Bumper Crop of Chicks at Crane Foundation


This summer in Wisconsin, the corn may be late from excessive rain but chicks are sprouting early at the International Crane Foundation (ICF). This year's bumper crop of chicks got off to an early start when the endangered Wattled Cranes from Africa laid during a snow storm in February. ow there are 24 chicks at the facility , with another expected. Up to 17 of the chicks a re on public display in the "chick yard," where the c hi cks are attended by volunteer "chick parents." According to Assistant Curator of Birds Scott Swengel , "We have a diverse bunch, one of the most varied assortments of chicks ever." In the chick yard there are seven Whooping Cranes, five Siberian Cranes, three Sandhill Cranes , and two Wattled Cranes. The chicks range in size from  youngsters about a foot high , to the Wattled Crane named Maozeka who, at ten weeks of age, sta nds about three feet tall. The chicks grow up to an inch a day, because in the wild many have to migrate more than a thousand miles by the end of summer. Getting plenty of exercise is vital for proper development of their spindly legs. Besides monitoring the health of the chicks and feeding them, the volunteer chick parents have to keep the bullies from hurting less aggressive chicks. In the wild, many species of crane lay two eggs, but usually only one chick survives, in patt because of fighting between siblings. So watching out for fights is serious business. Surprisingly, some of the smaller chicks are most aggressive, so it's comical to see a small chick chasing a  larger one. As the gangly chicks run, they extend tl1eir wings, which flop as if made of rubber. According to ICF intern Debra Bourne, the tiny bullies can be u eful when they chase the larger chicks. Since they can't catch and harm the larger chicks, all get plenty of exercise. But the ICF staff has to be careful not to put a bully in the chick ya rd along with smaller chicks they might pick on. If the excitement get outs of band, the offender is placed in the,"penalty box," a small pen...