Saturday, June 4, 2011

redbreasts & redheads

I've written about how having chicks has altered my perception of bird vocabulary. It's not like I was oblivious to birds before. It's just that once you've learned what a chick sounds like when she's been startled by the sudden appearance of a hand in the brooder, or what she sounds like when her sister chick accidentally lands on her during one of those first flights when loft surpasses navigational skills...well, a whole universe of bird speak begins to open itself to you. I realize now that it is very much like what happens when one becomes a parent. Where before a crying baby was an indecipherable annoyance (assuming one even tried to decipher those horrible noises), the parent's ears are finely attuned to recognize the hungry cry, the tired cry, the bored cry...even when it emanates from the stranger's baby in seat 24C.

Anyway, I've always been aware of the wild birds that frequent my yard and we've been lucky to have a habitat that draws a great many. I've mentioned our two majestic oaks but we also have a variety of fruit trees and bushes (peach, plum, pear, blueberry and raspberry among them) and we're not averse to sharing with our feathered friends. Just don't get me started on the squirrels. Add to that the healthy population of earthworms thanks to our organic practices and the ever-replenished open compost pile and there is ample nutrition for the jays, doves, cardinals, robins, finches and mockingbirds we regularly see.

So since moving the girls outside I've been curious to see how the "indigenous" fowl react to the arrival of my tame brood. For the most part, they've seemed oblivious. But on the second field trip we took earlier this week I noticed that the girls were suddenly very still and clustered together along the eastern edge of their yard, looking fixedly out into the main yard. Maddy was inside so I knew it was not her they were checking out. When I followed their gaze, there he was: a small male robin. And he was every bit as interested in them as they were in him. Since that day, I have observed him several times, making his way across the back yard, working his way closer to the chicken yard and keeping a close and curious eye on my pullets all the while.

The first time I tried to photograph him, he was screened from my view by the fence and the camera captured it meticulously; him, not so much:
nice chickenwire, eh?
I couldn't get the camera to ignore the fence and I knew that if I stood up to shoot over it, he'd be scared off. So today when I spotted him once again sniffing 'round the henhouse, I parked myself right next to the fence. And sat very still as he made his way closer and closer, photographing him all the way. His boldness confirmed my impression of his youth--an older bird would not have been fooled by my stillness and would never have approached as close as he did. But approach, he did, intent on the chicks. And my reward, 31 pictures later, was this:

He looks every bit as tufty as the girls and, with the exception of foot size, similarly proportioned.

And speaking of's time for me to retract an earlier statement I made concerning Hattie's breed. You may remember that I based my decision to order chicks from the company I chose in part because of their forthright endorsement of the Buff Orpington as their favorite. So naturally, I was keen to see for myself what it was about that bird that made it so special. And just as naturally, when the chicks arrived and one of them was a lovely creamy blonde, I concluded she was my Buff Orpington. Well, nicht so schnell! Hattie, my image-conscious blonde, has morphed this week into a red-head, or at the very least a strawberry blonde. What's more, her entire body has become increasingly pock-marked with red feathers:

Remember how she looked just a week ago? Still babyish, still buff!

 And here she is today!
note her contribution to the blog--she and Millie adore the laptop
Now don't get me wrong, she's absurdly photogenic in her new dress and she's a real charmer to boot. But I'm just a smidge disappointed not to have an "Orp," as they're called. And I'm also stumped as to just what she is! Perhaps a New Hampshire Red? Any ideas, folks?

And for those who may have wondered, the girls survived their first night in the coop just fine. I, of course, woke up several times and worried. And couldn't sleep past 6. On a Saturday. But they were just fine and even a little reluctant to come out of the coop and have the egg I scrambled for their breakfast. Sleepyheads!

No comments:

Post a Comment