Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Smooth as Silkies

Over the next few days, we became better acquainted with our flock and their habits and idiosyncrasies. We automatically began referring to them as three distinct groups: the Big Chicks, consisting of Gloria, Eggbert, and the older chicks; the Little Chicks, comprised of Nigel and the other newly arrived standard-sized chicks; and the Silkies, which included the little white-crested black Polish chick, which we'd decided to leave with the Silkies even after Nigel had ceased his arrival-day attacks.

The little Polish chick was proving to be quite the coquette, always cocking her head at us whenever she caught us watching her and never failing to strike a pose for the camera. She loved having her back stroked, practically quivering with pleasure from the attention. I was thrilled with the little bird. I'd read online posts by owners of white-crested black Polish, praising the breed's spunky personality and friendly nature, and I had attempted to add a pair of them to our McMurray order, only to have the addition nixed by J. Discovering one had been added to our order by the hatchery as our free rare chick delighted me and, like a proud parent, I found myself sharing photos of the fuzzy peep with family and friends.

"Meet Stefanski," I told them.

My stepsisters found the name choice hilarious. "Oh my god, you're kidding me!" exclaimed KS upon hearing what I'd named the Polish chick — their last name. "Too funny!"

AS, who'd jokingly suggested the surname when I'd first considered buying the breed, agreed. "I love it! She's got the Stefanski beak, by the way."

The boys, however, were not in agreement. "I think her name should be Ice Cream Head, because she looks like she has a scoop of vanilla ice cream on her head," JTR told me.

B had his own name choice. "Pom Pom Head," he suggested, tenderly stroking the chick's fluffy top hat.

Stefanski it was.

The black-and-white chick wasn't our only budding supermodel. The cream-colored Silkie — who turned out to be more white than cream under our lights — also was a natural in front of the camera. She'd pose by herself, with the other chicks, and with JTR as well, who quickly fell in love with the fluffy white chick. With her white down and her grey-blue face, she looked like a tiny Yeti, albeit far from abominable. I decided to name her Himalaya.

"I think we should name her Altaria or Swablu," JTR commented, referring to two bird-type Pokemon with blue skin and fluffy white feathers. I decided to make a deal with him. When and if he got his own White Silkie, JTR could name it Swablu or Altaria or whatever he wanted. This one was Himalaya. JTR readily agreed. "Remember, you promised!" the 7 year old told me as he stroked Himalaya.

Himalaya's counterpart in Silkie friendliness was one of the two partridge-colored chicks I'd purchased from VP, the local breeder. Even fluffier than Himalaya, this chick displayed the sunniest temperament, absolutely adoring not just being stroked, but being cuddled. She was so affectionate that B, JTR, and even N vied for the opportunity to nuzzle her against their cheeks. I knew that, due to the possibility of Salmonella contagion, cuddling chicks is supposed to be a no-no; I also knew that, due to the possibility of a curious chick pecking out an eyeball, cuddling chicks should be a no-no. But this little Partridge Silkie's temperament was so lovable that I found myself nuzzling the chick, too. I briefly considered Sasquatch as a name to go hand in hand with Himalaya, but I just couldn't do that to such a sweet little peep. I finally settled on Sunshine, mostly because of her sunny disposition but also because of her honey-gold belly and face.

The other partridge chick at first glance looked identical to Sunshine: same body shape, same fuzzy down. The differences, however, became noticeable the more we observed her. While docile and calm, she wasn't as outgoing as Sunshine. I could hold her for 10 or 15 minutes, softly stroking her, and she'd sit still through it all, but the second I stopped and opened my hand, she'd just look at me as if asking, "What next?" versus Sunshine, who'd hop around and rub her little face against my thumb as if wanting more. The placid little peep's face was also more golden-yellow than Sunshine's, with cinnamon-colored markings around the eyes and crown. She reminded me of a Betty Crocker® coffee cake. Coffee Cake was a pretty stupid name, however, so I went with Streusel instead.

The other chicks in the Silkies' brooder had not really shown much in the way of character or charisma yet. They were just fuzzy little eating and pooping machines. The teensie black chick that seemed runtish compared to its broodermates was chief amongst the chicks when it came to chowing down and, within two days, had filled out and was the same size as Buff Silkie #2, whom I named Turbanado after the golden-brown sugar. Although Turbanado was technically a Buff Silkie, the markings on her head and back exactly matched Sunshine's, so we reclassified her as a Partridge Silkie. Coloration and markings were the only things Sunshine and Turbanado had in common, however. Turbanado was a beardless Silkie and lacked the puffs of down on her cheeks and chin, while Sunshine's face displayed the down that served as the precursor for the trademark bearded Silkie's beard and muff. As a result, it looked like two Turbanados could fits inside one Sunshine, even though Turbanado was a few days older than Sunshine and the other Silkies.

The two gray Silkies not only showed little personality, they also looked as if they'd hatched from the same egg. They showed the same shading variations, the same-sized head pouf, the same chubbiness, even the same wing feather development, leading N to wonder if chick twins were even possible (they are, but I sincerely doubted this was the case). The only way I could tell them apart was that one chick had a darker, thicker band of skin than the other, so that at times it looked like this chick was sporting goggles. More than anything, they resembled tall Russian fur hats, so I named the goggles one Pavlova and the other Romanov, figuring I could change their names to Pavlov and Romanova if the need arose.

As for the little black one? A beardless Silkie like Turbanado, the former runt of the litter was quickly claimed by J. "The black one's my chick," he proclaimed to us one evening as he cradled it in his palm. As for its name? J dubbed it the ever-original Blackie.

We won't be letting him name any of the other chicks.

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