The girls are three weeks old today and their growth has been fast and fun for us all, as they absorb new experiences as a cohesive team, but one that is not without order and rank. Little Lulu, by far the smallest of the bunch, is clearly the low girl in the pecking order and while it breaks my heart just a bit when I see her relegated to last, often missing out on treats and pushed aside, I understand that it is the nature of hens to establish a pecking order. Not to fear Lulu, your white and black feathers hint to a beautiful bird to be and you’ve won our hearts with your “sky is falling” antics of racing around whenever a hand reaches in the box. We’ve made accommodations for Lulu to make sure she doesn’t miss out on everything.
The girls have easily tripled in size in these three weeks and I will expand their brood box this week to give them more room. Along with their growth in size, gorgeous feathers have grown in, alluding to their soon-to-be beauty. For now, they appear a bit awkward, feathers still filling in and fluff gradually going away, leaving plenty of dust in their box. For this reason, I am glad we keep them in the garage with the screen to keep the dust down a bit.
As well, the new feathers have provided them with a boost in confidence. They have made strides in spreading their wings and orchestrating short flights to evade little hands that want to hold them. A favorite spot is to fly on top of the feeder and perch, lording it over the others. There are small skirmishes over this privilege, one I doubt Lulu will ever know, bless her heart.
The girls know my voice and when I talk to them, they cock their heads to the side, stretching their necks skyward, listening to hear if I also add a noise to let them know that I’ve brought a treat. If I make my clucking noise, they go crazy, racing over to where I’m standing, anxiously awaiting worms, dandelions or other treats.
Mealworms are still the favorite, hands down. If they hear the lid crack, they race around, waiting on the dried worms to be dropped within range of their beaks. It requires fast work on their part because anything in the beak is worthy of stealing from another and there is full on chasing and clucking when one girl has something the other wants, regardless of whether or not there are more of the very thing to be had.
Their culinary interests have greatly expanded in the past week. They will take food right out of my had now, especially if it’s a dangling, squirming worm. While the first worms caused a stir since they moved, now they understand them to be a delicacy and grab and go as fast as possible. We’ve had a number of rainy days here, precluding field trips to the makeshift pen in the backyard, but in place of those adventures, worms are bountiful on the wet driveway and cause enough excitement to replace the sunny trips out back.
I made butternut squash soup the other day and I shared some with the girls. They loved it, looking for more when it was gone. They’ve also had plain yogurt, shredded carrots and apples, lots of baby kale from my garden, arugula, lettuce, violets, and dandelions, both the yellow tops and the leaves. Dandelion tops are a favorite and it’s fun to watch them race around with their score.
Our dog has been spending more time with the girls as well. In fact, they are so comfortable with him now that they will lay down while on a field trip, napping next to where he is keeping guard.
The garden is growing nicely, especially with the boost of the rain we’re getting. Lettuces, spinach, and kale are plentiful. Herbs are filling in and starting. Sugar snap peas are climbing taller and beets have sprouted nicely. Despite my family’s displeasure, brussel sprouts are also making way, a favorite that I grow because I find the manner of their growth to be fun. Strawberries and blueberries are blooming already and we’ve only just turned the page to May. Ornamentals are also making a return, brightening my beds and filling in gaps left in the fall.
On a sad note, and one I hope you take to heart as you begin your gardening in earnest with the warmer weather, I found hundreds of dead honey bees on my bottom board and on the grass in front of my big hive Saturday afternoon. Someone, somewhere locally sprayed pesticides and the bees, not knowing the blooms had been sprayed, foraged and died upon return.
While I understand that there are times that we choose to spray chemicals, pollinators do not know when a bloom has been sprayed. If you must spray, remember not to spray actively blooming plants and certainly not while pollinators are flying, preferably late evenings and early mornings. These are small insects that are detrimentally impacted by poisons, yet they serve a greater role in our food supply, providing us with vast food choices as they pollinate close to a third of the foods we eat. No bees = no food.
Fortunately, my big hive is strong in numbers and new bees are being born each day that will graduate to foraging, but it is definitely a blow to them during the height of the very short nectar flow and frustrating to me as a beekeeper beyond what I can articulate.