Every spring we wait anxiously for the sign to appear at our local farm store: it’s “Chick Days” at last, the true harbinger of spring here in Nebraska, at least for us country types.
This spring has been unusually cool (not to mention snowy–not complaining, it’s moisture!) so we haven’t purchased our chicks until this week. It was a tough and very long two or three weeks for little Mack. Daily he asked me the question many, many times: “Can we go get chicks today–please?” It was a tough and very long two or three weeks for little Mack’s mama, too.
I could have just ordered them from one of the excellent hatcheries in our area, but usually I take the easy way out, and just watch what they get in at the farm store. The guys at the store get to know us pretty well. Randy is the poultry guy, and I’ve become pretty attached to the fella. He will tell me when the Americaunas (they lay the blue-green eggs, and I add a few pullets to my flock every year) are due to arrive, and he’ll even give me a quantity discount if I ask for one. You know that I will ask for one. And he always, always encourages me to buy more.
“Don’tcha need a bigger box than that?” he’ll say, eyes twinkling, or “You’ve got room in there for a few ducks, I think!” He’s little Mack’s best friend at this time of year too, I think.
Most years I like to go for the unusual heirloom breeds with the lovely names: Silver-laced Wyandotte, Black Australorpe or Speckled Sussex, but this year I decided on two tried-and-true excellent layers of big brown eggs: Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks. They look good together, and I’m in the mood for practical hens. And Randy gives me a discount because I’m so nice. (Or is it because he wants to get rid of these chicks?) Later I’ll add a few Americaunas when they get some in, and perhaps a few others. And that’ll be it. Maybe. These will be my laying hens for the next couple of years. Once they grow up, that is. We’ll have to baby them a bit, though, first.
They’ll need a heat lamp and a draft-free place and plenty of food and fresh water and lots of gentle handling, so they’ll be pleasant and tame. It won’t be a problem–the handling, that is. Little Mack loves these chicks already and he is spending quite a bit of time at the chick box.
He was so excited about getting chicks today that he took care of all the preparations at home before we left: to my surprise, he wrestled the mammoth box that we saved down the stairs to the basement (it’s too cold out in the coop for the babies yet) and he found a chick feeder, a heat lamp, and he looked mighty hard for a chick waterer. He couldn’t find one that wasn’t cracked (drat) so we made one of our own, out of stuff from the recycling bin.
At home, we carefully transfer the babies into their new home, and then we have the fun of holding and playing with them for awhile. Not too long: they need to be under a heat lamp at approximately 95 degrees to be comfortable.
We’ll keep these little ones in the big box under the heat lamp for a week or two, or until the weather outside is a little warmer. Then they’ll go out into the “nursery” room of the chicken coop.
The more we handle them, the more friendly and tame they will become, so I’ll encourage the kiddos to spend a bit of time each day playing with these cute little babies. It hasn’t been difficult so far to do this. Sweet. Life’s good during Chick Days.
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