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Are You My Mother? Part 2 October 8, 2006

Posted by Laura in Farm.
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I tried to feed the little poult again before going to Bible study, but he wasn’t interested.  His plaintive search continued and I felt badly for his loneliness.  I began to formulate a plan to give him company.

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When I got back from church, it was past dark.  I had decided to try putting a couple of the few surviving chicks in the stock tank brooder with “the wanderer” after they had gone to bed for the night.  (The other chicks hatched in the last 2 months had been swiped during the night.  I’m pretty sure, by the presence of a carcass in the morning and the style of attack, that our villain was an opossum this time- we shore up our defenses against one predator and face attack from a new one.  We’ve certainly learned a lot in the past 21 months!).

I grabbed a flashlight and headed out to the henhouse.  Nestled among the “big chickens” were these newly feathered miniatures.  I got the two smallest and took them down to the barn stall where the stock tank is.  I put them inside and stood back to watch what would happen. 

Combining groups of animals or ones of different ages or breeds is something that must be done with caution.  As I have mentioned in past postings, there is a hierarchy among critters and each time a new combination is made, you can expect that some time will be spent working out (sometimes in a bloody fashion) where each member now falls.  Fortunately, the two additions are young enough and felt nervous enough about the new surroundings they found themselves in that they were quite passive toward the smaller, inquisitive poult. 

I need to find a good name for the turkey baby- something that conveys its epic plight, determination, and so on.  The main trouble is that I won’t know for a while if it is male or female.  If it is a boy, I’m thinking something like Hugo or Ulysses.  Nothing quite right comes to mind for a female yet.  A heroine name would be good, but Joan of Arc is not right.  Neither is Marie Antoinette.  🙂 Maybe I should just go with another “founding family” name to match the George and Martha (Washington). 

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Anyway, I found it fascinating to watch what happened next.  That little turkey poult that had never laid eyes on another bird just KNEW those two were kin.  He had taken some solace from my attention, but clearly now I could see he wasn’t fooled into thinking I was actually his mama. 

When I set the two chicks into the tank, the turkey’s crying stopped and he approached them on wobbly legs.  He’d never seen what he himself looked like, so he couldn’t be identifying with them from similar appearance (besides, as you see in the pictures, he still looks pretty different, with no feathers and a being a good bit smaller). 

The little day-old poult approached each in turn and pecked at their beaks.  I realized with amazement that he was looking to be fed by “mother”-  I have witnessed this scene many, many times among the interactions of the broodies and their offspring.  But even though he had not hatched out under the protective warmth and cover of a feathered and beaked mama, he instinctively KNEW he should have one.  He KNEW that food was passed from mama to baby by the beak and he was trying to tell “mama” he was hungry.  The survival instincts that God had given this little fuzzball just floored me.

Since these two chicks may have experienced some bullying by the older, larger birds in the henhouse, I wasn’t sure what they would do when the poult continued to peck at their beaks.  I was afraid they would attack the little tyke thinking he was trying to be aggressive and higher in the “pecking order” than they.  They could easily have killed him, especially if both turned on him.  But strangely, they just allowed the beak-pecking without reproach. 

After a few minutes, they began to wander around their new home and investigate, all the while keeping an eye out for the return of “The Big Hand from the Sky” (that would be scary me, who had plucked them off their comfy roosts while they slept and carried them far away from their home).  Eventually, they found the cooked egg yolks I had put in there to eat.  (Eggs contain nearly every nutrient needed in a human diet, the exception being vitamin C.  The chicks and poults live for their gestational period in the shell being fed by the yolk within.  It is a natural high-energy food to continue feeding them for a while when they hatch, especially if you find yourself with “surprise” chicks and no chick food on hand). 

The chicks began to devour the yolks.  The poult watched them and again tried to get food from their beaks as they ate.  He managed to grab bits and eat it and they allowed it surprisingly.  He followed them to the water and drank when they did also.  After a while, he made a few attempts at eating the yolks from the plate as they did.  His prognosis started looking good.

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(That pale yellow thing exiting the picture at the left is the little poult.  The older two have moved on to check out the offerings in the ration/grain feeder).

To keep heat from the lamp in and predators out, I had criss-crossed scrap wood over the top of the stock tank.  I removed some of the pieces to try and take picture of the new roommates all together.  The “borrowed siblings” are fully feathered and have had opportunities to practice their fly-jumping in the past.  When the “Big Hand” appeared to get the wood shavings out of their food, they panicked and went over the side of the tank.   Oops!   Nothing’s too easy, huh?

Immediately, the poult started crying again and the chicks bee-lined to a corner of the stall and wedged themselves in behind a vertical support.  Wouldn’t you know it that a naughty hen was also in that corner laying an egg there instead of the henhouse?  When I reached past her to retrieve the chicks, she promptly bit me.  I muttered a couple of gloom and doom predictions for her future before picking her up and tossing her out of my way.  I eventually retrieved the chicks and returned them to the brooder tank, reminding them of the smorgasbord of food, lack of competition with the bigger chickens, and increased safety of their new home.  Nice propaganda, but it didn’t carry a lot of weight coming from me, I guess.

I’ll end it here for today, but I’ll keep you updated on the baby’s progress.

 

 

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Comments»

1. Laurie - October 10, 2006

Aw, they are so sweet. I hope they all make friends.

2. Olgunka-fk - February 7, 2009

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