Monday, October 18, 2010

The Bonding Process

This entry recounts what happened when we got the chicks.
The chicks were ordered online from a hatchery and they'd be sent to us by regular mail. The post office would call us at 6am in the morning, and Mum would get the brooder ready, turn on the heat lamp, then prepare food and water. Rummy and I, being the most observant, would trail her like shadows. We know the drill, she's getting chicks, and we would not leave her side.

 Mum takes us with her to ride in the car. We get to sit up front in the passenger area, so that we can be 100% involved with the raising of the chicks. The bonding starts right at the beginning. Mum comes out from the post office with this box that chirps and cheeps very loudly. We get to sniff it, and look at it, but no pawing or making any noise. Then we go straight home.

 When we get home, we sit patiently by the box, paying close attention to the little sounds coming from there. We're really excited, but Mum won't open the box until we are absolutely calm, so we settle down as quickly as we can, so she'll open the box sooner. We wait and the moment arrives.
Mum opens the box on the floor, telling us to watch and see. There are always chicks in the box, and this routine has happened 3 times, so we know what to expect. 

 I tend to hang back a bit more but Rummy puts his nose right in.

 There are normally scared little peeps in the box, we can tell by their energy that they are anxious, and sometimes, the chicks shut their eyes because they are very frightened, so we stay very calm, and Mum also stays very calm. We don't talk much during the initial presentation process. And one by one, Mum carries the chicks up, to our noses, so we can have a closer look and smell.
 Kimi smelling a chick upon its arrival

She presents every single chick to us both, one by one, first I smell it, and then Rummy smells it, until the box is empty. She lets us have the first inspection and lets us touch our noses to the chicks.
Once the chicks have settled in, they eat, sleep, poop and peep. They relax and their chirping sounds change from a high pitch cheep, to something mellow and deep. Their bodies relax and become soft, and they start becoming inquisitive about their environment.

From the first moment they get introduced to our world, the chicks get used to our furry faces. They smell our doggie breaths and they like it. Maybe they like it because our breaths are warm, and the chicks get a rush of warmth which they need. At this young age, chicks love to be under a heat source, so they go relax under the heat lamp in their brooder, or they cuddle with Rummy.

I would say from my observations that my brother Rummy is healthily obsessed with the little peeps. He would go first thing in the morning to check on them. It is almost as if he makes a mental note, how many there are, and would watch every single one to see if they were ok.

Eventually, the chicks are so used to having us around, jumping on our backs and perching there comfortably becomes a norm. I don't like that as much, but Rummy loves the chicken attention. That's Ebony, above in the pic, perched on Rummy's back.

Rummy shares a special kiss and moment with a Black Crested White Polish.

Kimi, following Ebony and Goldie. 
We have learned not to rush at the chickens, that makes them go in a panic state, and they flap their wings and run away. We have learned to be gentle with them, to move slowly around them, to stay still if we want to invite the chickens to come close. Rummy is really good at these things.
He is the resident hunter in our pack, killing mice, snakes and moving things, but he has this sweet soft spot for the chickens, and who would have thought this could be possible?

While the chicks were still growing indoors, we'd hang out by their brooder everyday. Mum would lift the lid, and the chicks would perch on top, sometimes, when they see us, they'd come right up to us and play with us. They'd peck at us, pull our fur, and jump all over.

That's Smokey when he was little. He loved to climb on Rummy. Always, they would play together, and Rummy would be silly and love the attention.

When a new batch of chicks came, the whole routine would repeat. They'd stay indoors for 4-5 weeks and then get moved outdoors to the big bird enclosure. They'd have to learn to get along with the outdoor birds, and we'd be there to see that everything went smoothly. So from the time they arrive, to the time, they grow up and move out to the outside, we are right by their side, daily.

Rummy loved to spend his days and nights, laying by the side of the chick brooder. He'd watch them for hours, and seemed very content, relaxed and happy whenever they were together.

He would stick his tongue out to kiss them and lick them, and allow the chicks to peck at it. The chicks probably thought this was their hen, feeding them worms or goodies, but they would be unafraid of his huge canine teeth, or all his sharp teeth for that matter. He was so gentle with them.

Sometimes, he'd try to mouth them, or "feel" them through the grates, but the chicks would still be undeterred. For them, this was totally normal. Perhaps by instinct, when the chicks were close to him, he would never mouth them, or put them in his mouth although he easily could.

Rummy being super pleased with his chicks.

Everyday during our practice/bonding sessions, Mum would carry the chicks and let us get super close to them. That's me, kissing and sniffing a chick. I get bored of them easily, and I lose interest, but Mum still makes me stay and be with them. She was trying to build a strong bond between the species, so that eventually, we feel protective over the chicks, and it has worked.

Rummy being close to Smokey as a wee baby

Be it day time, or night time, Rummy or my face would be stuck in their brooder. They got very used to us, and grew confident and tough. Because of their familiarity with us, they would show no fear, or negative energy when they started free ranging. That in turn, dialed down the prey drive within us, because we didn't sense their fear, and we didn't see the need for a chase.

Rummy's face was a common sight for them.

Now we have stopped getting anymore chicks. Mum said, we've got enough, and we're getting eggs everyday now for free. So we're all really happy. Rummy and I get hard boiled eggs, fried eggs, and raw eggs for treats too. This is really wonderful.

Kimi and Rummy


At 2:36 AM, Blogger Maggie and Mitch said...

Our mom says that your mom has the patience of a saint to get you not to chase or eat the chicks! The pictures of Rummy and his chicks are priceless!

Love ya lots
Maggie and Mitch

At 3:32 PM, Blogger The Garden House said...

Your airedales are beautiful and so well trained. I was wondering where you got your airedales, as I want to add an airedale to our family as well.


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