In response to Dad’s Irving Penn comment…we got out the white backdrop for some Avedon-esque portraits. OK, they’re not black & white, but that’s because they’re so pretty in color! Who can resist?
They do have very distinct personalities…I’ll include a little description with each.
Presenting Miss Eleanor, the sweetheart. They say Rhode Island Reds are pretty docile birds, and I guess they’re right. She’s very friendly and kind to the other birds, and she’s getting active, too: she loves to run laps around the brooder with her wings flapping. Both she and Abigail are working on their roosting skills–hens usually sleep on a roost, but you have to start them out on a little training perch so they can get used to the concept. Eleanor fell asleep perched on Scott’s finger today.
Here’s Abigail the bully, who would not sit still for a picture unless we bribed her with some food. She’s clearly angling for the top of the pecking order. Her favorite pasttime is stepping on her brood-mates while they are trying to sleep. When we lifted the screen off their brooder today, she flew to the top of her feeder (a first) and then flew right out of the box (also a first.) She, more than any of them, tries to run away when we pick her up, even though she seems to enjoy being out of the box. Although she puts up a tough front, if you leave her in the brooder alone, she starts to cheep as if her heart is broken. She’s a Golden Laced Wyandotte. She and Eleanor are about 2 weeks old now.
This is little Bess, the baby of the group. Even though she and Dolley came from the same batch, we think she’s only 6 or 7 days old at this point. She’s also an Araucana although her markings are different. She sleeps a little more than the others and sticks to herself more. She also tends to get squeezed out when everybody eats, although this is partly her fault considering that the feeder has about 10 openings and they all fight over the same two or three. Although she’s small, she’s surprisingly feisty–Abigail bullies her, but sometimes she’ll sneak up on Abigail and peck her in the butt when she’s not looking. She’s also a daredevil–she attempted flight long before she had a single wing feather to speak of.
Here’s Dolley, an Araucana, at about 8 days old. She’s the pretty one, sweet and sociable. She hangs out with the older ones and has one very cute trick–when she drinks, she takes the water into her beak and then sticks it straight up in the air, much higher than the other birds do, to swallow it down. It looks like she’s looking up and peeping at us, even though she’s just getting a drink of water.
One of the things you’re supposed to do with little chicks is to turn off the brooder lamp for a short period of time each day, maybe half an hour, to get them used to the idea of nighttime and prepare them for life outdoors. Because the lamp is not just a source of light, but also a source of heat, it’s important to do this during a warm part of the day so they don’t catch a chill. (Baby chicks can’t regulate their body temperature.)
We call this the Torture of Darkness. When we turn off the lamp, AKA The Sun, The Source of All Good Things in the Universe, they fall into a terrified silence. At least, that’s how I interpret it. Then they start the most pitiful, desperate cheeping you’ve ever heard. I can’t bear it. It’s like Tummy Time for new mothers.
Sometimes we make it half an hour, and sometimes one of us says, “Have we tortured the chicks long enough?” and we bring back the sun, restoring peace and order to the little flock.
Coop construction materials: $260
Books on hens (4): $75
Galvanized feeders, pine shavings, feed, brooder lamp: $100
Cute “Fresh Eggs” bucket with decorative antique hook: $35
Four baby chicks: $10
Having two baby chicks fall asleep in the palm of your hand: Priceless.