Apparently hatching is only the beginning of the hazards in a chicken’s life. There are diseases, hawks, farm dogs, small children, and even other chickens (think origin of the term “pecking order”) to worry about.
On Monday I noticed that one of my hens wasn’t doing well. When she does make it to her feet, she sort of staggers in whatever direction she wants to go and then flops down. She’s still eating and drinking, but seems pretty uncomfortable.
As Erynn noted, a 100% survival rate for nine chickens is probably a bit unrealistic. One of the other hens already owes her life to a more or less miraculous recovery.
Before Ted had fully reinforced the chicken run to keep Oliver (farm dog) out and the hens in, I had a heavy set of wooden slats propped against the gate to the run (most frequent site of escapes leading to traumatic Oliver-chicken encounters). One day as I was trying to block their most recent escape route and the chickens were gathered around trying to…well…escape, I accidentally knocked the slats over, trapping one poor hen underneath.
It was awful. I pulled the slats up and she staggered, squawking into the coop where she sat awkwardly, panting and blinking very fast. Kat helpfully came in from the field to help me examine the chicken (and not so helpfully suggested that the vegetable pot pie she was planning for that evening’s dinner could easily become a chicken pie). I spent the morning bunching kale, renewing my commitment to vegetarianism by repenting of my recent fish consumption, and hoping that the hen would be dead before Kat had to kill her.
But when we went in to check on her before lunch, she was up and walking around. Within a day or two, Squashed Chicken was indistinguishable from the other eight.
I’m guessing I/we won’t get that lucky twice. Four days later I’m still trying to figure out the merciful thing to do.