Sunday, September 30, 2007

Free Range Chickens...Part Deux

FYI: The written text about these chickens is in the blog entry prior to this one....

NOTE: After you look at the pictures of my chickens, check out the pictures at the link at the end of this paragraph and see what the wild jungle fowl looks like. You will see amazing similarities between the two, especially the two large pictures at the bottom of the Feather Site page.

This is our founding rooster, The Chicken. This wiley, wary bird probably ended up in somebody's stewpot because he survived several years of farm life but mysteriously disappeared in broad daylight earlier this year. He was King of the Barnyard, too, keeping check on everything that happened, especially vigilant about keeping the guineas in line. We used to hoot with laughter as we watched him chase things around the Farm. Any guinea who dared run afowl of him was an instant target. Guinea fowl use flight (not winged...they are a bit too heavy for long distance flight) as a defense and he would literally run the offender down and give it a good wing thrashing once he caught up. We no longer have Chicken but his spirit lives on in his progeny which continue on here at the Farm.

This is one of the first hens we raised at the Farm from the original few we had. Her name Chik-Fil-A and she is almost 3 years old.In this picture you can see the brood of chicks she hatched in up the crook of one of the old oaks in our front yard, 15 feet off the ground. I understand that nesting so high up in the tree is unusual behavior for a domestic chicken which reinforces my belief that these are Red Jungle Fowl crosses. Another event that leads me to this conclusion is the fact that she has survived 3 winters and we have no henhouse. She is tame in that she will come when called for feeding and will let you pick her up, but is still wary enough to have survived all manner of predation here at the Farm.

Another angle view of Chik and her babies. These little peeps flew to the ground from that nest in the tree and are just about 2 hours old in this picture. She hatched 8 chicks and 7 still survive.
They are about 4 months old right now (pictures of them now follow below).

Chik in her tree nest. She is also a minor chicken celebrity. This picture of her setting on her clutch of eggs was on the front page of the Salisbury Post newspaper. I gather that this behavior was unusual enough to warrant coverage in the media.

Here is one of our other hens with her present brood (pic taken 9-30-07). As you can see, or not see as it seems, these chickens are extremely well camoflaged. There is a hen and 3 of her chicks in this picture but you can only see one, just in front of the outstretched leg of the hen. This is Alpha Red, by the way.

Alpha again in the brush. These chickens tend to keep to the shadows, also.

There are 2 roosters and 2 hens in this picture, again in the shadows, near a very large tangle of brush. This was taken in our back yard, but it looks like they are at the edge of the jungle. I can almost hear Tarzan swinging thru the trees...

This is Pinky and her larger brood of 12 chicks. Same age, to the day, as Alpha Red's 3 little ones.

Another group at the edge of the tree line, still in shadows. This is a picture of those peeps you saw in the beginning photos, almost grown at 4 months of age. There is also a guinea fowl in this picture because she thinks she is a chicken. We found one lone guinea egg in the middle of the yard about the same time the hens were laying and put it in one of the nests with the chicken's eggs. Now she has "imprinted" on the chickens and they are her flock. She is terrified of the other guineas here at the Farm. This may change as she matures or it may not.

Imprinting of animals on different species is pretty common and sometimes humans put it to their own uses. Zoos and other bird breeders use human imprinting on newly hatched chicks of captive breeding birds. It makes them much less skittish around humans but they usually can't ever be released into the wild.

It also happens between species. We used to have a guinea that was housed with our baby goats and he thought he was a goat...rode around the Farm on the back of his best friend, Romeo, one of the little billies. If Ginney was dislodged for any reason, he would squawk and fly to where ever the goat was and land on Rom's rump and then everybody was happy. Ginney was a lonely little 2-day old keet when Romeo arrived, so they were together since almost as soon they both came into the world. The goat thought that having a bird riding around on his back most of the time was normal, I guess.

Alpha Red and peeps, under the Tree of Life.

Two of this years earliest brood, already fully mature at 6 months of age. Aren't they gorgeous? Notice the size of the trunk of our magnificent magnolia which they are standing under, the famous Tree of Life. Also, it is so dark under this tree that I had to tweak up the picture with my photo software, so you could see these boys.

Young hen in the shadows. Notice the lack of comb. That trait occurs occasionally and is a throw back to the wild RJF gene pool.

Along the edge of the brush once again. I imagine if you saw an RJG in the wild, the scene would look much like this. Except, of course, for the guinea following on everybody's heels. She would be in Africa, not Asia, and probably running from a hyena or wild dog.

As I mentioned in the text of this entry about chickens (Part One) these hens are great mothers. This is a picture of Pinky, about 15 feet up in the Tree of Life, with her chicks, going
"to roost" for the night. Notice the chicks standing on her back.

This is a little better view of Pinky and her brood. There are 12 chicks on this branch with her, two on her back and the rest under her wings and her body. You can see some of the little feet hanging out from under her. They will sleep this way, huddled under her protection for about 2 more weeks, until they are so big, they are pushing each other off the branch. This is their favorite brance because it is wide and they can all fit easily right now.