Monday, August 9, 2010

They grow up so fast

Chickens, that is.  (Kids, too, but that's another post.)

Smokey, the grey Silkie chick, (cockerel, we think) is now 10 weeks old.  His mama hen, Bandit, a first-timer on the hatching circuit, is like many mothers -- she wants her freedom but she can't quite drop the chick. She's a flyer, always going walk-about in the front yard, visiting the compost pile, that kind of thing.  And motherhood didn't change her.

She flew the chick pen the day after Smokey hatched.  Fortunately it was warm weather so he wasn't left alone AND cold but we had to put a wire cover on their pen, forcing Bandit to stay in.  And that was difficult for Bandit.  She paced the fence of her small enclosure, squawking almost constantly about her internment.  Poor Smokey spent most of his early days running alongside her trying to keep up so when she did settle down he could scoot underneath for a bit of warm "mama hen time."

DH listened to me debate with myself over whether to leave Smokey in with his seemingly dysfunctional mama hen or foster him in the garage.  (He didn't debate because he was not in favor of a chicken in the house.  Thin end of the wedge, you know.) I debated because as often happens with our livestock, I'm torn between the food-production side of life and the pet side plus nature vs. nurture -- difficult philosophical subjects here, people!

After the first couple of  weeks, we tried letting them both out into the backyard with the other backyard girls (and Snowball's one-week-older chicks) but Smokey couldn't keep up with Bandit's long legs and certainly not with her wings when she would go up and over the fence for a quick compost reccon.  So they went back in the closed pen till about 10 days ago.

Then, at almost 9 weeks, it seemed time to let him out with the flock to take his chances in our relatively safe backyard while still, somewhat, under Bandit's tutelage.  The neat thing we discovered was while Bandit may head off on her own as usual, Smokey's better able to keep up and, best of all, Bandit is now keeping a protective, if laid-back, eye on her older chick.  Now if Smokey cries out -- like when DS picked him up for this photo -- Bandit comes charging to his rescue.  Forget the times when she left a newly-hatched chick on his own in the chick pen, she's remembered that she has a responsibility.  It's cool to watch their interaction and that of Badger, the grey Silkie roo, who steps in to herd his ladies and any of their chicks as he thinks necessary.
Badger is definitely Smokey's sire and while Mrs. Badger, the other half of our grey Silkie pair, laid the egg, Bandit is his mama hen.  Together they make a great chicken family with some human parallels that make for interesting chicken-watching conversations on a slow summer afternoon.
Badger protectively watching over Bandit and a mostly-hidden Smokey -- even Happy Lamb turns from the camera...

Badger and his "other" families including Snowball and her then-11-week-old chicks: the Turken Twins, Dion the Wanderer and, in front, TBD or the-chick-to-be-named-later.

(Sort of makes me feel I'm reporting for a celebrity rag chicken-expose on polygamous roos but then I'm back to anthropomorphizing...)

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