#420, The Little Dirtball
Told by Mark Nipper, Operation Migration

Chick #420 is the cutest little sandhill-sized "pigpen" of a whooper you could ever ask for. This bird, also rather fiery at times, is absolutely tiny—and often walks around all hunkered down, making her even smaller. But when she wants to, she struts her stuff with her buddy #419.

This little girl has been a favorite (because of her size) since hatching. But it was clinched one evening in August when I went out to do the evening checks. I found the "two little girls" (#419 and 420) lying down out by the gate to the wet pen. They were both filthy from the mud in the wet pen. They came over to me and checked out the mud hole in the gate with me. Chick #420 was just standing there, not really looking at anything, when suddenly she submerged her whole head into the mud. She was probing madly, slinging mud everywhere! Now usually you can tell when a bird is going to do this; they are llooking intently and probing shyly until they find something. but not this little dirtball. She pulled her head up and shook mud all over me. Then she just looked at me. This picture is after she had cleaned up quite a bit.