Monday, May 30, 2011

And Then There Were Six--Trial and Error with a Clumsy Mama Hen

Video of Mama and Babies
I almost hesitate to post this as the number may change again by tomorrow.  Since I last posted, I found another mortally wounded chick in Gypsy's nest, we had a very touching little funeral (mostly because the kids were with me when I found the dying chick), and I took the chicks AGAIN, for good.  Then I spent an hour or so breaking down the broody area and setting up the big terrarium inside for the remaining six chicks.  It's a chore--finding the right light to get the temp right meant going to the store to buy a bulb, since we really only have the new cool compact bulbs in the house nowadays, and I had to spend some time cat-proofing the brooder as it was going to be in the studio. No more chicks in the house, I've decided. 

Then I had to just accept the fact that I was raising chicks, AGAIN, and that was really a buzzkill.  But it seemed inhumane to hand helpless babies to a completely incompetent mother for whom negligent homicide was second nature.  Right?

I was pretty frustrated with Gypsy and had a very hard heart as I took the chicks and broke down her brooding area.  It was easy to ignore her thoughts on the matter.  But she was still digging in the coop's deep shavings 6 hours later when I put the birds up for the night, and I dreamed about her looking in the woods for them.  When I went out the next morning and let the flock out, she (normally a pretty standoffish bird) immediately came right up to my face as if to ask where they were.  Then she followed me around.  The insistent clucking--the noise a mother makes to get her chicks to come to her side was heartbreaking.  She hopped into the other coop and started digging it up.  Her babies, she was convince, were lost somewhere, and she wasn't giving up on them.  That, I understood.  My own heart, focused on mothering so keenly, couldn't ignore her.

I took some time to set up a new space for her, a separate pen from the rest of the flock, and got the babies from their isolette.  I took them to the pen in a pet carrier and opened the door..  The look on her face as she found them in her next clucking, scouting circle was priceless.

Video #2 of Mama and Baby Chicks
It was a hard decision.  But they are her babies, not mine.  I remember hearing my grandmother saying "I didn't take them to raise!" as a child when recounting a story of someone needing more help than she thought she should give.  It's a pretty powerful maxim.  I have three chicks of my own; baby, girlchild, and demi-man, and I have my hands full with them.  I take on all the stress of keeping them alive because they are mine, at least for a time, and they depend on me alone.  These chicks have a mother.  She may not be great, I thought, and she might even kill them accidentally, but she deserves a chance to raise them.  To be a mother.

I worried I would find one less chick this morning.  Or worse.  I worry that I'll find another dead or broken and dying chick tomorrow morning.  But it's her business, and I'm committed to letting go of the process.  I can't save everything. Knowing what and who I "took to raise" is wisdom I need to take to heart.

Video #3--Good night  Please, everyone be alive at dawn, ok?
As you've no doubt gathered from the pics and videos in this post, mama and babies were all fine this morning. This last video shows my last minutes with them yesterday evening, just as mama went in to the carrier for the night and I went in to the house crossing my fingers she was committed to taking them to raise.

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