A Suburban Farm of 6th Happiness.

Mutation in Rhode Island Reds

by Alan - May 26th, 2013.
Filed under: Chickens.

Earlier this month, I made a trip to the country to pick up some Rhode Island Red (RiR) chicks. I was not thrilled with the conditions at this particular farm… but they were cheap, I had already spent the time and gas to get out there, and the few critters I took would have a nicer place to call home.  At least for a while.

As it turns out, all but one of the chicks had a lethal mutation… they appeared normal at first, but gradually you could see that they just weren’t growing as fast as the healthy hatch mate. The tail feathers never came in, the wing feathers tended to stay stuck in the shafts, the legs were weak and the toes curled. They had varying degrees of scoliosis, and most defining was the deformed beak- the top half being shorter and the lower one, sometimes but not always crooked (“scissored”) as well. It was only coincidence that someone gifted me The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow, where I found the disease mentioned.  It was not much more than a footnote, but enough to identify it, and relieve me of any fears that despite almost a decade of raising chickens, I somehow managed to screw up their diet.  We tried to give the chicks a chance, as I’ve heard of chickens living long lives with “scissor beak” before (See The Chicken Chick’s blog post here for more information on what it is, and how to care for them), but in this case, these chicks just had too many things wrong with them.

As Most of my hens are a few years+, I was really looking forward to some new young stock.  Well, it is best that I know about this now and not accidently breed this terrible disease into my flock.  Still, it was a devastating thing to deal with, especially at this time, when despite nearly 2 years of living in harmony with the support of our neighbours, one anonymous person has begun to make life difficult for us by making bogus complaints against us and our animals (for example, calling Animal Control out on the accusation that our yard is full of animal poop, when in fact, I pick up after the dogs every evening, and I have an elegant composting system that keeps the yard clean, and our veggie garden lush.)  More on that another time though.

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tags: chicken health   chicken mutations   Rhode Island Reds   RIR  

2 Responses to Mutation in Rhode Island Reds

  1. I saw some posts on other sites of yours (at least I think they were yours) from a year or so ago. I’m looking to start keeping chickens in my back yard in unincorporated Wheaton. Are you still doing this? Is the county still giving your problems? If you are still doing it, can you recommend any hatcheries or breeders in the area? I am only looking to start a small flock for eggs and learning for my kids. Thanks.

  2. Hi Joe,

    Sorry I didn’t reply sooner, we have been dealing with multiple health/family issues.

    Check with your neighbours first- if they are OK with it, you should be OK. If they aren’t, they may find ways to cause you trouble.

    I don’t know of local hatcheries but several years back, I emailed whoever was the then contact person for 4H in dupage and they put me in touch with a local teen that bred and showed chickens at the county fair (it was a while back so I doubt she is still in it, but coincidentally, she was in Unincorp. Wheaton also).

    You can also try posting to online chicken forums, such as the backyard chicken forum, and look for people who have hatched chicks, or need to rehome hens.

    If you want to do mail order, you’ll have to wait until spring, and as their minimum order is usually 15 to 25, so you’d want to find a couple others who’d go in on the order with you. I’ve always had good luck asking in online chicken groups for people that want to join in an order. And with somr hatcheries- the others in the group don’t even have to get chickens as you can have ducks or turkeys shipped with chicks instead to make up the minimum order. I probably have met more duck owners in Unincorp. Wheaton


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