Monday, I picked up the telephone and took the plunge, ordering chicks from our local farm supply store. Over the years I’ve owned several dogs, cats, gerbils, fish, parakeets and one ornery cockatiel, but never baby chickens. A couple years ago we purchased a few adult hens, but this is different, maybe because they’re babies and we’re raising them.
Set up was simple. We hauled the large wire dog crate, with many a story to tell, from the garage and assembled it on the porch. Placing it under the eaves for protection, I made sure there was an outlet nearby for the heat lamp. After laying cedar chips across the bottom of the cage I distracted myself with chores, waiting for 1:00, the magic hour, to come.
1:00 p.m. on the dot, the store owner, his young daughter and the family Boxer arrived. We carried the supplies indoors, saving the chicks for last. Snuggly packed in two containers resembling cardboard lunch boxes, sat the baby birds. They were nestling happily around hand warmers; calm, cozy and quiet. One by one I placed them in their new home and went back inside to assemble the light and feeders.
Since my son had practice after school, my daughter was called upon to exercise patience beyond her seven years. She’d been dreamily talking about chicks with her teachers and classmates for the last few weeks. It reminded me of when she was born and my son would joyfully declare to stranger and friend alike “My new baby sister is here!”
Arriving home, jackets and backpacks crashed to the floor in the front entry and eager feet raced for the porch. The evening was spent snuggling chick after chick, dragging them into the kitchen, ruffling small feathers and watching the babies climb into the dog’s bed. The Chihuahuas trembled in the corner, warily watching the intruders, giving them wide berth.
I knew we were in trouble when my daughter said “Mommy, I’m going to tie a string on this one’s leg and name it. I’ll put it in a box in my room.” Although we bought these chicks for their eggs, we were aware there may be a rooster or two lurking in their midst. My husband, remembering his grammar school days in Brazil, had been talking about butchering the unfortunate boy birds once they’d fully grown. Doubts mounted about my emotional ability to carry this out. I put that thought off for the moment, deciding to enjoy the soft balls of fluff.
As a girl, I loved animals. To have one chick would’ve been a dream come true. Now, ten cheep their baby songs from the porch off our kitchen. All this entertainment cost less than fifty dollars and promises more omelets than one family can enjoy.