Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Baby Pictures

Tiny Elvis, Baby Sister, Mrs Peckins, and Hawk Wing
about one week old - too cute!

I did not name them until they were older and their personalities emerged, but I know which peep is which in this photo.

To make much sense of this post, you might want to first read: http://spiritcreekfarm.blogspot.com/2008/07/chicken-pox.html

Baby Sister is a smaller, younger version of Tenzing, the alpha hen of my small flock of bantam chickens. It is getting more difficult to tell her apart from Tenzing on sight alone. I have to watch to see who is in fact the big boss hen. Like Tenzing, she was first to learn to fly in the baby pen, first to learn to fly onto the door each time I opened it, and was the dominant chick when they were peeps.

Tiny Elvis will one day just be "Elvis". He is growing into a handsome porcelaine d'uccle rooster, and is losing the goofy look as his body assumes new proportions and his feathers become true kingly finery. Poor guy, he gets beat up regularly by the big roosters and picked on by the hens. When the testosterone hits, things will change. I think he will give Big Man a run for his money, if he is not already socialized into being subordinate. The d'uccles are smarter than the cochins, so it remains to be seen how it will go.

Hawk Wing got his name when he was just a chick, before I knew he was a rooster. Each time I tried to pick him up, he would spread his wings and use them to leverage out of my grip, even as a tiny chick. Now he is a juvenile rooster and only time will tell how he stacks up against Big Man and Sweetie, his older brothers.

Mrs. Peckins is the sweetest of all the chickens. She is a dainty little partridge cochin hen with the softest feathers and the sweetest personality. She is the only chicken that appears to still like me now that they are in their own chicken kingdom, ruled by Big Man and Tenzing. She will come to my side and peck my shoe to get my attention. She seems to enjoy being picked up and spoken to and petted. But, since she and Hawk Wing are the two lowest chickens in the pecking order, she might only like me because she can eat at leisure when I am in the pen. I will not let the big chickens bully the smaller ones.

There is one more little d'uccle hen, only a week or two older than Baby Sister. I took two chicks I thought were roosters to a swap meet in order to trade or sell them. But I brought them and this hen home. Once at the meet, I saw how the animals were treated. It was not necessarily cruel but they were considered farm animals, commodities. The fowl were all in small pens set out in the direct sunlight with no water. Many of them had soiled feathers, a sure sign of being in crowded and dirty conditions before they arrived at the swap meet. One guy bought a baby goat, put it in a wire chicken cage with a full grown rooster, and set it atop a truck bed full of bread. The scared, panicked bleating of the baby and the frantic calling of its mother made me so sad.

One of the guys at the swap meet "knew everything there was to know about bantams" and he did know a lot! He was very generous in sharing a ton of information with me, and I appreciated it. I also learned a lot. When I told him I had porcelaine d'uccles at home, he said there was one little hen for sale. She was in a flock of gray and black d'uccles. I bought her for $3. Her feathers were dirty and she was smelly. When I got home, I actually gave her a bath. I knew it was possible because I had read how to bathe show chickens. She is a superstar!

This poor little hen has had a nervous breakdown, I think. First she was taken from her large flock and kept alone. She was fully feathered but I bathed her with soap and water. She was miserable but no longer stinky and dirty. She had seldom been handled and hates it still. But her feathers are snow white and much smoother than the other d'uccles. She looked more like a dove than a chicken. In short, she was beautiful so I named her Amidala, after the Star Wars character played by Natalie Portman.

Amidala (the chicken) is Tiny Elvis' main squeeze, but she is silly and goofy, I am sad to report. It must be her good looks he goes for!

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