I had the most wonderful discovery this morning. I was able to study the strong bond that develops between a mother hen and her chicks.
I never realized that this happens because as most people who breed birds will tell you, we see some pretty heartless, horrible things that occur in the nest box.
Ella & Mochi are raised indoors in my bird room. Most of my breeders pairs (I only have a few) are kept outdoors in a covered protected area so I can't watch the interaction of the parents with their chicks, but Mochi & Ella are hand fed babies themselves so they have always been indoors.
As mentioned in an earlier post I gave Ella a new chick to raise. I gave her a 2 day old chick when her youngest was already almost 1 week old. She accepted him without any question or doubt, but I didn't realize just how devoted she is to him.
I was having bad dreams last night that the teeny baby had died in the nest. When I went to check him this morning, he was off to the side of the nest by himself. This is the second time I have found him like this. Usually I have to move all of the bigger babies to find him at the bottom of the "dog pile" where he goes to stay warm.
I immediately panicked and went to pick him up with the idea that I would take him from her and feed him myself. I was shocked that he was so warm and not ice cold which is usually the case when a young chick gets separated from the clutch. I also noticed that his crop was almost empty and the other chick's crops all had differing amounts of food in them. I went to warm up some formula to hand feed him with.
When I returned, Ella , who had been out of the nest box, raced back into the box. I could hear her chicks peeping which means she is feeding them. So I decided to check back awhile later to see if the chick had been fed.
I checked back a couple of hours later and when I opened the box, Ella was sitting next to her clutch (not on them like she did when they were tiny). She was hissing at me and wanted me to leave, but she finally left the box, and what did I discover? A very happy, warm, fat, well fed, teeny baby.
Ella is such a good mother that she instinctively knows that this tiny chick needs extra attention so she seeks him out of the pile of older chicks. She actually pulls him out from under the pile (no easy task), and moves him under her so she can sit on him.
I also realize that the reason she didn't feed him was that she was waiting for his crop to empty completely and she was also waiting for her food to digest into the thinner crop milk a young chick needs. You see, as the chicks get older she knows just what to feed them and one can see bigger portions of seeds in the crop as the babies gets older.
I find this all so amazing & heartwarming. She is a wonderful mama to take such extra care with the orphan chick I snuck into her clutch.
I took this baby from it's other parents because I noticed they were feeding their last baby big seeds in it's crop when it was only a few days old and the chick later died of many complications, one of them being a bad digestive system that shut down and caused it''s death.
More to come!