Sunday, September 25, 2005


I’m not much of one to anthropomorphize animals. And I’m an animal girl. But then, I don’t think that anyone who really works with animals is much prone to do that. Really effective dog trainers, for instance, don’t treat dogs like four legged people but like dogs, using their language and their social structures to help them find their place in the human structures. Or Monty Roberts, the horse whisperer guy (the real one, not the Robert Redford one), he understands the language of the horse, and of flee animals in general, and can thus talk to them, pretty literally.

What I am saying is that animals (like plants and rocks and things) have their own beingness and don’t need human beingness imposed upon them. If we treat them as we would our children, we devalue them AND devalue our children.

But sometimes . . .

We had this chick, see. It got part way out of its shell and couldn’t get any further. Most eggs/chicks that that happens to die within just a few hours, and it can happen for various reasons. But this one didn’t die. We helped it a bit and still it was stuck. Daughter figured out the membrane had dried and actually took it to the sink to wash it free of its sticky trap. It dried off and stood up, but didn’t seem to be able to raise its head up. The head looked too large -- maybe it was swollen from the trauma. I felt sure it wouldn’t make it out of the incubator but it did and was put in the washtub with the other hatchlings. It had rather stiff feathers and I thought the others might peck it to death. They didn‘t. Then one of its legs stuck out in front of it. Daughter thought maybe the others had broken it, but as far as I could tell, it wasn’t broken or dislocated. It seemed to work fine for my fingers but not for the chick. I thought it would die but it didn’t. It managed to get around rather well in fact. Except for the night it got stuck in the waterer, but peeped so loudly that I got up and got it out and put it under the light so it didn’t die then. Then its other leg got stuck out behind it. Same deal, didn’t seem to be anything wrong with it except that it didn’t work which is a pretty serious thing to be wrong with it. The chick was almost a week old at this point. They’ll usually die by then if they are going to. Don’t count your chickens even after they hatch. This one just kept on living.

Perhaps it would have been ok if we’d been able to build it a little chicken wheelchair and keep it by itself but obviously we couldn’t do that. And wouldn’t want to anyway. There are things in life worse than death (not wheelchairs, but a chicken not being able to live a real chicken life). So finally, the chick did die.

And of course, I couldn’t help but admire it. What strength, what tenacity. What a lack of whining complaints.

Another chick in that same hatch wasn’t fully formed, didn’t have an eye and part of that side of its head. Because of the non-symmetry, its beak was crossed. Sometimes crossed beaks do fine (one of our best layers is a crossed beak), but sometimes they cannot eat enough to maintain life. This one eyed chick is so far doing fine and they are 7 weeks old now.
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one-eyed chick


madcapmum said...

I did a quick web-search, and I'm not coming up with anything useful - what's a "flee animal"?

justrose said...

what a cool story. i hope the little dude/gal (?) makes it.

i am on the fence about anthropomorphizing. i've done it with my cats, cause my favorites especially were sickly and needed a lot of care. this was before i had a kid, obviously, and i never thought my feelings would change. they did. what i discovered though as being part of the tribe of the cat for many years now is that they never became more human. i became more cat.

the Contrary Goddess said...

Monty Roberts used that term. Basically any animal that protects itself by fleeing -- horses, deer -- instead of fighting.

And jr, what a great point. We are capable of becoming more like them, or understanding them more. And for me, it is really the animals that draw me to this life the most, there's something about messing with them that is fulfilling to me.

The one-eyed chick is doing fine. She's still in her condo over the chickaterium!