Last night, I gently moved my finger toward a chick and stroked her chest. This in itself was a victory, as the chicks usually run peeping, away from my hands.
But as I touched the chick, I felt a lump. My stomach dropped. I gently picked her up, and palpated. Did she have a tumor?
The lump was soft, and moved. I gently put her down and ran upstairs.
“The Dominique has a lump on her chest,” I told Matt. I don’t remember him saying much, probably in a smart move to not stoke the flames in my mind.
I immediately pulled out my computer and went to BackyardChickens.com. I entered “chick has lump on chest” … and a gazillion threads came up. I quickly surmised the lump on her chest was not a tumor at all: It was her crop.
The crop is an expanded, muscular pouch near the throat that is part of the digestive tract. It is used to temporarily store food.
So basically, I have a little piggy chick. Her crop was full.
When I woke up this morning all three chicks had lumps on their chest. It was before my first cup of coffee, so all sorts of irrational thoughts flew through my brain. Were their crops impacted? Did they eat some of the pine shavings from the bottom of the brooder?
I cleaned out the brooder, and only laid down paper towels, worrying the shavings were a problem.
I did more research, and found that chilled chicks do not digest their food as quickly as warm and cozy ones do. I checked the temperature in the brooder, and it had fallen overnight. I adjusted the heat, and pulled out their feeder for a couple hours to give them a chance to digest the food in their crops.
Two long hours later, I went down to check on my fuzzybutts. The Olive Egger had no signs of a full crop, the Dominique’s was much softer and smaller, and the Marans’ crop was a bit softer as well.
I eventually added pine shaving back into the brooder, and watched as they playfully picked at the pieces and flew from one side to the other. The babies are just fine.
The lesson in all of this is that despite an insane amount of preparation, there are still countless things that I’ll never be prepared for.
No doubt, these chicks will keep me on my toes.