We still remark at how bad our luck was with our new chicks this year, with only two birds surviving after 24 eggs were incubated by our two hens. The two chicks that we do have are thriving, and we delight in hearing their chirping each day, amidst the clucking of the two hens and the crowing of the two roosters.
Five of our birds. I wonder what they are looking at!
I have learned a few things about the chickens recently. I had not noticed before how the entire flock serves to protect the young. Sometimes the chicks escape through the bird netting and peck around on the grass around the chook pen. They never stray too far, but if they are out of the pen, all the birds cluck noisily. The two hens pace along the edge of the fence, cluck clucking away, keeping their beady little eyes on the small chicks, whilst the roosters pace and cluck a meter or so behind the hens. The entire time, all the birds are looking out for the young chicks.
To me this says a bit about parenting. The old adage ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’ comes to my mind. Maybe it is because there are only two chicks, but the whole flock is protective of the babies.
The roosters and the chicks fossick on the grass, whilst mother hens watch in noisy horror
Another thing I have learned is how doting, for want of a less anthropomorphistic word, the roosters are. Last weekend the chicks and the roosters escaped the chook pen (at the hands of a group of nine-year-old girls in party mode). I watched on, being quite amazed at how the roosters were protecting and seemingly educating the chicks. They were acting like fathers. Below, I have a blurry photo of a rooster apparently feeding a young chick. What was happening was that the roosters were pecking at the ground and sharing their finds with the chicks! I’ve never seen that before. It does, however, look like normal bird behaviour!
Rooster and chicks on the grass, whilst a nervous mother hen looks on
Isn’t that lovely? I was fascinated by this. I thought the roosters would be more ferocious with the chicks, asserting their domination. Instead, they scurried around together, scratching the grass together and pecking for food together. I was talking to a friend about this. She has many chickens, and she thinks the roosters were treating the chicks like this because they are female. She thought that the roosters would not be so nurturing of male birds because they don’t want the competition. She also told me about how her rooster removes certain eggs from the nest when she has a broody hen. She thinks the rooster is removing the male eggs. I’d love to find out more about that!
To make our investigation even more interesting, the roosters were making a cluck clucking noise, very similar to the hens’ clucking sound, as they interacted with the chicks. I haven’t heard roosters communicate with young chicks like this before, possibly because until now, we’ve only had two roosters (do you remember Fabio and Richard?) and they might’ve just had different personalities. Nevertheless I was really interested in the fathering capabilities of the roosters. They were clucking, leading and nurturing the little chicks.
I love having chickens. I like it that we can give them our food scraps, and each day when I take them their scraps, they scurry to the door of the chook pen to receive the loot, clucking and chirping loudly. I have noticed that they all share quite nicely, which means that the hierarchy of the flock is nice and settled. We’re still hoping that our two chicks, one brown and one white, like the two mother hens, are girls! What are the odds!? 50/50!