One of the delights of raising chicks is witnessing that phase of their young lives in which they realize they have wings, and can use them. They discover they can do what many of us dreamed as children: They can fly.
Wings feather and fill early in a bird’s development, so that by the time chickens have reached the age of my youngsters — about 2 months old — they’re capable of providing impressive loft. Therein commences a period of exuberant running, jumping and flapping.
It varies by breed, but generally speaking, the trimmer the adult body in relation to the wings, the more a grown bird will retain a significant capacity for flight. My golden Polish, Punky, was a slender bird with long, powerful wings that made her a spectacular flyer, if also an atrocious navigator. During moments of high excitement, Punky would lower her wild headdress of feathers, run wildly in any direction, begin flapping and — before she knew it — become airborne. We were never sure where she would land, and it was evident that she wasn’t either.
For most chickens, though, functional flight is a sadly short-lived affair. As they mature, the birds’ bodies take on muscle and girth, essentially grounding them; in adulthood, their wondrous wings support only the briefest flights of fancy.
All the more reason to appreciate this time, when my youngsters are still enjoying the incredible lightness of being chicks.
In the first portion of this clip, my then-young, now-grown hens cavort in the run; that’s bounding Brahma Em, catching big air. The last segments feature my little girl-gone-boy Taz, as he practices alone in the coop and then in the run, where grown-up Ellie reminds him to mind his manners. (An updated browser is necessary to hear sound on this and most videos.)