Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Splish Splash, I was takin a dirt bath

This weekend, we let Mama Chicken and her six chickies (four of her own and two fosters) out into a grassy pen for the first time.

At first, Mama followed her by-then standard procedure of scratching and pecking the ground, to find food for the chickies. There was great peeping and excited pecking. Foraging was thrilling--and much more successful in the grassy pen than it had been in their brooder box.

A big plastic-wrapped board was lying on the ground; it had been lying there in the pen since the previous spring. I lifted it up and rested it against the fence, hoping that the moist earth underneath would contain lots of good bugs for the chicken family. It was surprisingly dry under there, though, and no bugs were to be seen. "Too bad" I thought.

But it turned out I had given Mama the best present someone who hasn't left the nest for 4 weeks could want. "DIRT BATH!!!" she all but shouted, rushing over to the barren ground and elaborately proceeding to toss dirt all over. She hunkered down and scratched the dirt up with her feet; flapped it under, over, and all around her with her wings; rolled on her sides and rubbed her neck in the dirt; shook her tailfeathers and snuggled down into her dirt bath hole before starting the whole routine again. She kept it up while I went to get my camera, and by the time I came back was alternating between "DIRT BATH!!" and more foraging for the chicks from her comfortable position in the "bathtub." Keep an eye on the yellow and gray chick in the upper right--by the time I returned with my camera it had already learned to copy her. The whole scene was a big hit for the human "chickies" who were observing the scene closely.

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