It was still dark out this morning when the phone rang, jolting us out of a deep sleep, even though we had set the alarm for 30 minutes earlier (darn that ‘spring forward’). It was our neighbor, S:
“I’m at the post-office, and I’ve got our chicks! They are awake and chirping, and I’m bringing them home now.”
T and I stumbled out to the back porch where we had set up the “brooder” – really just a big cardboard box with strategically placed plastic tarps (to protect from blowing rain) and chicken wire (to protect from predators). We flipped on the red warming light, hoping it would be up to 90 degrees by the time S returned with our baby flock. I filled some shallow dishes with some food and water, and we fussed with the brooder in the morning chill until S pulled into our driveway.
I was surprised when I first learned that chicks can be sent by mail. S explained that just before they hatch, chicks eat the last of the yolk sac, and then use all their energy to break out of the shell. They are then so exhausted, they pass out for 3 days – a perfect shipping window. They arrive hungry and thirsty, but not knowing yet how to eat or drink. To help orient them, we dipped their beaks in the water and food as we placed them in the box. They are as light as a cotton ball in your hand. Still learning to use their unsteady little legs, they stumble around looking sleepy and drunk.
I must admit, I got a little stressed out in the week leading up to their arrival. They are so tiny and vulnerable, and everything I read on raising chicks seems to have a section titled something like “Top 10 Reasons Chicks Die.” There are predators to worry about, temperatures to regulate, wind and rain, leg diseases, dehydration, pneumonia… I insisted we put the brooder outside (a lot of people do this in their bathtub) – but that made everything much more complicated. It caused more than a few arguments with my dear, patient husband, who is much more laid back and easy going than I. Now that the chicks are here, I’m a little more relaxed, though I’ve still been checking on them more often than strictly necessary. I can’t imagine what I’d be like with a human baby…
Our chicks are two heritage breeds, Silver Laced Wyandottes (picked for their small combs – so they don’t get frostbite in our cold winters) and Araucanas (picked for their multi-colored eggshells). Somehow we ended up with two males – which won’t work with only 4 hens – and I’m not sure what we are going to do about that. Anybody want a rooster?
In other baby news, two more lambs were born over the weekend – both males. We’ve been watching them from our front window as they practice head-butting each other and search for their mothers among all the other ewes.
And let’s not forget the other babies we are nurturing – our little veggie seedlings, fittingly started on Valentine’s day:
I’ll try to update often about the how our babies are doing!