Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Cast of Characters

I had no idea that the chicks' personalities would be set so early on. I held my chicks every day and I am glad I did so. It means that I can easily handle them now as grown chickens when I need to do a health check, or if I just want to give a fluffy girl a squeeze. It also gave me a wonderful opportunity to learn their personalities along the way.

Then and now.

My Little Lamb and my Einstein.

Thing One and Thing Two were very difficult to tell apart as wee chicks. Their personalities were fairly different though and still are. Thing Two is what my oldest calls my Arm Chicken. I call her My Little Lamb. She is the easiest to pick up and the easiest to hold. She will sit there clucking happily and never make a fuss until I put her down. Thing One would fall asleep in my hand when she was small, and even now she has a hard time staying awake when I hold her for a while. For a long time she hated to be held but learned tricks. They all do tricks actually, but she was the first one to pick them up. She is clearly the smartest one. She has also relaxed her anti-holding stance quite a bit.

Tricks? Your chickens do tricks? Absolutely. They figured out early on that if I have a closed fist that might mean that I am bringing them treats. Anytime they see my fist closed they all come running, so that is the hand signal I use when I call them. In fact, if I have accidentally closed my fist and gotten their attention, the only way to get them to go away is to show them an open hand... smart critters. Another trick they do is simply getting in the coop on command, but it is a darned useful one. Finally, my two lightest birds (Thing One and Thing Two) had been working on flying up onto my arm on command. We had some trouble with that one so I have called a temporary halt to the training. Thing Two decided to fly up and nestle on the back of my neck suddenly. It is very difficult to remove a determined chicken from the back of your own neck, and calling for help will only result in your 'rescuer' laughing so hard that he can't actually do anything for you.

We had some not so flattering stages along the way.

However, as grown girls they are quite beautiful. Here is a shot of Thing Two's neck feathers. She has greenish iridescence to her dark brown feathers in her neck and tail.

This video shows either Thing One or Thing Two enjoying a dust bath on her first exploration out of the brooder box. This video shows all four dust bathing together when they were quite a bit older but still had their baby peeps.

My Little Goose.

Domino, until recently, was my problem child. She wasn't the smartest chicken in the coop, and as top hen she could get mean to the others. She actually spent three days in chicken jail because she was being quite vicious. On top of that, she never liked to be held and spent her time at arm's length, staring suspiciously at me no matter how many treats I tried to coax her with. I am not quite sure what turned her around. She had a rather serious molt at the wrong time of the year and had to spend nights indoors. Recently, she chipped her beak and I had to bring her in and clean up some blood. Now she follows me around honking happily, stopping in front of me to Egg Squat, and is generally being nice to the other girls. She really does honk like a small goose. She has a low 'voice' and I can always tell her apart from the others by sound alone. She has the prettiest green iridescence to the black part on all her feathers since she finished her molt. I used an image of her feathers as the background for the blog.

Domino has always been difficult to get pictures of because of her standoffish-ness. She is a large chicken, and sooooo fluffy! I do love to hold her.

The Cheeky Chook.

Ahhh, Feisty! I had no idea how aptly her name would fit her. She is not overly keen on being held so holding her is a bit of a struggle. She is also the first one to test if something is edible. She tests ME periodically to see if I am edible, hence her nickname and the name of the blog. I always scoop her up and give her a squeeze in spite of her protests. I figure either she will stop pecking my knee or get used to the squeezes. Perhaps it is her way of being asked to be picked up?

Most of Feisty's early pictures look like this because she was testing to see if she can eat the camera.

She still does this!

Now this is a stately looking girl!

Other characters in my little zoo include Willow and Hobbes, two domestic short hair tabbies, and Om, the Russian tortoise. They are not allowed in the backyard unsupervised however. Willow is quite elderly and goes out on a leash because her dearest wish is to go over the fence where there are dogs quite happy to eat her. She thinks that she is still a young, fast kitty when in reality she is old, and has arthritis and asthma, and the best she could do is wheeze on a potential attacker. She gets along quite well with the chickens, by the way. Om gets out for a scuttle now and then, but because he could easily dig right under the fence and be gone, we only put him out when we are spending time with the chickens. Hobbes is absolutely terrified of the great outdoors. On the rare occasion that he makes it onto the front porch, he is too scared to do anything but sit and hiss at the world. I have to go rescue him from his own silliness!

Despite the leash, Willow enjoys a bit a warm in the middle of winter.

Hobbes, the Great and Terrible!

Finally, Om (named for a Terry Pratchett character in Small Gods)

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