A mother hen is fun to watch. She clucks to her babies to follow her and then watches to make sure they are with her. She will double back if necessary to find the lost chick calling for her. She teaches them, showing them where they can find food and water. She gathers them under her wings at night and keeps them warm in the midst of her feathers. She protects them. She puffs up her feathers and dares anyone get near her babies. I've seen a mother hen go all ninja chicken and kick a horse in the face for sniffing too close to her babies. (Think Angry Birds.) The horse backed up and walked off too, snorting a "whatever," as she turned around. Yeah a mother hen is fun to watch.
Greta is a good mother hen. She sat on several eggs, but through circumstances that were beyond her control, was only able to hatch two live chicks. Then, about 10 days or so after her chicks hatched, a single egg I had stashed in an incubator hatched a lone baby chick. (This compliments of a guinea that had commandeered one of the chicken nest boxes that had a chicken egg in it whilst we were on vacation and did not follow through with taking care of it properly.) I kept the chick in the house for about a week in a box under a heat lamp. It was lonely and cried. Raising one orphan chick all by itself seemed an even sadder thought the more it chirped in that box for the mother it never had. Then I had an idea. What if Greta would take it? I grabbed the chirping chick and headed outside.
A good rooster is an important and integral part of a backyard flock. Although the girls can get along fine without a man and still lay you plenty of delicious eggs, having a rooster can add good looks and character to your bunch. In addition to his winsome charm, he provides extra protection for the ladies, placing himself between them and anything threatening their safety. Many a good rooster has sacrificed his own life in an attempt to shield his hens from predators. Besides all that, there is the idyllic crow, the hallmark song of farms all across the world.
I always knew Juan Carlos was a good rooster. I got to see him in action again the other day though, and in the process witnessed something truly beautiful and amazing.
Update on the baby chicks that came in the mail last month: They are growing very quickly!
This picture was taken last week, so this little guy (or girl not sure yet) is three weeks old here. You can see the top hat feathers starting to grow out on (we'll call it his) head. I totally love the color pattern and crazy headdress of the silver laced polish chicken. The little things are fast movers! It is a bit difficult to photograph them because they run like the wind! I decided to just hold him.
Not much can compare to new baby chicks. It feels like Christmas and Easter all rolled into one. The post office called me yesterday and told me that my babies had arrived! Although they will deliver them right to my door, sometimes it's faster to go pick them up myself as soon as the truck arrives. (It's also fun to hear them peeping and chirping in the box and enjoy the curious stares and surprised smiles from anyone else in the post office that didn't know you could order baby chicks in the mail.) Little chicks can last up to 72 hours without food or water right after they are hatched, but really the sooner you can get them eating and drinking after their trip (which usually lasts about two days) the better. So I went and got them right away. I took them out of the box one by one and made sure each chick had gotten a drink of water mixed with some "quick chick" electrolytes and a little sugar before placing them into a cozy bed of hay in a horse trough in the tack room under a heat lamp with chick food and water where they would be warm and safe from the nosy cats.