My “project” olive egger chicks are a week and a half old now, and ready for some outside adventures. To be clear, this doesn’t mean that they can be outside at night yet – they still need supplemental heat – but with the unseasonably warm weather, they can be in a (secure) tractor during the warmer parts of the day. Recently, they had some “first” experiences – each time, a new world opened up for them…and I was there to share it.
As time marches by, it can be easy to feel that the world grows, gradually, less surprising and, thus, perhaps less amazing. We can become jaded, tired, and closed off to wonder. New life, like a newly-hatched chick, can remind you that life really is exciting, and that even the small things deserve appreciation and attention.
On grass for the first time, the chicks only took moments to survey the new environment, then began scratching around. They’re hardwired to do it, and to watch even day olds engage in the behavior drives home why chicks are precocial creatures – they’re ready to eat, drink, and run from threats (if necessary) immediately after hatching.
Placed in an area with crisp fallen leaves, the chicks immediately set about scratching, finding miniscule “treasures”, like bits of leaf debris and what looked like tiny rocks. A chick would find something, grab it in its beak, and make a run for it…instantly grabbing the attention of the others, of course. Other chicks would give chase, trying to get whatever was in the finder’s beak. Usually, it was nothing that seemed terribly appealing, but it held a value that I clearly couldn’t appreciate.
The chicks would undoubtedly have spent the entire day scratching in the leaves, finding interesting bits and running around with them, but other priorities required that I return them to their brooder. I placed some leaves and a trimmed-down (grass) rootball in there for enrichment and so that they would continue to strengthen their immune systems. When I checked later, the root ball no longer had any dirt left in it, and they had eaten the short bits of grass that had been attached. Note: they have access to chick grit to help them digest the organic matter they consumed.
Watching chicks chatting excitedly amongst themselves about their finds brings me into their world – new, expansive, and largely unexplored – and never fails to lift the spirits. I am reminded that life is full of possibilities and waiting discoveries, and that it is short – much shorter, relatively, for chickens, but arguably short for humans, too. We expect that we have a certain number of years ahead of us, but none of us have any guarantee of it. Carpe diem!