Our baby chicks are growing up. Once little fuzzballs, they are now looking like real hens… or roosters. Though we asked for pullets (females under a year old), it’s hard to tell boys from girls when they’re fresh out of the egg, so, more than occasionally a male slips through when people order females.
So these days I spend my time looking closely at their developing combs, at their newly-sprouted feathers, and at their legs, seeking any tell-tale hints that, sooner or later, one (or more) will start to crow.
They’re a little awkward teenager-like right now, still growing feathers on their heads. But they’re increasingly confident and capable of free-ranging with the best. We let them out in the mornings and they come eagerly flying out of their coop, ready to explore the world of bugs.
They toddle around the yard, chasing jumping grasshoppers and one another, peeping and chirping in an effort to stay together and pass along info about delicacies they’ve discovered. So far, our Pyr Honey is not bothering them, and is even showing something of her Livestock Guardian Dog breeding when she follows them around calmly.
Our newest addition to the family, little Cocoa, has been a bit more challenging. While I was out of town last week, my husband called me with the news that he’d caught her with a chick between her paws. She promptly let it go when he shouted at her. But then he started counting chicks, and two were missing. He scoured our property and found nothing. The logical conclusion was that our rescue dog — scarred by her time fending for herself as a stray — had eaten them whole.
Those were a tough few hours, but a later chick census showed the two missing ones had returned. They were apparently hiding after the trauma of being chased by Cocoa — and hiding very well. We breathed a big sigh of relief, for many reasons.
We haven’t been fencing them in, so far, and they are staying fairly close to home, as far as we know. It may be tempting fate, but they seem to be quite adept at making their way back to the coop as soon as it starts to get dark, and they even took shelter before it started to rain.
It’ll be mid-September, at least, before we get eggs — just in time for my birthday, hopefully. But for now just watching them is pretty fascinating. Here they are in action: