Gavilan Trading Post

Valley of the Moon Ranch, NM
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Of fine feathered friends

Danielle's picture

In February we acquired seventy five Australorp chicks. These chicks are to serve as laying hens in the future. We are hopeful they will produce enough eggs for not only us but for any of our neighbors whom would like to eat good locally produced eggs. But it will be quite a while until we see any eggs, as these ladies are still young, small baby birds.

Those chicks fill my heart with joy as I have always taken a particular liking to “the flock”. Our family has always had chickens and we have always raised them from a few days old. I had taken a special interest in the chick rearing from a young age and because of that, the chick rearing has been “my job” since I was about eight years old.
I am of the opinion that chickens are pretty cool creatures. Besides the obvious benefits of leaving us with fresh eggs, good manure, and aerated soil. They also possess creepy dinosaur like qualities. At least how I picture dinosaurs which has been greatly shaped by an obsession with the movie “Jurassic Park”, an obsession that started at an early age and has now extended into adult hood. The chickens, much like my perception of the Dino's, look at you like they are always figuring out if there is any possible way they could consume your delicious flesh but so far none of my hens have succeeded in figuring out a way to accomplish that tasty possibility.
When the hens aren't trying to figure out a way to eat you, they usually spend their time chasing smaller things that they can consume, such as bugs and defenseless blades of grass. They also partake in non eating activities, like, taking dirt baths in the sun, roaming around in groups talking with each other in their eerie chicken language (Chickens are very social animals) and sometimes they even spend some time laying an egg. On top of all this, they are also extremely aesthetically pleasing.

Although these Chicken-ey qualities I do find very entertaining, the birds themselves aren't always the most personable creatures. There are exceptions though, like “Red” a hen that made a habit of following Marcus around because he was always working on projects around the farm that would reveal juicy grubs, red worms and the like. He knew what she was after and he obliged his chicken friend by throwing her any bugs he came upon. It's been a few years since Marcus and Red have had their daily bonding activities, as Marcus moved away some time ago. But Red has not forgotten about her special snack time with Marcus and so she stalks around projects to this very day. Unfortunately for Red, most of the farm interns have no idea what she wants and so they don't throw her any scrumptious bugs, and so, she is left to forage for herself. “Keep trying Red. One of these days someone will understand you again”.

The chicks too, lack a bit in the “personable critter department” yet are often times captivating to watch. Not because they do anything all that interesting but there is something about the hypnotic sound of so many creatures peeping and chirping on that is amazingly hard to break away from. You just end up staring at them almost in a trance, as they peck around their litter, lay around and generally do nothing all too interesting. But you just can't look away.
That being said, today the chicks did the most endearing thing I have ever witnessed any chicks do.
I was squatting down in their pen, scooping them feed as I do every morning. A few of the most brazen chicks always come over to me during this activity, so that they can get the first “peckins” of feed when I set the freshly renewed feeders down.
But today was different for these brave little hens, because today I was wearing pants that had loose draw strings on them. One of the chicks spotted the dangling string while I was scooping feed and this particular little chick latched on to that string and pulled as hard as she could. She held on tight and relentlessly. It was adorable. Soon, a few other chicks caught on to what was going on and wanted in on this delectable looking string.
The first chick now growing weary of pulling, let go. Sending the string flying. The other chicks rushed in to grab the now loose and bouncing string. The few chicks fought over the string in a sort of tug o' war and finally a “winner” emerged. The winner, now had her turn at doing the exact same thing as the first chick which was steadily pulling back and hoping that the string would give-in so that she could consume her well earned prize.
Well, this exact same exchange went on for a few minutes and finally it was time for me to move on to the goat barn to check for new baby goats. Before I could leave, I had to pick up the latched on chick and remove the cord from said chick's mouth, which was really more difficult then I could have imagined. Finally after chick was removed, I stood up. But this particular chick was not so ready to give up the fight. She watched that string rise and than made a mighty leap to grab the string in mid air. She missed it and tried again but alas the cord was out of her reach and she went back to pecking at her chick feed.

Often I find most people aren't too interested in Chickens, but I for one do not believe I will ever grow tired of the antics and benefits of the flock and I can not imagine a life without my feathered friends.