The ways these little birds have changed over the past three weeks is incredible. I never imagined that chickens could have so much personality or would prove so very entertaining, but chances are, if you can't find one of the members of our family (ahem, Matt) he or she is likely in with the chickens.
As our little guys (or, hopefully, gals) grow and change, we have introduced them to the world beyond their brooder. On a warm, green day, they had their first adventure into the open.
Oh, for all their growing, they seemed so small out there in the grass. At first, they all huddled so close to me, perching on my feet and hands. The chick who has shown the most confidence and pluck in the brooder was the one who was least reluctant to leave my hand outside.
(We've named that one Adel, after our dear friend who called during the hatching and asked that the next chick be named for him. It's very difficult to tell any of the other chicks apart, but Adel is easily recognized for his solid-colored beak and whiter shades).
As they all felt more courageous, the chicks moved out on their own. It was truly something to see, watching these little things size up the world. They cocked their heads and took in the span of sky above them with equal parts wariness and curiousity.
They strutted and flapped and stretched their wings, feeling more space around them than they have known before.
They devoured the violets, clover and dandelions in the grass and comically fought over the worms the kids dug up for them.
We had worried that our dogs might take an unguarded opportunity to snack on our new little friends, but they have taken to these chicks quite well.
Seeing the chicks in their natural environment, engaging in their usual chicken behavior, made me feel very glad to have the responsibility to care for these birds. Yes, chickens are such common parts of most people's culinary lives that we often don't honor their place as living beings. But getting to know these chicks and watch them grow makes me disheartened for the millions of birds who will grow inside a concrete, windowless enclosure.
It brings me great satisfaction to say I know the cow who gives us our milk, or that I have shook the hand of the farmer who raises the animals that provide our meat. I imagine that sense of pride will be even greater when we enjoy the eggs these chicks will someday offer and watch them as they grow and live, where they belong, out in the open.