Attack of the Killer Chicks
by Rebecca Bresnick Holmes
Five dollars may not buy much these days, but it’s enough to make several chickens really, REALLY happy.
At the feed store I bought live mealworms for $5. Having previously fed them to the hens, I thought it’d be a fun treat for Shasta, Cascade, and Harriet (the chicks, who are now about the size of a baseball were it oval). There are 50 worms in the container, which is also filled with dirt. Hmmmm… a bunch of worms in some dirt… someone, probably some 7-year-old kid, is making a fortune!
To date, the chicks hadn’t eaten anything but the chick feed. I didn’t know if or how they would know that worms are edible and that they are supposed to like to eat them.
With a fork, which I’ll never again use for human food, I gingerly wedged a single worm between the tines and lowered it into the chicks’ container. Words can barely describe what happened next. This would be a good place for a YouTube video to demonstrate. It was an explosive frenzy of fluff.
I would not have believed it unless I had seen it with my own eyes. These three previously docile siblings went after the worm with tunnel-vision vengeance and when one picked it up, the other two chicks dashed after him (or her) to steal the worm. Chick one ran in ovals to find a place to hide, pause, properly position the worm, and gulp it down. The other chicks were relentless in their worm pursuit, so chick one didn’t get that chance.
The chase continued for more than several seconds. It actually went on for quite awhile. So long, in fact, that I started to panic that the chicks would hurt themselves with all the attempts to jump and fly and consequently crash into the blue plastic walls. It looked like a fuzzy tornado and I could not make it stop.
Finally, another chick caught up to chick one (who had the worm) and they engaged in what I have only ever seen in cartoons in my childhood: the worm tug of war. I thought that poor worm was going to split in half (which would have probably again resulted in my having to put my head down in order not to faint).
I took advantage of the momentary semi-calm and quickly put two more worms in the pen, hoping that the chicks would notice and each take one. It was not the peaceful, sharing event I had hoped for. Same thing as before — just not as long-lasting.
Finally, peace, as each chick found a worm. They each retreated to a corner and feasted, although not without worry — they nervously glanced over their shoulders every few microseconds to see if it was safe to continue.
The question that stayed with me was, “How did they know this was edible?” I had given them a tiny bit of shredded lettuce before and they completely shunned it. Ditto with the insides of a fresh fig. But the worm — they barely had time to register what it was before they attacked it. My little chickies turned vicious and aggressive.
I managed to give them each one more worm and it went only slightly smoother. If only I could get the courage to touch the worms with my bare hands — then I might be able to hold three, teach them some manners, and let each chick pluck up a worm –—one at a time! Or maybe this was how they are supposed to behave so they don’t starve in the wild… or in my yard. In any event, I’ll still feed them seed and maybe my kids will want to earn some money digging up worms and save me the $5, and the trip to the feed store.