So I'm sitting here looking at a pecked, bloodied, half-dead chick.
It's so awful that I'm not going to post a picture.
We've been putting the chicks out with the older birds for increasingly longer periods of time to try to acclimate them to each other, and this morning we thought we'd try 45 minutes. We then made the mistake of leaving to run a couple of errands rather than sitting there and supervising them.
When I got back, Lady Bird was just laying there on the ground, motionless, as if she was dead. One of our adult hens (probably Dolley of the adorable photo below) had attacked her, pecking her so badly that the back of her head is a bloody mess. She has a patch of bare, bleeding skin about the size of a quarter on the back of her head–which gives the rather horrifying impression that half her head is gone, even though she's only missing feathers and some skin.
So I immediately rushed them both back inside and returned them to the bathtub while I figured out what to do. Then I realized that, as expected, little Ida started pecking at Lady Bird's wound as well (chickens are attracted to the color red, so if another chicken has an injury, they will all pick at it more or less by instinct.)
So. Now my murderous adult hens are outside in their coop. Ida is in the bathroom downstairs by herself, which is about her least favorite thing in the world. Lady Bird is in a pet carrier on my desk, sleeping on a towel, with a head full of antibiotic ointment.
And I'm going out of town in two days.
And we just did a massive remodel of our bookstore, which requires Scott's presence at the store for long hours every day, which is why we were hoping to transition the chicks outside before I left.
I hope Lady Bird will sleep off the shock and revive a little later. Then it will just be a matter of keeping her isolated until this awful wound heals and feathers out again. But honestly, I don't know if she's going to make it. She just seems really weak and fragile.
The chicken books are full of advice about how to keep new chicks segregated from the others by putting separate pens next to each other, etc. Believe me, we've got all that information. It would not have been easy to build a separate pen for them give the layout of our coop, and it would have been expensive to buy one, but clearly we're going to have to do one or the other. We had just hoped that we could try this gradual introduction and see how it goes–but our mistake was in leaving them unsupervised for any time at all.
Well. Since the whole point of the Chicken Chronicles was to share our experiences in this round of chicken-raising, I thought I should share our one terrible mistake. I'll post again in a day or two and let you know how Lady Bird is doing.