At three weeks, cute little chicks have lost roughly half of the downy yellow fluff they are wearing when you open the box they shipped in. In place of the fluff are feathers. Beautiful mixtures of rust and roan, gold and cinnamon, chestnut and cocoa, black and white. Their ears are visible. Some have combs beginning to show at the base of their beaks. Their feet are big! And some chicken feet are a strange olive green. I didn’t know that last bit. I thought all healthy chicken feet were yellow. Live and learn.
By three weeks, the babies have grown out of the Chicken Little stage of cheeping loudly in despair and delight. They’ve learned a few new sounds, but haven’t reached that chuckling cluck of a fully mature hen. They do have a cute little chirp reserved for happiness. I hear it most when the feeders are full but the chicks are still half-empty. It’s the sound I make when I settle down to a dish of ice cream. Or a plate of tacos. I’m not sure I actually articulate the sound. But if I did, it would sound like my partially-sated chicks.
Three-week-old chickens are curious. They run to your outstretched hand to see if you have treats. Or to peck at you. The hand that feeds means nothing to a three-week-old chicken.
They are also getting very brave.
At three weeks, wing feathers have been around long enough to let their ultimate purpose be known. And chickens are birds that like to roost. High up. Regardless of whether you want them up on the rim of the brooder or not. Wings will get you up there if you are brave enough to try.
So far, three or four of them are brave enough.
Which means we’ve had to insure against flight risk. We designed a net to cover the brooder tank that very closely resembles a seine net. But it works like a charm.
The chickens are adjusting. They still freak out just a bit when I cover the tank. If I don’t let them see the wood parts, they handle things more quietly. Lets hope it’s always so easy.
The guide that came with our chickens calls weeks three and four the “teenage” phase. That wasn’t something I considered when I decided for keeping chickens. I thought I was well-past dealing with teenage angst.
Three-week-old chickens aren’t cute and cuddly anymore. Their heads resemble a cross between an over-processed home permanent and a bad haircut. Their wings are mostly feathered and lovely, but their tail-feathers have gaps that look like some disease-riddled potted plant. They are clumsy, usually putting one foot in the feeder and the other in a pile of chicken shit. Simultaneously.
And they smell.
Like a young man on the verge of puberty.
With a load of poop in his shorts.
But then they calmly perch on their little practice roosts and fluff out their wings feathers and settle down. And, like watching a child fall asleep after a trying day of “why” and “mom”, you have to smile because they’re so damn ugly they’re cute. And they’re finally, thank goodness, not trying to fly around the room.