Of the six silkie chicks we bought back in July, only two survived. They are not doing all that well, either. One is lame; she pulls herself around with a wing, pushing with one leg. The other has eye infections. They are now living in a hay-lined dog crate in the heated shed attached to the kitchen.
Eye infections are not unusual in chickens, so I have trimmed back her feathers around her face and we are applying a triple antibiotic ointment. She has both eyes open, but the lids and skin are inflamed.
The other may have frostbitten her legs or feet. I asked my old parish warden when I saw him lately about silkies. They have raised all kinds of barnyard birds, from bantams to emus. He said that the breeds with feathered legs sometimes will get the lower feathers saturated with water from their dish or run-off, and the feathers freeze against the leg, damaging skin or muscle. This may be what happened to our little lame bird. She isn’t in pain, but sits with one leg back and one forward. She tumbled into a low place in the hay the other day, and had to be lifted out. Her dignity was badly injured. Today I held her in my hands, with her feet properly set under her, and I could feel the warmth of her legs and feet. She could balance all right; the leg muscles flexed and twitched, so I knew that she had enough blood flow and there is no sign of necrosis. I will try to give her that little exercise daily.
Both birds are eating and drinking, make happy chirpy noises when handled or when they are expecting food. Quite a few farmers would have put them down, but since they cost next to nothing to keep and are happy enough, we are letting them go on, giving them a chance.
Maybe we are too tender-hearted, but while I don’t like to see an animal suffer needlessly, they seem to enjoy their protected winter quarters. If they survive to summer, they will get an enclosed pen and little house outdoors. We are all right with having them as pets. They are bright and engaging, so the joy of holding and nursing them along is worth the trouble.