Our morning coffee routine has recently come to include free entertainment of the two-legged, two-winged, fuzzy kind. We had enjoyed, as always, watching a variety of feathered friends at the outside feeders all winter, but it’s a different kind of pleasure to have chicks inside to oohh and aahh over (yeah, and clean up after...).
If you’ve shared your time and your space with youngsters of any species, you know first-hand that some babies require a lot more care than others. Chickens, for all that they, and we, may question their road-crossing decisions, come out of the egg as remarkably self-reliant little creatures, their avian instincts already telling them what they need to know about food, water, warmth, danger (real and perceived—they don’t know that a particular cat who likes to sit and watch them is really harmless). From day one these tiny bits of fluff can eat and drink by themselves. Nobody has to tell them how to walk, how to peck at things, or how to preen the fuzz that covers them.
If your backyard flock includes a virile rooster and a broody hen or two, you may not have the opportunity to enjoy watching chicks up close, at least not until they’re big enough to come out from under Mama Chicken’s protective wings. When you get chicks through the mail or from Rockwell’s, though, you might, like some of us do, keep the little ones in a container in the house for a few weeks. You discover that their initial vocalizations, while almost constant, are pint-sized, like themselves, but that as they mature so do their vocal cords and their repertoire (hearing a young rooster learning to crow is fairly amusing, however). You are amazed at how quickly they grow, how self-important they act the first time they hop up on a perch and look condescendingly down at the others (Where do you think mean girls learned it? From mean chicks!). You laugh when, after ten or fifteen minutes of frantic activity, they all collapse in a pile under the heat lamp for a communal nap. Some of them look dead—they’re flat out, their minuscule wings spread, their tiny, twiggy legs straight behind them. More than once I’ve crouched down close enough to assure myself that everybody was still breathing.
I was at the post office recently, trying hard to stay focused on what I was there to do, but I kept hearing this noise. It was a kind of familiar, white noise that didn’t completely register with my conscious brain until I had gotten my package all ready to go and had the luxury of standing in line with nothing to do but wait. Then I realized what I was hearing: peeps! Somebody had ordered chicks and the little ones were back there behind the counter, cheep, cheep, cheeping up a storm.
Somebody is in for some entertainment.