I came home Monday afternoon and the babies were just outside in the yard. Like, "Hey, we're part of the flock now...and how about a little extra treat?" I think our brooder and heat lamps and other chick-raising-paraphernalia is going to end up getting Craigslisted at this rate, because the "natural" method of raising chicks? Is. Freaking. Awesome.
And it's not just laziness on my part (although it is pretty nice to just let Gladys take care of things). It's hard for me to put it into words, but...it's like, they're not just getting bigger, they're learning to be chickens.
Not just from Glady, either. The other big girls are also sweetly tolerant of the chicks. In fact, the only one that has shown even the tiniest bit of aggression is Etta. I think--as lowest in the pecking order before--she's just tickled to have someone "under" her now.
Not that Gladys would allow anyone or anything to truly pick on her babies. We've had to keep a close eye on the Kid, in fact, because he wants to get much closer than the little mama is comfortable with. I believe (from the skulking behavior of "Orange Cat", a neighborhood stray) that Gladys has also fended off a few more malevolent investigators as well.
The only downside is that I'm afraid these chicks will be less tame than the birds of years past. I haven't touched any of them since I shoved them under Gladys's backside last weekend, so they aren't used to being handled. On the other hand, I've found that treats go a long way towards winning my older birds' affections, so perhaps its something we can work on later.