Instinct, Claude and other marvels

October 29, 2008 § 1 Comment

We’re starting to learn the differences between the various chicks. And names are beginning to arise.

Little Orange (leg ring) is certainly the boldest – if someone leaps out of the broody, or has to be scooped up and returned, it’s going to be him. Or if someone keeps popping out for a bit of a peck and strut when Poppy’s gathered the rest inside to go to sleep (which seems to happen around 5:45- 6 pm), it’s going to be him. He’s bold, a little bossy, and the second biggest (behind Purple). I’ve started calling him Claude. I think it began somewhere in my head as “Claudius” (Roman Emperor), but shortened itself to Claude. It seems to suit him. Plus (and this is important) it can easily be switched to Claudia if he turns out to be a she.

I can’t get over how strong hens’ mothering instinct is. Poppy was hatched in an incubator, and other than a couple of hours under Bessie (before she rejected the Sammies) has never been mothered by a hen, so she can’t have learnt it. Her first four days were spent in Daniel Pengelley’s brooder, then the next six weeks in a cardboard box in our spare bedroom with the other Sammies. I’m the closest thing to a mother that she’s ever had, and I certainly didn’t teach her how to look after babies! And yet she does it all perfectly – from spreading her wings out sideways for the bubs to snuggle under, to breaking up food into chick-sized bits, to gathering them all inside to sleep much earlier than she herself would go to bed. When the eggs were pipping, she would periodically hold herself up off the nest, almost hovering over it – presumably to reduce pressure above the hatching chick for a moment or two. And she flatly refused to leave the nest from the moment the first chick pipped until all that were going to had done so.

How do they know?

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