Thursday, April 7, 2011

Roll Call

Twenty-eight chicks plus eight chicks plus eight more chicks equals... a whole lot of chicks to try to keep track of without pulling out our collective hair. Fortunately, one set of eight — our Silkies and our White-Crested Polish chick, Stefanski — were in their own brooder and were distinctive enough to easily identify. The other set of eight — our original "Big Chicks" — were also in their own brooder and were also easily identified. But the others? That required some keen observation and a touch of creativity, something that I didn't necessarily have after two days of chick overload.

The trio of Columbian Wyandottes at first glance seemed to be the easiest to tell apart. Nigel's chickie tuxedo — his black triangular markings — distinguished him from his siblings... until we noticed that another Columbian had the exact same markings, only in a lighter gray. I immediately dubbed this chick Nigel 2, but M had other ideas.

"Reginald," he declared. "That's a proper gentleman's name."

"It's a Columbian Wyandotte, not a British Wyandotte," I pointed out.



"You can't say no to Winston," M protested. "It's a proper name for a proper little chick."

"We don't even know if Winston is a boy or girl!" I pointed out, picking up the chick in question and stroking its chubby back.

M ignored my comment, however, and laughed. "Ha! You called him Winston!" he chortled, dancing around in the limited sitting-room space. I just shook my head. I'd ordered two girls and a boy, which meant that Winston might end up being Winnie or Nigel might end up as Nigella... or both. I decided to give the third Columbian Wyandotte a female name to balance everything out. Columbia? Boring. Collie? Hmmm... poultry, not puppy. Lumbie? Sounded like a chick with back problems. My ingenuity failing me, I settled for Luella, figuring Lou would be the fallback if she ended up being a he.

No gender questions existed for our five new Ameraucana chicks — I'd specified pullets so we'd have plenty of blue and green eggs to eat and sell. The Ameraucanas' characteristic chipmunk-like markings helped me not only tell them apart but also give them some sort of name. One sweet peep with a distinctly female face had a blaze just like Blazekin's ending in a well-defined, brown triangle right above her forehead. My imagination failing me, I temporarily named her Mini-Blaze until such a time that my brain could think creatively again. A chick with a thicker blaze became Mini-Barbra, while one with a prominent auburn V on her forehead was dubbed Victoria. A fourth Ameraucana had the same homely but lovable facial coloration that Eggbert had displayed as a baby chick, except with reddish tones versus Eggbert's brown; this one I named Agatha. Finally, the fifth little fuzzball had an unusual dark-brown mark on her head but no other chipmunk striping on her body. As the shape on her head resembled an old-fashioned keyhole, I nicknamed her Keynoter, figuring I'd revisit her name in the near future as well.

The quartet of White Cochin chicks was an entirely different matter. The four appeared absolutely identical, with tiny white wingtips, white faces, and hoodies of gray fuzz. As much as I tried, I couldn't find anything to differentiate the shy, tiny chicks from each other. It didn't help that they stuck together as a group instead of exploring the brooder on their own or mingling with the other chicks. Grasping at straws, I convinced myself that the down on their heads varied in pattern. The chick with the triangular black mark became Trinity, while the one with the black dot on her forehead became Dorothy. One seemed to sport an upside-down A on the crown of her head; she became Adeline. The Cochin chick whose head down was simply a mottled gray became Matilda.

And with that, I expended the remaining reserves of my creative energy. The six Buff Orpington pullets — even more alike than the White Cochins — simply stayed Goldie One through Six after I racked my brains for variation of Gold and only came up with Goldie, Golda, and Goldilocks. I did name the male Orpington chick Arnold, much to M's chagrin. M felt that such a sunny, golden boy — and we did temporarily call the chick Goldie Boy — deserved a name like Bryan, after Beach Boy Wilson. However, I stuck with Arnold, after bodybuilder Schwarzenegger. After all, the little roo was a Buff Orpington.

I pretty much gave up when it came to the six Silver-Laced Wyandottes. The patterns made by their black-speckled faces and white-rippled down were as indecipherable as military camouflage. As hard as I tried, I just couldn't tell them apart. One chick, however, stood out, not just because of its coloration but because of its resemblance to Jimmy Durante: its pitch-black facial down contrasted severely with its creamy peach beak, making this feature far more prominent than it truly was and earning the little Wyandotte the notable sobriquet of Schnozz.

That left our three remaining Cuckoo Marans, the chocolate-brown egg layers I'd so looked forward to having in our flock. Since the breed originates from the French town of Maran, I'd planned to come up with French names for the trio of black-and-white pullets. Sadly, I only had to come up with two names. The mess more than two dozen chicks left on their paper towels became too much for J to bear, both visually and olfactorally. The offending towels were removed, exposing a sea of pine shavings just waiting to be explored and rolled in. We'd forgotten, however, that the Cuckoo Marans were several days younger than the rest of our chick battalion and therefore more prone to peck at the shavings than their older broodermates. We found one of the Maran chicks dead, her beak parted with the saliva-expanded pine shavings she had eaten. Little Una (because she was the first Cuckoo Maran to come out of the shipping carton) joined Spot and Honey out in the back, leaving Marianne and Martine behind as the only dark egg layers in our entire flock.

Which of course wouldn't do. I'd simply have to order more chicks.

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