School’s out and our whole family is breathing a sigh of relief. Structure is good, but a break from the grind is too. On Tuesday this week, we received in the mail 5 newly hatched baby chicks, as ordered from mypetchicken.com, which has been a happy distraction. The reaction of our friends, neighbors and acquaintances has been interesting – a mix of pleased, curious, surprised and skeptical. Why? What for? Won’t they get eaten? say the skeptics. The enthusiasts all want eggs, which is the main reason we got the chickens in the first place. The breeds we have will lay between 3 and 4 eggs a week, so our max will be about 20 a week, and more likely, closer to 15. Realistically, the neighbors will get first dibs on extra eggs, in order to keep them sweet on the idea of a coop in their neighbor’s yard.
For the moment, the chicks are living in a huge box in our garage with the floor covered in paper towel, changed daily. What I am figuring out very quickly is raising chickens isn’t rocket science, they’re just birds. All you really have to worry about to begin with is the same as with any tiny being: food, water, hygiene and warmth. It’s true that chickens poop a lot. But once they’re outside in their own coop, I don’t suppose we’ll care very much. One of the chicks (Bella) was a little dopey the first day or two and we were worried that it might not make it. But we gave it a little TLC, coaxing it to drink from a dropper and putting in an extra heat light to keep it warm as it seems a bit smaller than the rest. I had read to watch out for “pasting” which is when their poop sticks to their vent hole, hence bunging them up. So far so good until this morning. It was Bella of course. So a wet paper towel, a toothpick and a lots of unhappy chirping for her, but she seems fine now. Again, none of it rocket science, just being attentive and looking out for problems. There are a zillion books and websites on chickens although I found the guy at our local feed shop the most helpful. If you are ever considering backyard chickens, the best thing you can do is befriend someone who’s already done it as there’s nothing like a little local knowledge.
Here’s a picture of my daughter Lucy with the chicks on day 2:
After breakfast today, we had a nice session with them in a smaller box we use when we want to bring them in the house (one of those huge plastic storage bins you can by at the Container Store or Home Depot). We just sat looking at them scratch around in their box, picking up left over bits from our parakeets. There’s something very compelling about just watching these little beings walk around in circles endlessly.
It will be several months before we have any eggs from the chickens, but we will enjoy them all the same. Once they are in the coop, the main deal with caring for them besides keeping them fed and watered is letting them out in the morning and and making sure they’re in at night to keep them safe from coyotes, raccoons and fisher cats. It’s one more thing in our life that seems like it’s moving back to a more natural rhythm (along with biking more for transport) where one has to think about the length of the days and the weather. It feels good to have yet something else in our lives that will help remind us of the importance of that balance and help us keep from being tempted into the timeless, soulless lack of rhythm that modern life’s conveniences, with 24 hour lighting, easy transportation and perfected heating and cooling, tempt us to.