Growing Girls

Baby henlettes are doing quite well! I keep them in their cage (thanks again, Emma!) all the time for now, but they will soon be joining the big leagues when I move them in with the big girls.

Daytime is usually spent out on the lawn with Goldie and Marguerite grazing or dirt-bathing nearby, and when dusk comes, the whole cage usually goes on my dining room floor (ironic when you think about it, no?). With the loose pine shavings, dust, and smell permeating my house, however, I have decided that the garage is just as safe and sound for them. So, last night, they spent their first night on the garage counter, their cage surrounded by protective blankets and dimly lit by a heat lamp. (They’re still afraid of the dark.) Tonight, same thing. In fact, I can’t see them being with the big girls for at least three or four more days–it’s supposed to get cold again this week (40s and low 50s at night), so that heat lamp will still be in operation. The garage may even be too cold. Yes, I am an overly protective mother hen, maybe, but since Mabel died, I am über-sensitive to just about everything.

I have learned many new things about baby chickens. First–and most delightful–is their songbird chirping and chit-chatting. They are already developing a dialogue, and it’s pretty easy to learn their language. (For example, to hear the sound of panic, just turn off their lamp once in the dark.) They also have a very clear indication that they recognize my voice, as evidenced by a long, melodic trill. (Of course, my mother hen breast swells with pride when I hear that one.) They also seem to talk about settling down for the night: this sound is a sort of random sampling of chirps that continues for hours while they settle into little floor-puffed pods of feathers. Its kind of like putting Pandora on station shuffle.

Another notable observation is how playful chicks can be! Jumping and flying and leaping over each other in little spurts of energy. Obviously learning coordination and balance. This is especially delightful to see when you first place their cage outside on the lawn. If anyone says animals can’t experience pure joy and excitement, they are sadly uninformed. These girls go crazy when I put their cage outside! It is very clear that they feel most at-home in the great outdoors.

And probably the best thing I’ve learned about having baby hens is how therapeutic it can be for a little bit of a broken heart after losing Mabel. Whenever I feel sad about her–has it only been two weeks?–I turn my attention to the little feathered fluffs around me.

Side note: Mabel was cremated and her ashes will be spread out at the farm where she spent her younger days. The folks at Anderson McQueen Funeral Home also gave me a wonderful little plaster mold with an imprint of her little foot. The enclosure is labeled “Mabel The Chicken.” Perfectly said, especially in title caps.

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