After months of anticipation waiting for one of our hens to go broody so she could hatch some chicks for us, we finally have seven new chicks at the farm. It was worth the wait! Violet has turned out to be an excellent mother, and despite being one of the lowest hens in the pecking order, her motherly status has given her a whole new attitude. She shepherds her chicks all around the pasture, clucking in various tones to tell the chicks to follow her, or to let them know she’s found something good to eat, or to take cover from some perceived threat. The other hens are eager to meet the new chicks, but when any of the other ladies dares to get a bit too close, Violet goes into attack mode and quickly sends the unwelcome visitor on their way.
As usual, I am quite enamored with our new batch of little ones, and I have been following them around trying to capture their cuteness in photographs. I am also trying to socialize the chicks to get them used to being picked up, but it’s been a bit challenging since they have such a big area to escape into. In the past when we have raised chicks in the kitchen it’s been much easier to pick them up from inside the confines of a 2 x 4 foot brooder box than it is to pick them up in a 40 x 40 foot pasture. The chicks have learned that I am the bringer of food, and they come running over when they see me walk into the pasture. They’ll also eat out of my hand, but the moment a chick senses me try to sneakily pick it up from below with my outstretched hand, most of them squeal with fright and run behind mom. There are a couple of chicks that don’t mind too much when I pick them up, and there is one chick that will sometimes jump up onto me voluntary and look up at me inquisitively as if to say hi, but wouldn’t you know it I’m pretty sure that one is a rooster judging by his rapidly growing comb.
Now that the chicks are 4 weeks old, the rooster guessing game has begun. Of course it is a bit early to know for sure, and as the saying goes “you don’t know until they crow”. But since this is my 6th batch of chicks, there are a few early signs of roosterhood that I’ve learned to recognize. The most obvious sign is a relatively larger and pinker/redder comb as compared to the other chicks. Another sign is slightly thicker and longer legs for the roosters, as well as brighter accent feathers making an appearance on their wings and around their necks. Based on these signs, I’m fairly confident that we have at least two roosters in the bunch. If we managed to get away with only two roos out of seven chicks we’d be lucky, but considering our last batch of chicks ended up being four roos and two hens, maybe we’re in for some luck. In the meantime, I’m enjoying each and every one of them and the amazing experience of watching Violet teach the chicks everything they need to know about being a chicken.