This morning, I went in to check on my five 2 week old cheepies. Sometime in the night, they had tipped over their water and it was bone dry. I sighed, cleaned it out and filled it back up. For the next 5-10 minutes, all five crowded around the waterer, making no noise, and just drinking greedily. After a few minutes, I noticed that one of them (my favourite, of course, who has fluffy cheeks) was quietly vomiting the water right back up, with a bunch of bubbles. Basically, they had grown tall enough that the little platform (a candle box) that the waterer was on wasn't high enough, and they were starting to swallow some air along with the water. Since chickens don't burp, the next logical thing to do to get air out of their stomachs is to vomit.
There was exactly nothing I could do (aside from switch to a slightly higher platform for the water) than sit there helplessly, thinking that if that chick died, it would be my fault. It would be my fault for not checking their water before going to bed the night before, so who knows how long the container had been knocked over. It was my fault that they were so desperate for water that they stopped their normal tiny chicken behaviour of running around cheeping and jumping on each other to stand quietly and gorge themselves on said water. And it was my fault for not lifting the waterer up high enough for them not to get air bubbles along with their water.
It was a bad time. Even though they are "just farm animals" and not pets, they are helpless and they are in my care. And that little life would be on my conscience if she died from it.
After watching over them for another 15 minutes, they seemed to perk up a little bit, and resumed tearing around their little enclosure, though "Cheeks" wasn't as active. When we got home tonight from hiking, I sent my husband in to check on them, because I just couldn't bear the thought of finding that little fluff ball dead. I lost several chicks last year and they all were upsetting, but none of their deaths were directly related to anything I'd done.
Thankfully, they are all alive. They have all gone back to eating and drinking and playing "Chicken kamikaze"; a delightful game of climbing to the highest perch they can get to and jumping on their neighbour. Since there are so few of them, they are currently living in a very very large Rubbermaid container in my downstairs bathroom, right next to where I sit with my computer. I know when they are playing this game when the consistent cheep cheep cheeps are interrupted with a most indigent "CHRRP!" as one of the chicks gets landed on.
That which we nurture binds us to it. Neglect that attachment at your peril.