Last week, baby chicks arrived in the mail. The first time we ordered chickens, I was surprised at the process. You place your order (which is a bit overwhelming because of all the choices) and then, not unlike bulbs, you select a shipping date. At the hatchery, once your chicks are hatched, they are inoculated against disease (if you pay extra), but don’t worry, no needles are involved. Then, your peeps are sent in a small box to your local post office.
They don’t need extra food for the journey because, by absorbing the yolk just before hatching, they have enough sustenance for 48 to 72 hours. Isn’t that a marvelous design? It’s why they can be shipped across the United States.
My post office always calls early. Imagine 30 or 40 little peeps constantly chirping away, and you’ll understand why. This time, it was at 5:57. After a quick cup of tea, I drove to the Guthrie post office and rang the bell at the back door. The postal worker handed me the tiny box with a grin.
At home, we were prepared with a large box papered with the daily news, a gallon waterer and a feeder (obtained from the local feed store with our last batch of chicks). I washed the feeder and waterer with a bleach solution to kill any bacteria from the previous chickens. I also purchased some vitamins and electrolytes from the hatchery to give the babies an extra boost. Because the box was pretty large, I placed two lights in it to keep the babies warm. The lights are adjustable so that the bulb can be moved up or down depending on how cold the chicks are. If they are all bunched together and don’t feed or drink, they are too cold. If they are moving away from the light and panting, they are too hot.
Bear and I opened the box and took the little peeps out one by one and dipped their beaks in the water. Chicks don’t automatically know how to drink, so this was an essential step. You can’t help but be inspired watching their little throats swallow their first sip. They figure out how to eat the chick starter on their own.
We’re now one week into our chicken journey, and all is calm at the homestead. Because we also have a new kitten, Bill built a small coop to keep the babies in the garage. We closed all the windows in the garage to keep them warmer because our weather is starting to cool. Normally, we purchased chicks in the spring, but then, we must wait all summer for eggs. This time, we’re trying for spring eggs.
The babies already have tiny feathers on their wings and are starting to try to fly. They will soon be able to fly until their bodies grow so large that they are mostly ground dwellers, although they can still fly short distances. This isn’t true of bantams which can fly throughout their lives. Also, some chickens will roost in trees, and we once found our favorite black hen on the electrical wire to the barn, but that’s a story for another time.
All is peaceful now, but it took some work to get there. For more information on starting chicks, my favorite book is Chickens In Your Backyard: A Beginner’s Guide, although I also read Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens: Care / Feeding / Facilities. I thought the first book was the easiest to understand. The second was more technical.
This is our fourth flock of chickens. If you have room for one or two hens and your city allows the keeping of them, I would say go ahead and take the plunge. The eggs are the best you’ll ever taste, and caring for the little girls (and the occasional guy) helps bring us all back to our roots.