foxes and hawks, the evil gatherer of children-to-be.
A few weeks ago, I found two hens sitting on one nest of eggs, side-by-side. Every day I collected all the eggs, leaving just one between them. This was so the hens would stay where they were, rather than hiding a nest in the woods where I wouldn’t find them until they showed up three weeks later with a bazillion chicks. The other hens in the flock quickly replaced the ones I took, so the sitting pair usually had 6 to 10 eggs beneath them.
What are the odds that I’d leave behind the same egg every day for three weeks?
Very good, apparently. Three days ago a chick hatched.
One chick isn’t a big deal. I bought chick starter, cleaned the coop, and shoved fresh shavings and hay in the nest. Hen #2 didn’t much care for the chick, and she pecked at her every time she ventured out from under Hen #1. So I moved chick and mom to their own nest.
That evening, I returned to find that Hen #1 had returned to the original nest, and the chick had been horribly injured – presumably by Hen #2. Without going into gory detail, well, there was a lot of real estate with no skin. An awful lot.
I tried one of those magic bandages – the Johnson and Johnson Advanced Healing Pads I’m so fond of – the ones that form a second skin. But it was too thick to wrap around something that weighed less than half an ounce. Feeling defeated, I slathered the chick with antibiotic ointment, put her in a cage with her mom (in the living room, of course), and hoped for the best.
Yesterday morning I found her glued to her mom’s feathers. She was very weak, didn’t look at all like she was going to survive. I cut her free with scissors and spent the day feeding her sugar water and raw egg through an eye dropper, and slathering her with more antibiotic ointment. I knew if I couldn’t figure out a way of bandaging her, she wouldn’t have a chance. But I had no idea what to try.
Then I had an idea – what about the membrane from the inside of an egg shell? It’s kinda like skin, thin, flexible, porous.
I cracked open an egg, carefully peeled the membrane away from the shell, and cut it into little pieces with cuticle scissors. Then I soaked the strips of membrane in salt water to kill bacteria. After slathering them in antibiotic ointment, I pressed them against the chick’s wounds, slowly covering all the exposed stuff that shouldn’t be exposed.
Amazingly, it stayed in place all night and all day. Today little Frankenchick is running around, eating, drinking, and looking as if she might just survive.