Young Love visited my flock when Apache ("Patchie") and
Silver bonded and began to mate. Though Silver was not quite a year old, he had his full head of yellow and felt he was "man
enough" for his hen. He and Neo both pursued Patchie relentlessly, but Silver was the victor in the end.
She fell for his good looks and his charming courtship displays. Though initially, I did
try to discourage their "blossoming affections" by seperating them, their hearts were set and they were determined to be together
despite the odds.
|Patchie and Silver's Love Nest
Finally, their persistence paid off, and as the snow began to melt
in March, the homefires began to burn inside Patchie and Silver's "cage for two". I set up a nest box and moved them
in, despite my initial misgivings that Silver was young to be fathering chicks. Still, he had his own agenda and it
was completely opposite of my best intentions.
Silver lovingly doted on Patchie while they made the "Love Shack" their home. He preened her
often and was so tender towards her, I wondered what had happened to "Mr. BossyFeathers".
|Silver, lovingly preening Patchie
All of the attention he lavished on her, didn't stop her from maintaining
a close relationship with me. Many people warned me that my tiels would "shut me out" and might lose their pet quality
during breeding, but such was not the case with Patchie and Silver. Though they were very focused on each other, Patchie
still begged for kisses and love, and Silver was just as happy to be scritched as ever.
Soon, Patchie and Silver had a clutch of five eggs. I was again told by breeders that because
of Silver's youth, it was unlikely that the eggs would be fertile, and the liklihood of Silver being a good father and helping
Patchie incubate the clutch was even slimmer. Imagine my suprise when I candled the eggs, and four out of the five were
fertile! It seemed that Silver and Patchie had some of the aspects of breeding down pat! Proving the "nay-sayers" wrong
once again, Silver became a very devoted father, sitting on those eggs and guarding the nest box like the most experienced
cock. In fact, he was so serious about his job, that he wasn't coming down to eat enough. A trip to the vet ensured
he was in good health but very hormonal. A change of scenery (moving the entire cage and nestbox) to a quiet location
in the house, and one-on-one feeding sessions with Silver helped coax him to relax a bit. Every night, Silver would call for
me to come and "feed him" (when it was Patchie's shift to incubate). I'd sit by the cage and sing to him as I handed
him whole grain crackers through the bars and fed him pellets and veggies in my lap. Since Patchie usually went "Off
shift" in the morning and Silver would sit on the eggs, Patchie and I would have breakfast in much the same manner, but Silver
owned the evening.
Finally, after three agonizingly long weeks, their first baby hatched on April 4, 2005. Since
the chick hatched on a Monday morning, I named this chick "Faira" for the poem "Sunday's Child" (Monday's Child is Fair-of
My worst fears were not realized as Patchie and Silver took right to their duties of bringing up
Faira. At any given time, you could hear the sound of Faira being fed. All seemed well.
Soon, Faira's clutch-mates began to hatch. On the same day, Cessna and Ramen entered the world.
Ramen was very tiny at birth, with long, skinny neck. (Ramen was named for Ramen Noodles, courtesy of my daughter).
I had a feeling Ramen wouldn't make it, and sadly, I was right. Though Patchie and Silver didn't shun him (he had food
in his crop), he passed away the day after his birth. My daughter was heartbroken, because this was the chick she took
a "shine" too, but it wasn't meant to be. Sadly, the same could be said for Faira. On the fourth day of Faira's
life, I found her dead in the nest box. My heart just shattered! The oldest chick! There was plenty of food
in her crop and no signs of trauma that I could see. Silver and Patchie were very agitated and distressed by the loss
of Faira, but the last egg hatched the next day and Cirrus entered the world.
Though Patchie and Silver were devoted parents, Cessna and Cirrus were doomed as well. Each
chick passed away on his or her fourth day of life. Though I sent two of the chicks in for testing to rule out infection
or contamination, nothing was found in the necropsy to explain this tragedy.
Its taken me a few months to recover from the loss of all four chicks. Patchie and Silver worked
SO HARD for weeks to incubate and rear the babies, and had nothing to show for their labors of love and dedication in the
end. Though they grieved each time a chick was pulled from the box (Silver would literally crawl up my arm and sit on
my shoulder as I removed a passed chick, crooning softly in my ear), they have finally recovered from the experience.
They're now caged with Neo and Taxi and though they are still "bonded", their mating activities have ceased.
|In Memory - Faira, Ramen, Cessna & Cirrus
It was so difficult going through all of it with them. It felt as if those tiny little lives
were born of me as well. All I can do now is scritch their sweet heads and sympathize. All we have is an empty
answer to our question "Must have been inexperienced parenting". Sadly, it would seem so. Something went
wrong somewhere and we'll never have the answers... just an empty nest.
These wings are for Faira, Ramen, Cirrus and Cessna, since they never had the chance to fly.
Attached always, to Patchie and Silver's hearts, as well as mine. May they fly in those beautiful meadows on the
other side of the Rainbow Bridge, as they wait for their parents to join them, and once again preen them, feed them, and keep
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