Here is Edna, an Australorpe, the littlest, the feistiest, capital squawker and pecker. Within minutes of reaching the brooder, and despite the fact that she is roughly half the size of her week-older counterparts, she was putting them all in line, hand on proverbial hip. She has a no-nonsense matronly gate, and is the kind of chick that you can picture in her dotage even as she is an irresistible bit of fluff. She is named for Edna Lewis, renowned traditional Southern cook.
Here is Edith, an Americauna, a veritable warbler, our little songstress. She moon walks when she gets to scratching, and prefers to scoot over walking, creeping along on her belly. She is named for Edith Piaf, famed French warbler. They sound rather alarmingly alike. She pecks the hardest, too; sometimes I think she’ll peck a hole in the feeder, but she is gentle with the others and with me. I can hear her from my desk, “thunk, thunk,” as she pecks at the bottom of the bathtub, and “weeoo, weeoo, weeoo,” as she sings. She will lay blue green eggs one day.
Here is Florence, a Rhode Island Red, curious, alert, and the flock’s sounder of alarm. She’s stirring up one of her usual kerfuffles here. This morning she was so determined to see outside the brooder that, craning up and back, she fell backwards repeatedly. When we introduced new chicks to the flock, she PEEP peep peep peep peeped until Beatrice and Edith joined her as far away from them as possible. She’s also our flyer, the first to explore her wings; she sets off quite a commotion every time she decides to try her hand at flight in such a small space. Florence is named for Florence Reichtzigel, the retired farmer who first taught me about canning and preserving when I was a girl.
Here is Beatrice, a White Plymouth Rock. Our former Bossy Betty has mellowed into one of the calmest and most docile of the chicks. Beatrice is named for Beatrice Ojakangas, Minnesota cookbook author specializing in Scandinavian cooking and baking. She has beautiful white hair; Beatrice’s butter yellow fluff will be replaced soon by snow white feathers. She is happy now to be held and sung to. She also seems to be the most aware of humans, though quite calm about our presence. She hates, hates, hates, though, to have her bedding material changed. Oh my goodness, is that a trauma! Poor, Beatrice.
And here is Clementine, little Clementine, an Australorpe. Agreeable, quiet, and serene, with bright eyes and a steadiness about her. She won’t be bullied, but she also won’t push anyone from her spot at the feeder, and almost nothing unsettles her. Clementine is named for the sweet cook in Samuel Chamberlain’s Clementine in the Kitchen, my favorite food memoir. Unruffled, cheerful, and ever sweet.
We had a sixth chick, but we lost Alice, an Americauna, when she was four days old. She was named for Alice Waters, American local food champion and restauranteur, and she was my favorite, the Audrey Hepburn of chicks, with big, beautiful eyes and a serene character. She is buried now beneath a tree.
The chicks have brought us so much pleasure in two short weeks. In some ways I feel like a new mother again, discovering their personalities, unsure of myself when Alice was sick and then dying, dedicated to their care, learning every day, and celebrating their small milestones. The mundane and routine can be quite exciting when new. I could sit at the brooder watching them for long hours had I the time. There is also something about observing a creature related to the most ancient creatures, the dinosaurs. It roots us in and to a kind of ephemeral timeline, to history. I’m so glad we’ve taken this little flock into our care for so many reasons, but mostly because they are a source of great joy.