Photo by Audrey Pavia
I was outside this morning doing chores when I looked over at the lawn where my flock of chickens was gathered. For a second, I couldn’t tell the hens from the pullets. That’s when I realized that my “babies” were almost full-grown.
I thought human children grew up fast, but this is crazy. It was only a few months ago that they were little, tiny, fuzzy peepers. Liberty was all-white and had to be rescued on her first night of life because she couldn’t make it up the 3-inch lip of the coop entrance. Chirping pathetically, I found her huddled up against a corner, cold and scared.
Today, that same bird is nearly the size of her mother. No longer snowy-white like a baby hawk, she is dark-gray.
And then there is the biggest chick, which is so far nameless. She is the size of her mother. Black with white spots, she’s a darker version of her aunt, Baby Jo.
Maybelline — the orange and black pullet — is the most colorful of the three and is right between the other two in size. I worry that Maybelline may be a rooster because she has the biggest wattles of the three. But I keep referring to her as a “she” in the hopes I can literally will her into being the “right” gender.
As I see these three pullets walking around with the other chickens and looking like grown-ups, I am still reminded of their tender age by the sounds they make. They continue to peep peep peep, just like they did as very young chicks. I wonder when they will give this up and starting making big-bird noises?
Fortunately for me, the three youngsters like to perch on the outside edge of the coop at night, when the flock puts itself to bed. This gives me an excuse to pick them up and hold them for a moment before setting them down inside the coop, on the roosting pole. They initially objected to this, but have now gotten used to it. I doubt they will ever be the types to willingly let me handle them when the sun in shining, but at least they won’t have the fear I see in my two leghorn hens, who were never handled as chicks.
One odd thing that pops into my head every so often as I watch these three go about their business: Had I chosen to take those three eggs and use them for an omelet, the three little lives I see before me would not exist. That gives me an uncomfortable feeling of power that I could certainly do without at breakfast time.