This spring Mara set a clutch of eggs and is raising Martha and Marvin. Our spring was so cold and late coming that I decided to move them into the basement. One evening as I went down to load the wood furnace, yet again, I noticed Mara sitting on the shavings outside her nest box. I stopped to chat and asked where the chicks were and out their little heads popped. I turned and ran upstairs to grab the camera and returned to snap this picture.
Every day I spend a little time with Mara and family. It is wonderful to hear the variety of tones and combinations of sound and actions Mara uses with her chicks. I have experienced her teaching them everything from "This is water and this is how you drink," "This is food - eat many times per day" and now at 3 weeks of age she is teaching them how to get Granny (that would be me) to hand out special treats.
This morning I picked them a large handful of grass and dandelions and was amazed to watch and listen as she gave instruction. I know many people will say do not put human thoughts and feelings onto the animals, but I can describe what I saw and heard. At first she seemed to say "Stand back chicks, while I check it out." Both Martha and Marvin moved about a foot and a half away from the pile of strange green stuff. Mara moved the grasses around inspecting it all as she clucked and peeped and scratched. When she was satisfied everything was ok, her tone changed and Martha and Marvin ran in to try out the treats. Mara broke large dandelion leaves into chick-size pieces and they gobbled them down. Later when I stopped by to say hi there was not a piece of green to be found.
When I am cleaning the pen Mara calls the chicks over to the corner and waits until I finish. As soon as I have placed the fresh food and water she tells them they can help themselves and out they come.