It’s a true delight to watch not only one but two sets of chicks pottering around the farm. Anastasia has her five chicks in an assortment of beiges and greys, and Shirley has eleven that are all either golden or yellow, apart from the little stripey dude! We suspect that another hen nipped in to lay an egg when Shirley was on walkabout one day. We’ll see what Stripey turns into as he/she gets older.
Seeing them snuggle under mum’s wings or come skittering over when she gives her ‘here’s some food’ cluck has got to me to thinking that chicks like these, brought up by their mother, must be completely different from the chicks hatched en masse in incubators and that are left to bring themselves up. They’re given the warmth, food and water they need, but no one’s showing them how to be a chicken. Our home-grown chicks are seeing how their mothers behave, how they scratch the ground, see off potential threats and establish the pecking order. It will be very interesting to see how these chicks turn out – whether they’re more confident and assertive when they grow up.
Of course, the mother’s personality will have an effect too I’d imagine. Of our two first-time mothers, Ana is by far the pushier. She’s older by a couple of years so perhaps that makes a difference. Anyway, she’s not a chicken you mess with. She sees off any other animal that comes too close to her babies, no matter how big it is. She’s not mad keen on us being too near to her babies but they come running over to see us now, so she can’t do much about that. She’s not quite as aggressive as Gracie, the grey chicken formerly known as Grey Chicken. When she was bringing up her foster ducklings, the henlings, I made the mistake of going to pick up one that had got stuck on the wrong side of the fence. Next thing I knew, a fiercesome vision of erect grey feathers, sharp talons and fury exploded in my face. Gracie had leapt several feet in the air, claws first, to keep me away from her baby. I’m lucky to still have both eyes!
Needless to say I’m careful around chicks now. However, Shirley is very laid back in comparison. She isn’t as strident as Ana or nearly as psycho as Gracie in seeing off outsiders, which may mean her littluns are more vulnerable, but at least it’s meant we could treat a chick who had a sore patch. She’s good at the cuddling part and so far is coping well with her large brood.
Fingers crossed all these little feathery bundles will continue to thrive.
PS Caiti is becoming rather concerned that I’m turning into a crazy chicken lady and that my ever-increasing poultry flock may turn me to the dark side. She came up with this for me!
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