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Posts Tagged ‘runt’

Tipsy

Tipsy has a drinking problem. It’s getting better now, but when we first noticed it (at about 2 days of age), we were a little concerned. Would she survive with such a severe behavioral defect? Would it compromise her ability to function like a normal chicken, especially in stressful situations where quick reflexes are needed?

I’m not giving my chickens beer, I promise… Tipsy just appears to be a little bit “special.” While all the other chicks quickly learned to sip a bit of water and tilt their heads back just a smidge to swallow, Tipsy would take a sip, sit back on her haunches (do chickens have haunches?), tip her head WAAAAY back over her back until she was looking backwards, and swallow that way. Except that half the time she lost her balance and fell over onto her back, causing a big commotion because she’d have to scramble and flap wildly to get herself upright again, inevitably disturbing some other chick’s peaceful moment.

At first we laughed heartily at this, thinking she’d figure it out in an hour or two. Then a day or two. She didn’t. This went on for days, and when I tried to gauge the normalcy of this behavior by asking more experienced “chicken people” about it, they frowned and said “that doesn’t sound right.” Great. It so happened that Tipsy was also significantly smaller than the other chicks. I decided she was a runt, and instantly felt something between despair for her and anger at the hatchery that would pick out a runt and ship it to me. Conventional wisdom dictates that runts won’t make it, and it’s better to put them out of their misery right away than let them suffer the overwhelming cruelties of life.

But after a bit of thought, I realized that if someone had to inherit a runt, it may as well be me. Here in her spacious run, with only 4 other chickens to contend with and plenty of daily personal attention (not to mention food), she could be as special as she wanted or needed to be, truthfully. And she is just too cute. Besides, I was a runt of sorts when I was younger. I know what it means to be smaller and skinnier than the other kids, and to be picked on endlessly because of it. I turned out ok. So I resigned myself to the fact that I have a runt, and resolved to pay special attention to her.

Well, she doesn’t really need it. Tipsy is tipping less, though I still catch her doing it once in a while. She’s still smaller than the others, with lots of fluff left and not much of a tail while the others are practically 100% feathered out by now. But this is one quick, tenacious little chicken. She chases down bugs with total precision, and often is the first to jump up and snatch a treat out of my fingers and take off with it (though her ensuing high-decibel, excited cheeping gets her in trouble immediately and she usually loses the prize). She protests vocally when pushed around, so I can’t be convinced that she’s on the bottom of any emerging pecking order. I think this girl is a survivor.

Tipsy is a Buckeye, a ‘critically endangered’ rare breed of chicken developed in Ohio (where else) long ago by an enterprising woman who wanted a docile, cold tolerant egg laying breed. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy describes Buckeyes as having “a personality all their own. They are a very active fowl and are noted for being especially vigilant in the pursuit of mice, some breeders comparing them to cats in regard to this ability. They tend to have very little fear of humans and are possibly too friendly.” Well, little Tipsy is quite fearful at this stage in her life. Perhaps she’ll grow out of it, but she screams bloody murder when I try to turn the light out, so the girls are still sleeping with a lamp on at night which I guess is normal for now. She’s flighty and the least easy to handle, screaming bloody murder (again) when caught. But as with all chicks, her personality is evolving quickly. She is eyeing my lap more curiously, and she steps readily into an open hand – just fights like a banshee when grabbed. It’s truly impossible to contain her and I end up carrying her perched on my hand and flapping rather than ensconced in any secure way. Her agility when chasing bugs makes me think that the bit about catching mice may yet turn out to be true, and quite handy too because we have those now, after the resident cats moved out a few months ago. The only thing I doubt is that she will be six and a half pounds. But we shall see. She’s certainly proved herself to be a unique and uniquely keep-able girl.

Tipsy at one week of age; a tiny, dainty little thing.

Tipsy at one week of age; a tiny, dainty little thing.

Tipsy is the smaller yellow chick with the brown spot on her head.

Tipsy is the smaller yellow chick with the brown spot on her head.

Miss Tipsy at 4 weeks of age, about a week ago. She's getting browner.

Miss Tipsy at 4 weeks of age, about a week ago. She's getting browner.

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