Monday, July 30, 2012

What? She Lost the Chicks!

Over the weekend, I had all of the chickens out in the yard while I cleaned the coops - the main coop, where the big girls stay, and The Maternity Ward, where Mama and babies are living for now. Everyone was out and about clucking, chirping, and foraging when I heard Mama make a strage sound I'd never heard before. I can't even describe it. I was elbow deep in litter and chicken poop, but I paused and thought, That was weird, but I went about my business until a few moments later when I thought, What if that was the danger sound and there's a hawk or a giant owl sitting out there (We once had a hawk swoop down and perch on my son's swing set in the backyard while the chickens were loose in the yard. My husband had to shoo it away). I stuck my head out of the coop and looked around to where Mama had been foraging with the chicks. There was Mama standing tall and straight and still, but I didn't see her chicks anywhere.

I went from zero to one hundred in two seconds. My exact thought was, She lost the chicks! I thought they'd wandered away and were God knows where. I came out of the coop and looked around again until I finally saw one of the babies crouched down in the overgrown grass close to where Mama was standing still. Phew! I walked over to them and nearly stepped on chick #2, who was also hiding in the grass. Then it clicked. She did make the danger sound either because something startled her or just so she could teaching her babies. Mama was probably thinking Calm it down, Food Lady. I mean, if she didn't lose any of the five chicks she had last year, why would I think she'd lose one of two chicks this year? I can't help it. I'm a worrier.
Amazingly, they knew what the sound meant and they listened right away and kept still. I didn't give her the chance to tell them everything was okay and they could stop hiding because of my irrationality. She's teaching these chicks all the time just like she did with her last chicks. She finds food while foraging and makes a specific sound to let them know she has food. Of course, they come running and check it out right away. She shows them how to dust bathe and where to go when it's bedtime. They're always following right along. It's the best part of having a hen raise chicks rather than hatching them or buying day-old chicks to raise yourself. Does it work? Yes. Do the chicks grow up just fine and become perfectly fine chickens? Yes. But do you get to see them being tiny copies of their mamas? No.

I can tell you. Watching Mama and babies is too cute for words.

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