Aren’t They A Little Young For This?

My new brood of Icelandic chicks had already surprised me by flying out the top of the brood pen at eight days old, which means they now have the run of the coop. Rather than returning to the pen at night, their hen took over one of the nest boxes on the floor as a place to huddle with them, sheltering them all with her wings and body. So that’s where I found them the next couple of evenings, until on the third evening I encountered this amazing scene:

Here was my hen on the five-and-a-half-foot perch, with four chicks tucked under her and the six remaining ones still on the floor or on platforms of various heights in quite a state of agitation. She urged them with repeated clucks to join the others. “Oh, no — we have to fly all the way up there?” they seemed to be saying as they peeped excitedly, flitting about and stretching their necks this way and that. Every now and then one would take off like a plane, struggling to get up to the height of the perch, with some managing to scramble up while others came fluttering back down.

Meanwhile I’m thinking, “Aren’t they a little young for this? And does she really think she’s going to be able to cover them all on that perch?” The flights continued for some time, but finally it became clear, even to the hen, that the majority weren’t quite up to this. So mama hen returned to the floor, prepared to gather her brood in the nest box as before. Meanwhile, three of the chicks seemed reluctant to leave the perch, while one seemed to say, “Yikes — it’s a long way down from here!”

The following evening, the same scene played out with a couple more chicks making it to the perch, but the plan finally aborted. On the third night I came in to find all but one chick on the perch, all anxiously awaiting the tenth, while the hen clucked with some urgency.

Here she seems to be losing her patience: “Come on already!” she clucks, while some of the chicks concur:

They all decide to try some coaxing:

Poor number ten just doesn’t seem to have the courage.

At this point I needed to move that basin, so I gave him (or her) a lift up, hoping that wasn’t spoiling him too much. But I’m happy to say that the following evening I found them all on the perch with the hen, where they’ve spent their nights ever since!

Published on Aug 5, 2016

Grit Magazine

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