Everything in our lives hasn’t been all trial and tumult the last six months. There have been plenty of enjoyable and wonderful things along the way as well. I for one, have quite enjoyed the addition of 15 chickens to our lives. In the interest of preserving some of my memories, I thought I’d tell you about them. I’m pretty sure, getting a box full of peeping fluff balls should be an experience everyone has at least once. Smoochy would probably tell you once is enough, as I was something of a nut-job around the time of our chick delivery.
|Normy, The Chick Whisperer|
It was of course my responsibility to figure out how the chicks would be brooded… but Smoochy’s job to make my vision a reality. In hindsight, this might have not been the best recipe for success. And though Smoochy was a willing assistant, the whole thing was mostly my show. We had an old kiddy pool lying around from summers-past and I figured we’d just whip up a rig like I’d seen on Backyard Chicken while researching. Two days before the chicks were scheduled to ship the kids and I got to work scrubbing the tub. Once it was dried, I laid out all the materials in the garage and instructed Smoochy on my vision for the chick brooder. No surprise to anyone who knows us, the following hours were spend with him redesigning my plan and finding a way to make it actually work.
|inside the brooder|
I was aware the day the chicks shipped thanks to an email. We were all so excited I couldn’t stand it. I thought surely they would arrive the very next day. They were only coming from one state over after all. But, they didn’t and I was a little dejected. The day after that d I was SURE they would arrive (and my tracking number confirmed it.) So, that next day I kept my phone with me ALL THE TIME. I obsessively checked it, and made sure the volume was always up. This is pretty amazing, as my phone can most often be found on silent underneath the seat of my car. By 4:30 I was morose and disappointed the chicks had failed to materialize another day. What the heck? So, Smoochy, the kids, and I trotted down by the pond for a couple of rounds on the tire swing. When we got back to the house I realized I had three missed calls, from the post office of course. (My phone had been in my back pocket!)
The lovely postal worker who had the fortune of being on duty that evening started placing calls to my house at 4:45. Each of the successive messages she left got increasingly agitated about being in the presence of a peeping box of livestock. The last message she left at 6:15 was that the post office was closed but she would be there for another few minutes… I don’t remember what time it was that I found the messages, but the window had closed, and the chicks would clearly have to spend the night at the post office.
This sent me into a tailspin of worry and panic. How many hours had the chicks been in-transit? How long can day-old chicks go without water and food? (72 hours, we'd be cutting it close.) What was going to become of my babies? Oh my god, WOULD THEY SURVIVE? They would have to wait until 6:30 in the morning when the nervous voice on the message told me would be the earliest we could come pick them up.
The alarm went off early the next morning and the kids and I scrambled out the door on a cold and rainy April morning and drove like lightning to the post office. In retrospect, I really can’t believe how nervous I was. I replayed over and over in my head how I was going to open the box, gently remove each chick, then dip it’s beak right into the water in it’s brooder so that no time was wasted as they tried to learn the lay of their brooder. When I finally had that box of birds in my hands I was shocked by how small it was. 16 chicks were huddled together in a box no bigger than the size of a men’s shoebox. My repetitive (non-obsessive) visualization must have paid off because every thing went perfectly smoothly. (It’s certainly not that chick care is ridiculously simple compared to beekeeping.) The children were enthralled and cooperative, the chicks were healthy, and their transition to life with the Smoochys was easy.
There is so much I could tell you about. We could hardly tare ourselves out of the garage the first few days of chick-watching. There was the endless chore of cleaning away pasty butt to save the lives of several chicks in the first few days. There was the sad little runt I nursed back to health, and now hates my guts and is the MEANEST bird in the flock (She’s named PASTY Clien). We had one chick die and I let one in the kitchen. Smoochy upgraded their brooder once they got a little bigger which saved them from cannibalism, I’m sure. But, mostly it was just fun to have them in our garage… kicking dust on to everything, stinking like ammonia, and attracting flies. No really, it WAS fun.
|You owe your life to me, you ungrateful little bird!|
And it was even more fun when they were finally feathered enough for the big-girl coop. Moving day was quite the victory. And we where honored to get to share the experience with our good family friends who were visiting for the Fourth of July. My Smoochy had been laboring for weeks to get the coop done, and he and his friend put the final touches on together in the joyful way men do who get to hang-out outside drinking beer and using power tools for a couple consecutive days. His buddy, who none would ever expect to rock a pair of overhauls, was so envious of Smoochy’s that he even picked up a pair at Tractor Supply for the occasion.
The next big development in chicken keeping is the noise currently emanating from the coop. I have a permit for 20 HENS. Roosters are not allowed by city ordinances. And though we live on over two acres in a fairly secluded spot, we still have neighbors, and I’d rather not get complaints. It all started one morning last week: a distinctive cackle that’s I’m not positive is very lady-like coming form the coop. I do have ONE bird who seems to be the source of this particular sound that can be heard on and off all day echoing through the trees. I’m not 100% prepared to claim it’s a rooster, as really the bird looks just like the others with the exception of a slightly larger comb. Maybe it’s just a dominant female? Who knows? At least at first glance a city health inspector would be hard-pressed to fine us for rooster-keeping.
But, the biggest development of all is OUR FIRST EGG! (And not a day too soon, as we are currently buying 10 dozen eggs every two weeks from a local farmer.) I found our little treasure yesterday nestled BEHIND the temporary nest boxes Smoochy whipped up two weekends ago just to make sure there was something ready for the laying that was eminent. His plan is to go back and make permanent boxes with a door that can be accessed from the outside. But for now, I have to climb all the way INTO the coop to hunt for eggs. This is kind of a bummer because I really don’t want the kids in there because I’m worried about them crawling around in chicken shit and getting their eyes poked out…. or accidently setting a chicken free. (Perhaps I’m over thinking this.) Eventually, it would be nice if egg collection could be something they can do without help. For now, it seems even I need back up when egg collecting. While out there yesterday looking for eggs Normy LOCKED me in the coop then happily went inside to play the IPad I had explicitly stated was off-limits for the rest of the afternoon. I screamed for him for what seamed like an eternity while the chickens flapped around me in distress. Luckily Little Lola came to my rescue at last. It took her about ten minutes of trying to finally figure out the latch. But, eventually I was free. I’m going to have to work on my strategy here. If it has been a couple of days since you’ve heard from me would someone please come out and check the coop? Thanks.
|Day One of Chick Ownership|
|Delphine The House Chicken|
|Smoochy on Moving Day|
|Cracking!!! We have egg!|