I must say that these GNH chicks are some of the most beautiful little chicks I have had. Even at three weeks old, which is very often already replete with early adolescent awkwardness, they are pretty, solemn little things. Their fluff is still a pale blonde on their heads, chests, and backs, but their wings and shoulders are feathered in with a warm browns and umber. All but one have carroty yellow feet and combs, and their eyes are a dark, slate blue.
Unfortunately, I no longer have eight but just six GNH chicks. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know why or how I lost these chicks. It may have been one of the 7 forms of coccidiosis that do not cause bloody or even unusual stool. Like when I lost “Purple,” my EO chick, I saw no outward sign of illness. I first noticed something was wrong when they spent too much time under the EcoGlow and did not come out with the others. Then, they kept their eyes closed and their mouths would gape. When I felt them, their keels jutted out prominently because the damage in their intestines was preventing them from absorbing nutrients in their food. I fed them nutrients in water, and for the last chick, I also fed Sulmet to try to battle the coccid, but it was too late.
All of their equipment had been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before they moved in, and we practiced very good biosecurity between age groups, always working from the youngest to oldest group when cleaning or feeding and always keeping hands and equipment clean. So, I don’t know what happened, but there it is. I am thankful, again, for the six that I have.
I kept the other six on Sulmet for a week just in case, and they have come through just fine. Sulmet is a sulfa drug. These drugs inhibit an enzyme that is needed to create folate. The bacteria or, in coccid’s case, protozoan is starved of folate and dies, but this can put stress on chicks because they are also starved of folate during the medication process, and adding extra nutrients can undermine the medicine’s effectiveness. Other coccid medicines work in different ways: Corid is the most commonly recommended medicine. You can see a list of treatments here. Because these chicks were not outwardly sick, I decided that the greater risk was from malnourishment and have given them a mashed-up hard-boiled egg sprinkled with chick grit and feed every day for two weeks now. After a week on Sulmet, I gave them regular water with a much heavier amount of apple cider vinegar than I usually would, about two tablespoons in their liter water bottle, to give them a highly-acidic digestive system and hopefully prevent the coccid from coming back.
With all of this going on, I have not banded, photographed, or attempted to sex these chicks in the last few weeks. Stress can literally kill chickens or exacerbate hidden illness, so I did not want to do anything that would cause them stress, like excessive handling. Sometimes I think I have 1 pullet and 5 cockerels; other times, I think it’s half-and-half. Only time will tell. I think these birds will be challenging to sex.
Outside, the Basque Hens (EOs) have adapted to outdoor living with the most voracious appetite. They are a joy, full of energy and curiosity. They hunt flies, battle over poor earthworms, and relish the greens of dandelion and clover. It’s a lovely spring, and after a while, these little ones will be moving outside to enjoy it themselves.