Saturday, May 28, 2011


When I rolled in from work last night, the house was lousy with teenagers, both human and feathered. Max and his friends Lincoln, Dylan and Rebekah were clustered around decks of Magic the Gathering cards and Hank was busy cooking hot dogs and pasta with pesto to fuel them before an evening of Friday Night Magic at the local trading card shop. They remind me of my own misfit friends from about that age and I love them all, but oh my, our house is so tiny that with more than one lumbering teenage body it feels as though it will explode.

Once the kids were fed, Hank loaded them in the car and trundled them off to their event. With the house calm I turned my attention to the chicks. I have tried to be semi-religious about keeping their brooder clean, having read, as you'd expect, that "a clean brooder is a healthy brooder." That means hand-picking visible poo out (not as bad as it sounds, really) at least a couple times a day and changing all the bedding every 3 or so days. Hank and I had a plan to enjoy our liberation from parental duties by going out for dinner but I figured I'd use the time while he was doing taxi service to clean (bird) house.

With the cleaning done, I settled down to observe--my favorite pastime these days. The girls at this stage are decidedly adolescent. Just like teenagers, they are all developing at different rates. Gertie is like that slightly heavy girl who sprouted breasts in the fifth grade and spent the next two years slouching uncomfortably until the rest of us caught up with her. She is the largest of all and has the most real feathers. The big development of the past couple days is the appearance of tail feathers. At first they have the appearance of dandelion fluff:
Gertie loves the perch!
...but with every passing hour they look more and more like a real tail. And the girls really do shake their tailfeathers!

Rosie is now the smallest of the lot and still has the look of a baby about her head and face, although her wing feathers are resplendent in ginger, gold and brown.
F to B: Rosie, Sadie, Hattie and Gert
And the rest range between those two extremes. With feathers sprouting at odd places and down looking a bit scruffy at others, they all look as though they've been afflicted with a bad case of feathery acne or sprouted oddly-placed facial hair.

And just like teenage humans, they are experimenting with their new skills and pushing boundaries. I write these posts in a chair near the brooder where I can hear them but can only see what's happening at one end. As I wrote this post, the girls were busy, busy, busy--running from one end of the brooder to the other and flapping about. But a moment ago there was a squawk and I could tell something had happened but I couldn't see any of the birds. I stood up to look and this is what I saw:
Millie atop the fount!
And then...

now what?
Note the copious wood chips in the water--removing those is another hygiene task that must be performed many times a day.

And finally, the chicks are so kinetic that getting still photos of them at high resolution and with any level of detail is next to impossible. Video is the obvious format for baby animals (witness the many many kitten videos that make the rounds of Facebook) but we don't have a dedicated video camera. The still camera will take short video clips, though, and today I tried to capture some of the goings on. Note the cameo appearance by the dog, at first only audible and then a briefly visible snout. She is very interested in the chicks (and jealous of the attention we pay them) but we've got them covered with a screen when we can't keep an eye on her. We are very conscious of the fact that although she is a very good, very beta dog, she is still a canid--and when she looks at the girls she sees either dinner or sport! 

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