Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Yesterday the chickens arrived. I had high hopes of being ready. Hopes of organization and maybe even, dare I say, competence. Hell no!! It was nothing like that. Actually, it was like this...... I got up and started off with a mild anxiety attack. Then I did all those things that were necessary. Made the bed. Fed Mac. Let the dog out to pee. Chored the horses. Then at eight o'clock in the morning, I called the farm supply store to see if my chicks had arrived. They would call as soon as they got there. So, in an attempt to be purposeful and work on my goal, I tried to make some progress on the coop. I just couldn't get anything done. I ended up just trying to do busy work. Made a list of the most pertinent things that I would need. Things like feed and oyster shell grit. A hamster water bottle. A hex wrench set.... Then the call came. Jumped in the truck with my list. Got to town and went to Wal-Mart for the odd stuff. Got some gas. Went to the farm store and there they were.... chicks. My first chicks. Holding them was like picking up fuzzy air with toenails. They were in a little box with air holes and a divider down the center. The broiler cross pullets were on one side, the Buff Orpingtons were on the other. I asked for a bag of starter feed but they were out. So, one more stop on the way home at the other farm store. I got the feed and the grit and we headed home. As soon as we got home, I grabbed the chicks and the water bottle and headed upstairs to the loft where we had decided to house the little puffballs until the coop was ready. From what I had read the number one killer of new chicks was dehydration. I wanted to be ready for this, at least. I got water in my bottle and opened the box. There lay one chick. It's eyes were closed and it's legs sprawled out. I touched and it blinked and lifted it's head. There might still be some hope. I picked her up and stuffed her wee beak into the water bottle. I repeated a few times until I could see her little gullet swallowing. She seemed to perk up but her condition gave me a feeling of urgency. I set her down and she seemed content enough. I got the next chick and stuck her beak in the water bottle tube and watched for swallowing. I tried to get at least two drinks into a chick before moving on to the next one. Finally the broilers were done. I tried to give the weak chick another drink, but didn't seem to do as well this time. I opened the other side of the box and started on the buffs. they didn't seem to take to the tube as well, but we kept at it. Then, I noticed the weak chick. It had laid back down and was sprawling out. I moved her back to the box and continued with the buffs. Finally, all the chicks were done and cheeping their little guts out.... all but one. Then I ran downstairs and found a small aluminum pie plate to put the grit in. I knew the feeder was suppose to be longer to give more chicks access to the feed at one time. I was trying to hurry but found myself thinking..."What would Mother do?".... that is Mother as in Mother Earth News. I was trying to think back to the old Mother days. The fix up, repurpose, make do Mother and then I remembered.... ICE CUBE TRAY! I grabbed an old ice cube tray and ran out to the truck and opened the bags. Filled the little plate with grit and the ice cube tray with feed. The chicks had started pecking the newspaper as soon as they had gotten water. I didn't want to miss out on using this feeding instinct. I did not know if it would wane. Got the feed in their container. They looked at it. I took some out and sprinkled it onto their paper. It turned into a little chicky feeding frenzy! Then for the first time in several days..... I calmed down. I just sat on the floor and watched them. They were strangely fascinating. Then I noticed one off to the side... hunkered up. I wasn't sure if it was cold, tired or weak. I picked it up and shoved it's beak back into the watering tube. It was still. I reinserted it's beak. It drank. I spent the next three hours with the chicks. As soon as one looked the tiniest bit sluggish, it was made to drink. After awhile, when I put my hand down in the container, a chick would jump into my hand and stick it's little head out. Apparently the chicky reasoning had become, the first step to drinking was to jump into the giant hand. Then all of a sudden, they all seemed to go to sleep. I had to move. Every single muscle in my body was sore. I went outside. Walked off the aches and decided the chicks needed a perch. I went and checked a small brush pile and found a couple of appropriately sized sticks. They got stacked on the side of their container. The side closest to the space heater. The hope was that the perches would keep them from piling as well as teach them to perch. One buffie took to the perch like a champ. He seemed to act very superior with his new found ability. I have to say that I was very concerned about their drinking. How much is enough? How much is good enough? After battling with my paranoia for awhile I thought I would add a watering pan..... just to be on the safe side. I went out and found some small rocks and put them into another small aluminum pan. Added water, but not too much. Then put it under the hamster water bottle. All of the buffies, who I did not think had taken well to the water bottle tube, ran to the water dish. I took one and dipped it's beak. It drank. Then the others, on their own, followed suit. They scooped the water up. Tipped their heads back. Closed their eyes and glug-glugged the water down their throats. I checked on the chicks several times before going to bed. Tucked them in as best as I could with the space heater, and as the sun set and the house darkened, their little cheeps went quiet. This morning the process was reversed. The brighter it got, the louder they got. I went up this morning to change their water and their bedding. I wasn't anxious to do this chore because I was told that you always lose a couple of chicks. I knew I would go up there and find another little corpse. But no, they were all alive, and chirping and apparently happy. I guess my water paranoia paid off. It's happened! After just two years and after a lot of really useless planning and worrying, the little farm has chickens. It is amazing. Spring has come. The sky is so blue it takes your breath away. The crab apples are purple against the green of the walnut trees. I have humming birds whirring around the feeder outside my window. I have two horses. I have a big garden. And , I have chickens in my loft, chirping their little hearts out. Louie

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