I never wanted chicks.
Chickens, I love. Grown hens, I will happily buy. But chicks? Chicks require STUFF. Special food, and waterers to keep them from accidentally drowning their dumb little selves, heat lamps and enclosures. So many things! It just seemed way too fussy. But then one day my husband came home from the feed store with a chick order form and my previous stance on chicks flew the coop, so to speak.
Suddenly I was considering it. We could have chicks! My husband was on board, which was half the battle. We could hand-raise them to be friendly and docile like our other hens. It sounded like a great idea, but there was another complication and her name is Judy. How was I going to manage having a puppy and chicks? Judy’s favorite trick at the moment is standing on one of our Ameraucana hens and snuffling her feathers. How was she going to react around chicks? Oh, it won’t be so bad. (I lied to myself.) I’ll just get ten, twelve tops. (More lies.)
I filled out the feed store order form and held my breath as I walked to the counter where my chick dreams were soon dashed as the feed store employee told me that it was too late to place an order. In the span of three minutes I went from someone not 100% convinced she wanted chicks, to someone who WAS GOING TO GET CHICKS HOW DARE YOU TELL ME IT’S TOO LATE. I went home, looked up the hatchery where I’ve bought supplies before, found the breeds I wanted, and placed an order for fifteen chicks to be delivered the following week. HOLY CRAP!
Fun fact: For heat-retention purposes, the minimum number for mail-ordering two-day old chicks is fifteen, although if you don’t want all fifteen, they will pack extra male chicks in the box for warmth. How sad is that that the little baby roosters are so undesirable that they’re considered packing material. In any event, to avoid the unwanted “packing material,” I had no choice but to order fifteen. 15!!
I placed my order on a Friday afternoon and on Sunday morning (Easter Sunday) I got a call from the post office in Hartford to tell me that my peeping box had arrived, should I care to pick it up that morning. (!!!)
Six Barred Rocks (black), three Red Stars (orangey yellow), two Columbian Wyandottes (yellow and gray), two Ameraucanas (the chipmunky one and the light yellow one), and two Polish chicks (little gray ones with the Elvis hairdos). Peep peep!
My fellow IMHO blogger, Amanda asked me to name one of the chicks after her so I said I did. Which one is Amanda? That one over there.
Amanda and the McNuggets went into a small Rubbermaid bin for a week, then grew so much that we had to relocate them to a Guinea pig cage on the living room floor. They’ve been surprisingly easy and delightful to listen to, and they’re really just darn cute. Until they can master the art of roosting, they sleep in a massive, fluffy heap, which I love.
They’re going on three weeks old now and growing so fast. Their new feathers are coming in and making them looked unkempt and gawky. They’re figuring out how to take dust baths, and scratch around for food, and make a mess out of my house (OMG THE DUST). But still, so cute. The other day I caught a Polish chick slowly nodding off on the roost and eventually using a passing chick as her pillow.
I never considered myself a neat freak, but this past week, having the chicks in the house has been torture. At least ten times a day, I have to sweep up shavings and food that comes flying out of the cage, there are storms of teensy weensy bitty feathers flying everywhere, and every surface of my house is covered in chick dust. I have had it. Cute or not, this weekend these babies are finally going out into their enclosure in the coop. This house isn’t big enough for the eighteen of us.
I can’t wait to see how our four grown hens will take to the babies. We’ve had the complete opposite experience of the rest of the chicken-keeping world and have had no trouble at all when adding hens to the flock. No fighting or picking or anything. Let’s hope the same goodwill extends to the babies. For the next month or so they’ll have their own segregated space in the coop and somewhere around the end of May they should be old enough to let them co-mingle with the old ladies. Should be interesting.
Oh, and Judy? She’s doing pretty well with them. She, of course, wants to play with them and will antagonize them from time to time, but they’re learning how to peck defensively and have given Judy the message once or twice. Hopefully she’s getting the point. Somehow I doubt it.