Cyclone Wilma

by Kath Rushworth
(Awahuri, NZ)

Cyclone Wilma: We've had torrential rain and I thought the chicks were dead when I saw them lying motionless in the grass.

I just moved to a lifestyle block in Manawatu, New Zealand. We have about 9 Rhode Island Reds free ranging, and one of the hens was looking after four chicks when we got here.

When we moved we brought with us two cats so we thought it prudent to lock the brood in an old rabbit hutch that had been used as a chicken tractor for previous chicks by the owners of the property.

We recently had torrential rain from the tail end of tropical cyclone Wilma. Unfortunately a couple of the chicks managed to jump out of the nest box and did not know how to jump back in, so when I went to check on them I found two prone and lifeless looking bodies in the grass.

I picked them both up and one of them moved a leg so I bustled them inside and held them against my body for warmth.

The bigger chick twitched his leg a bit and then expired, but the smaller chick started to open her beak and within an hour had warmed up, and fluffed up enough for me to return her to her mother.

Unfortunately, because I was too slack to fuss about in the rain, I didn't fix up a step for her so when I checked on her later the next day I found her in the rain, lying prone and limp in the grass again.

She hadn't been there long though, as I had fed the chickens no more than half an hour earlier. I managed to warm her back up to conscious once more, and returned her to her mother, and added a brick to the box so she could jump back into the box.

All was well for about a week but one of her siblings mysteriously went missing and it became obvious that she was not being cared for by her mother.

Her remaining sibling seemed to be getting all the food and she spent much of her time hiding in the grass out of the nest box.

She was so weak that even with the step I had added she could not climb into the box so I decided to bring her inside.

Since the warm wet weather we have had an abundance of flies now and she is enjoying feasting on them as I catch them for her.

She is growing stronger by the day. It is still unclear whether she will make it to fully grown. Only time will tell.

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