Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A few days ago I found out that my neighbors have ordered their first batch of baby chicks and it has caused me to think back to my own experiences with the tiny little fluff balls.

It has been nearly a year since my last order of day old baby chicks and right at two years since my first. This year we are hoping that our flock will hatch and care for the next generation on their own (last year this wasn't an option since we didn't have any roosters) and even though the prospect of letting the chicken ladies do all the work is pretty exciting there is a lot I will miss as well.

My first order was of Black Australorps and Americanas with a "free mystery chick" thrown in by the hatchery. When I made the order my twins were a little more than a year, by the time the twenty six arrived at the post office Mack and Seltz were fifteen months and I was in the middle of my first trimester with Henry. I was colossally unprepared and more than a little overwhelmed.

I kept the chicks in a box under a heat lamp in a corner of the living room until they got so big that they began to fly out, at which point we moved them into an old dog kennel I set up in the garage. The never ending amount of mess (and smell) that they produced was killer on my morning sickness but they were so incredibly endearing that it was all totally worth it.

Before long all twenty six were ready to graduate to the barn and not long after that we suffered our first casualty. It was our mystery chick, a White Crested Black Polish. I was devastated and immediately began planning my next order.

At six in the morning on the first of June last year I got the call from the post office that our fifty one chicks had arrived. The boys and I hurried in to get them. Mack and Seltz were old enough to be excited and I felt wise, confident, and more than a little excited myself. Then we got them home and found that one had died in transit and one had an injury it couldn't recover from. All of a sudden reality hit, I had a six month old playing in the nursery, two toddlers bouncing off the walls, anxious to see the chicks, a dead chick and one I had to kill. It was a really rough morning and more than once I wondered what on earth I had gotten myself into but by that evening the survivors had settled into their new home in the garage and were all doing well.

I delighted in doting on them, took pictures of each of them, and counted them nightly. After a few weeks I found that I could tell how they were doing by the pitch and frequency of their cheeping. There was a universal cheep for an escaped chick, and another for when they were running low on feed and yet another for waking up in the morning.

Sometimes it's hard to remember that the grown birds in our flock started off so tiny and fragile. They have each developed into such lovable animals with distinct personalities and I am thankful for each one of them.

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