Thursday, January 2, 2014

Eating for Six

The male, (Kermit the Green) spends much of his day eating or gnawing on the calcium block.  At this stage of chick rearing that's his job; EAT!  By the end of the day most of the seed in the feed trays is gone and all that is left is millet husks.

Billie Holiday spends her day inside the nestbox.  She comes out occasionally to stretch a little.  She drinks, eats a few seeds, chews on the cuttle bone, and then he feeds her.  And that is why he is always eating.  He eats, digests the food, and then regugitates it for her.  She in turn takes it back to the chicks and regurgitates it for them.  It all seems unnecessarily complicated, ... until you think about their lives in the natural world, then it makes sense.
 

This is a hard picture to get, because it requires me to hold the cage door open with one hand, and hold the camera (pointing an unfamiliar black object in their faces) and shoot with the other.  All this without being too intrusive or disturbing as the food transfer takes place. As obtrusive and disturbing as it is, the transfer does indeed proceed.  It needs to, and after these months together they trust me enough to carry on even if I am less than four feet away and the cage door is open.  Funny thing: The open cage door is as frightening or disturbing to them as my close proximity.

She seems to prefer the cuttle bone to the calcium block, and whenever she's at the cuttle bone so is he.  In fact whenever she's out in the cage he is always very close to her, feeding her, eating along with her, or grooming her. 

The books say in order to prevent another cycle of mating, laying, and hatching we should remove the hen from the cage when the youngest chick is about 10 days old. That the cock will then take over the care of the chicks. Of course, that is what the books say and you know by now how well these keets read.  So we must watch them closely for the first 48 hours (if we do this), as it sometimes takes a day or so for dad to realize that mom isn't coming back and he needs to take over.  The last chick (so far) was hatched on 12/28 so a decision on how to approach this ticklish business is not urgent.  The two eggs remaining don't really factor in to the equation just yet.  If one or both hatch in the next couple days then we can definitely reset the clock.  If not, then we'll consider 12/28 as the start of the 10 day contdown. 

I am not at all sure we will do this remove the hen business.  We definitely do not want to be dealing with a second clutch any time soon (ever actually) but the little experience we have had with separating them was not pleasant, and I can only assume that it would be worse with chicks in the nest box.  I'm not trying to ramp up the drama here, just reading ahead for the next test. 

He's always more animated and vocal whe she's out in the cage.  He used to sing and talk constantly, befor the kids came along.  Now, it's eating, more eating, and damn little singing. 

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