23/2/2020 0 Comments
I am still finding out what the hens most like eating. It is cicada season, which was an exciting time with the flock I used to have, but when I caught a cicada and brought it into the coop Mabel leapt back from it in alarm, and then acted frightened of me as if I had deliberately set out to panic her. It is rather a relief to be able to feel as friendly as I ordinarily would towards the cicadas, without my feelings of friendship complicated by an impulse to catch them and feed them to the hens, but I miss being able to bring a cicada to Orly and liven up her day. Today I tried the new hens with peas, which was a much more successful offering. It helped that I only had a few, and offered just one to begin with, so that when Mabel got it Maude felt she had missed out, and was all the more interested in the next pea. I let them compete to keep their interest up, but threw a few wild peas out for Goldie and Wilma to have a chance at, and to keep Maude and Mabel active in the game. I don’t know why I am particularly keen for them to like peas, it is just gratifying to find things that they like eating and to have them more interested in what I can offer than the lawn. I’m still trying to tame them, I can’t handle either Goldie or Mabel. If I stroke Mabel’s back she lets out a squawk of great alarm and retreats fast, and I haven’t got close to stroking Goldie. Orly and Fly, my much-missed Orpingtons, were raised in our coop as chicks hatched out (along with other chicks we didn't keep) by Piccadilly and Rizza, my Rhode Island Reds, and were handled from the day they hatched. I used to think about incubator chicks when I saw the way these chicks lived, with the mother hens always there for them to run and hide under or warm themselves under when they felt cold (they would make peeping cries and the mother hen would lower herself down over them at once till they ventured out again), and with the mother hens always teaching them what to eat and how to behave. Their entry into the pecking order was managed with their mother’s protection gradually lessening over time as they became more able to hold their own, and with their friendships and rivalries with their siblings taking place off centre-stage, with the main contests over food and other prizes (best perches, dust bathing spots) going on between the bigger hens. For these young hens it is very different, having had to learn everything from their peers, and knowing humans for their first months only as food dispensers. At least I am quite a deluxe dispenser. They do seem to like to eat their mash best, too, when I give to them out of my hand.
(Here are links to pictures of Fly as tiny chick, with Piccadilly; Fly with Piccadilly on one of her first outings as a young hen; Rizza taking Orly and Barney on an outing at a similar age; and Rizza with Barney - Orly would have been under Rizza's feathers, so you just have to imagine a tiny grey chick keeping very still. Barney was very naughty and every night, after Rizza would have called all her chicks in to her nesting box and got them settled at last, Barney would nip out again for one last fling.)
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