Tag Archives: chicken health


I have to apologize for the lack of updates regarding the first hatch of this season. When I set the eggs back in February, I could have never imagined the ride I was in for with this first hatch. First off, the area that we had set the incubator (our kitchen pantry) was apparently too cold on a couple nights as the incubator gave off a low temp warning a couple mornings in a row. Secondly, the humidity in our house was crazy low – around 30% – which, while normal for winter in Maine, made it tricky to keep the humidity high enough at the end of the hatch.

However, even with those two interesting issues, we had six of the seven eggs make it to hatch day. (One egg was a “quitter” mid way through.) As the eggs started hatching, Little Mister and I kept checking to see the progress of the chicks. The second one to pip was having trouble zipping.

Carrot - Prehatch

The membrane wasn’t coming apart correctly. The chick was mispositioned in the egg, making very slow progress. When this egg became the last one to finish zipping, I began to worry as to whether or not I should step in and help out.It’s always an interesting battle as a homesteader, knowing when to help an animal in distress out and when to let nature take its course. I decided on a deadline, and if the chick wasn’t out, then I would help interfere. The choice was made for me when the second to the last chick out, who was still drying off in the incubator, accidentally knocked off the shell of the struggling chick.

With the choice taken from him/her, Carrot, as my son named the orange colored chick, entered our world. Right off, I could tell something was wrong.

This photo was taken on day two after Carrot hatched.

This photo was taken on day two after Carrot hatched.


Carrot was born with part of his yolk sac unabsorbed. There is very little you can do for a chick in this state aside from provide time, love, and nourishment. As we were waiting for his roommate to dry off, said roommate stepped on Carrot’s yolk sac, causing a small leak. That increased the chance of infection. The roommate was banished down the basement brooder with slightly damp shoulders so that Carrot wouldn’t face a second rupture.

Carrot ended up spending an additional two days in the incubator, lovingly renamed the NICU during these time. I took Carrot out every few hours to check that the yolk sac was diminishing, give water with electrolytes, and allow some snuggles. I was worried at first that I would have to cull Carrot. I am amazed that the little foof is still around and strong. The yolk sac is almost gone, leaving a crusty over-sized belly button that might eventually fall off. The only visible damage from Carrot’s ordeal are two wings that seem smaller than average. Carrot will be a special bird, for sure. If Carrot is a she, we’ll find room for her in our flock. If a he, I know some folks who adore special needs birds.

For now, Carrot will have a bonded mate with his/her hatch buddy, who has been named Sable. They’ve been sharing the same brooder box for a few days now and are inseparable.

Carrot and Sable

Feather Cysts

One of the issues that we’ve been dealing with this past month or so has been feather cysts. Jovi, our white crested black Polish, is our first crested chicken that we’ve ever had. Back in the fall he was attacked by another rooster that we had tried to keep. (Needless to say we found the other rooster a new home.) After the attack, I didn’t dare pull out all of the broken feathers in Jovi’s crest as I didn’t want him completely bald for the winter. I took a gamble and left them in there.

The problem with gambling is that there’s always the possibility of a bad outcome. In this case, it was feather cysts. A feather cyst is like an ingrown hair on a bird, only it’s a feather not a hair.


Feather cysts normally form when a broken feather shaft is left in and blocks the new feather from emerging. Sometimes the broken feather will fall out and let the new ones work through, but it’s a rare occurrence.

There are a few different ways to treat feather cysts. The first step that we had to take was to remove all the broken feathers that were left in hopes of avoiding another cyst.

The next three days we used a carbon paste to pull at much of the puss from the wound as possible. We also pricked it open with a pin to drain the puss. On the fourth day there was a scab that we were able to peel off to reveal the feather underneath. I didn’t take any photos of it, but after I pulled out everything from the cyst, and full feather measured about an inch long.

He’s had two more cysts since then, but both we’ve been able to pop and let come out on their own. This one was by far the worse. While I feel awful that he had to go through that, it was a great learning experience for us and now we know how to stop them before they start.