Monday, September 1, 2014

Here A Chick, There A Chick

The World Bird Sanctuary is known for our work with birds of prey, but we also have some cute, fluffy little friends running around the Lower Site.
A few of this year's crop of chicks (photo: Adam Triska)

Twenty-four Araucana and Cochin chicks have hatched within a 3-week period out of our incubators.  Just about every day there is a new little one peeping from the back hallway where the incubators are located.  The two species are unique in their own way and fascinating to work with.

Every morning when I come into work, I find myself going to the incubators in the ETC (Education Training Center) to look for another new hatchling.  Some chicks we find completely hatched, but others are slow to emerge from their shells.  We remove them from the top incubator racks that are designed to hold the eggs, then put them on the more secure bottom racks to dry for 24 hours.  After a full day of drying, the little chicks join the other hatchlings in our baby room.
Here you can see the rumpless characteristic of the Aruacana chickens (photo: Gay Schroer)

The Araucana chicken originated in Chile.  This fowl is actually a hybrid between two separate species of South American chickens.  The Colloncas are rumpless, meaning they have no tail or pygostyle (bony structure to support the tail), and are known for their brilliant blue colored eggs.
Here you can see the odd feather tufts sported by many individuals (photo: Gay Schroer)

Queteros are known for their loud, beautiful sounding males and tufted ears.  The Araucana is a delightful combination of these two exquisite species, bringing together some of their most distinguishing features.  Breed standards vary dependent upon region.  The North American standard for an Araucana calls for a rumpless chicken that lays blue eggs and has ear-tufts.

The Cochin Bantam chicken initially came to us from China.  There are two variations of the story about how this species gained popularity with the rest of the world.  One account tells that the private collection of the Emperor of Beijing was stolen by British soldiers.  The lighter version of the tale says that the Emperor gifted a flock to Queen Victoria.  Both versions convey that the Queen fell in love with her new feathered friends.
Bantam Cochin chickens look like they're wearing pantaloons (photo: Gay Schroer)

Bantams are known for their short, round shape and feathers that cover their feet.  The hens are very good egg sitters and have been used as surrogate mothers for raptor eggs.  Their friendly disposition and fluffy appearance have earned them a great reputation as kind, gentle pets!

It’s a refreshing change of pace to work with such cute, defenseless little fuzz balls.  I will never lose interest in tending to the babies and watching them grow up.  Before you know it, the males will start strutting and the females will lay eggs!

The next time you visit the World Bird Sanctuary see if you can spot these two distinctive chicken breeds.  The Aruacanas are the odd looking tailless chickens with the funny looking feather puffs on the sides of their faces.  The Cochins can be found in the Nature Center and in the Environmental Education Center (often running loose to greet visitors)—they are the little chickens that look like they’re wearing pantaloons!

Submitted by Adam Triska, World Bird Sanctuary Educational Training Center Superviso

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