Baby Chicks DO Make Everything Better!

A few years ago my mom broke her arm. Of course, Murphy’s law never to be discounted, that happened to be the day her baby chicks arrived. I picked them up at the feed mill on my way to go help her out, letting them know who I was and why my mom wasn’t there herself. “You bring these right in and put them on her lap” said the woman. “Baby chicks make everything better.”

They didn’t miraculously heal a broken arm that day, but they did bring out a lot of smiles.

Ever since the woman at the feed mill put it into words, I’ve found it to be true. Baby chicks, in many ways, make everything better.

This weekend I had big plans, my brother was going to be visiting and we were going to Get Things Done. The kids had plans with other kids, John had a crazy workout challenge event, it was going to be great. And then my brother hurt his leg (he’ll be fine), the kid plans canceled because it tried to be winter again today (spring will be back soon), John did his event (and had a great time despite the weather) but I was not feeling the “great” that was this weekend.

And then I got a slightly out of the blue offer of 18 baby chicks to be delivered ASAP. After rummaging around outside (in the ice/snow/sleet/rain/wind) for supplies, hauling straw and shavings and digging an extension cord out of the ice, the brooder house was set up and the baby chicks arrived. I stood in the warm brooder house, out of the wind and rain and sleet and snow and ice, looked at my new babies peeping in the straw and suddenly everything was quite a bit better.

But that’s not really how I know baby chicks make everything better.

How I know is this…

A few hours after they arrived Clara, Jane and I all went out to check on (read snuggle) the babies. After a bit I, thinking that I should get something done, left the girls out in the brooder house and spent about an hour in the basement on various chores. I came upstairs and it was suspiciously quiet. Did they go back out? … or… uh oh…

The brooder house has a door with a hook and eye latch on the outside and on the inside. The door, particularly in weather that is trying to make you believe it’s still winter, will not stay closed by itself and baby chicks complain to management when it gets too drafty. The door is always latched, from one side… or the other…

I hustled back out to the brooder house. Sure enough, the door was locked from the outside.  I opened it up and went in, bracing myself for yelling and crying and wondering if my apologies would have to go as far as promises of ice cream and movies. There were Clara and Jane, lounging under the heat lamp. Jane had a half a dozen baby chicks sleeping on her lap, Clara had  a few more along her legs and one tucked under her hair, resting on her shoulder. Clara just looked up at me and said in a voice usually reserved for teenagers, “Really Mom?

Then they ever so slowly shed the chicks from their laps and got their boots and jackets on while Jane excitedly told me how they opened a window so they could yell for me and what their plan was in case the brooder house caught fire while they were locked in it (it totally would have worked by the way). They each gave just one more chick one more snuggle and then they happily pranced off through the sleet to the house.

And that’s how I know that baby chicks make everything better.

 

 

Chicken in the Shower

Don’t you just hate it when you quick go to jump in the shower and you forget about your chicken?

Me too…

This chicken (recently named Foxy) was rescued from a fox by yours truly and has been recuperating in our shower.  The shower, unfortunately for the rest of my family, is my new favorite injured bird holding area.

But I digress, you don’t want to hear the details of why the chicken moved out of a dog crate into the far superior shower, you want to hear about the fox attack. Right?

Right.

The moment the fox attacked is exactly why I acquired geese and they finally had their opportunity to shine and show off their watch-goose capabilities. Which they mostly did! The two of them set off an unholy racket, were joined by the ducks’ alarming quacks and then the rooster’s panic call. By the time I got to the gate and into the orchard, chickens were squirting out from under apple trees in every direction, the ducks were huddled and quacking and the gander was begging me to open the gate and let him into the yard where it was safe. Apparently, while he’s very good a sounding an alarm, he’s not actually very brave.

Running upstream through fleeing poultry I found a fox with one of my chickens in it’s mouth. I was able to convince the fox to drop my chicken and leave but it took a considerable amount more yelling and running and arm waving and clapping on my part than I felt it should have. Cheeky little bugger just looked at me, dropped the chicken, bounded off, then came right back and grabbed her again before finally dropping the bird and leaving for good. Apparently I need to work on my “I’m big and scary let go of my chicken!” look.

But, despite a complete lack of tail, and some nasty puncture wounds, Foxy The Chicken is doing well (Due in large part to the help of a friend who watched her when I left on vacation the next day) and is just about ready to rejoin the rest of the flock.

I’ll miss her friendly chatter as she roams the bathroom while I shower but I gotta tell ya, chicken feed (and other matter) really scatters when it hits a tile floor!

Getting My Ducks in a Row

I’m getting all my ducks in a row.*

In the upstairs of the garage I’ve got a single duckling (and the four impulse-buy chicks) – except for nice days when I put them outside.

There are 10 ducks and the two geese locked up in their brand new (Thank you Dad!!!) coop for the next few days until they learn to call it home. I think it’s going well but it’s hard to say.  Every time I open the door to check on them chickens try to jump in and I have to go get them back out without letting the ducks and geese out. This upsets everyone.

The remaining five ducks are all sitting on eggs in what is now once again the brooder house. And now that the other ducks and geese are out of the way, I’ve been able to close their small fenced-in yard so that the chickens stop dumping eggs in their nests.

The chickens are, of course, everywhere.

At least they all know how to go back to the proper coop at night. Well, except for the one that’s been sitting on eggs next to the house…

Yes, I’m getting my ducks all in a row, the chickens however refuse to line up properly.**

*Literally.

** Ok fine, figuratively too.

 

Change

When change comes knocking at your door, life often looks a great deal worse before it gets better.molting barred rock chicken

Especially if you are a chicken.molting barred rock chicken

Our chickens are molting, where they quite literally change their old feathers for new ones. This lady looks ridiculous now but give her another week and I’m sure she’ll be turning the rooster’s head again!  

A Questionable Decision

I, like every other mother out there, on occasion, make questionable parenting decisions.

This year, for the first time in many years, we raised broiler chickens. Big, fat, white chickens that eat a ridiculous amount and are ready to put in the freezer in just nine weeks. This last weekend, the nine weeks were up.Jane with chick

“You guys are butchering 45 chickens on Sunday?!? What are you doing with the kids?”

The answer, the many times I was asked, was always nothing. They’d be home, able to be in the middle of the action or in the house, which ever they wanted.

It wasn’t the answer most people were expecting.broiler chickens

Now, to be fair, I’m sure half of the people who asked that question know the difficulties involved in trying to get any task done with three kids on hand, and it’s true, many times when we do big projects we find friends for them to play with or grandma’s to visit.

The other half have probably never been a part of butchering chickens or if they have didn’t have kids hanging around at the same time.broiler chicken

But we have always felt that this is a thing the girls should be involved in so we kept them home and they were still sleeping when we got up to start the process.

All three trickled outside still in pajamas to check out what was happening.  And while they left from time to time they spent most of the morning with us.

Jane, the girl who was very concerned that we were going to eat those cute little chicks the day we brought them home, helped John with the beheading by saying a nice goodbye to a few. She was more at ease with it than many adults I know would have been.John and Jane chicken butchering

Clara got a lesson on how to gut a chicken from her grandma and did the last bird all by herself. She’s six. She’s pretty much amazing.Grandma Mary and Clara chicken butchering

And while Ivy wasn’t as interested in being hands-on, she listened with rapt attention to the anatomy lesson grandma and Great Gramps gave her and now can identify all the internal organs of a chicken, and knows what they all do. I’m sure she does because they quizzed her and I heard her pass with flying colors.Grandma Mary and Ivy chicken butchering

Jane is excited for her Dad to grill her a chicken to eat. Clara is, rightfully, proud of her gutting experience. And Ivy, when asked, cheerfully told me all about how the gizzard is her favorite organ because you can cut it open, it looks pretty and it’s neat.Grandma Mary and Clara chicken butchering

I, like all the other parents out there, make plenty of questionable parenting decisions. But I’m confident that this wasn’t one of them.

Thief

I’ve got a thieving chicken.

But Jessie, you say, you have 90 chickens! How do you know which one it is?

Well…

I do have 90 chickens but I only have six Delaware chickens. And of those only three are adults and two of those adults are bold. Very bold. In fact if they were much larger, or I was much smaller, they would be terrifying.Delaware Chicken

But Jessie, you say, they are chickens! You love chickens! Why would they be terrifying?

Well…

These are the two chickens that I saw catch a mouse out in the open, beat it to death and then fight over it’s remains. These are the chickens that have hunted down toads and leave no doubt that birds are close relations to dinosaurs. These are chickens it would be best not to be a small creature around.

But one of them is bolder than the other, and now I know which one.Delaware Chicken

But Jessie, you say, they look the same!

Well…

The extra bold chicken invaded a little party we were having on the deck, stole a hot dog right of a plate and ran off with it to the cries of distress from the small boy who had just lost his dinner.

She is the thieving chicken.Delaware Chicken

But Jessie, you say, how can you tell it’s her and not her sister?

Well…

Because when you are a chicken and you steal a ketchup covered hot dog out of a bun you get ketchup-ed.

And apparently, ketchup doesn’t wear off right away, it just turns black.Delaware Chicken

It’s true, I have 90 chickens, but this one, is the thieving chicken.