Saturday as I was setting up my brooder, I had bragged to my husband that we were getting to be old hands at this business of raising chicks. I had all my supplies clean and ready to go. I clamped my heat bulb securely to a chain that I had hung from the ceiling in the garage. It was then a small matter to tape together a cardboard draft shield and fill it with pine shavings.
Email notification was received - my 40 Cornish X chicks were on schedule to arrive Monday morning as planned. Everything was set up and ready for them. Check, check and double-check.
I got up at 6:30, got my husband out the door for work, got myself ready, set out some clothes for Ava and decided to do a few dishes as I waited for the Post Office lady to call.
Looking out my kitchen window, I could see dark clouds gathering in the southwest. The big storm they were calling for was definitely on its way. We were under a flood watch and a tornado watch, as well as a hail and high wind advisory.
I looked at the clock nervously, hoping they would hurry up and call. At 7:30am the phone rang and in a few quick minutes I got Ava up and dressed and we hurried out the door. The wind was starting to pick up.
It is a 15-minute drive to the Post Office and all the way we seemed to be running ahead of the rain clouds, the black skies hovering behind us.
We'd talked about it beforehand and I emphasized that these chickens would be for eating. The laying hens are for petting. I told her these chicks would start out as chicken nuggets, then they'd grow and become chicken patties and once they were filled out they'd become chicken potpies, then into the freezer they would go. That was the best analogy I could come up with for the 3-year-old mind.
Anyway, I had given her a sucker to keep her occupied in the car because she was talking up a storm and the other impending storm was already making my nerves frazzle and I just wasn't in the mood to answer so many questions. No sooner than I had lifted her out of the car, the wind caught her hair and wrapped it around her sucker. She began to panic. I began to panic.
The wind was blowing. The first rain drops were falling. The nice Post Office ladies let us in and offered us some water, but with a little bit of pulling I got the dang thing out.
Normally I'll stay and chat a bit, but today I grabbed my chicks and made a run for the car. We got in just in time.
Being just another few minutes from my dad's farm, I thought I'd go ahead and feed the horse while I was out. And if we were going to get a tornado, at least I'd not have to worry about it getting me down in the hollow.
We sat in the car for nearly half an hour as the rain beat down and the lightning cracked over the hilltop. It let up a little, but not enough to get out of the car in flip flops and wade through the mud so I said "forget it" and turned toward home.
It wasn't raining anymore when we pulled into our driveway, so I got my chicks out and my little chick and headed for the garage to get them set up.
Opening the box, they instantly started peeping and hopping. They had all arrived safely. No dead chicks in the bottom of the box, thank goodness.
You take them out, one by one, and dip their beaks in water. 40+ chicks later, I'm starting to feel like a bomb is about to go off. Words cannot describe the chaos of a peeping box of Cornish X chicks. They are born voraciously hungry, I think.
As I pulled each one from the packing box, it was like dumping a box of ping pong balls on a concrete floor. They were everywhere; jumping into their water bowl, pecking, pooping, scratching and bouncing off of each other. You'll scoot one back to get it out of your way and skit-skit-skit - it is immediately right back in the exact same spot you just shooed it from.
Two had fallen into the water bowl and were mobbed by the others, emerging quite wet. Not a good thing for a tiny chick. The brooder just wasn't feeling warm enough to me and the wet ones were shivering.
|A sad, wet chick tries to warm up under the heat lamp.|
With tiny, incessant peeps punctuating the air, I scrambled like MacGyver to find something to do the job. Grabbing a box cutter, a three foot scrap of rope, a dowel rod and a zip-tie I diffused the peeping bomb. I added another heat lamp and covered the back and sides of the cardboard draft shield with an old blanket and a couple sections of OSB. All the while, I kept tripping over my 3-year-old who was under my feet like a toy poodle and repeatedly begging to hold a chick.
In less than 15 minutes they had already gunned at least a quart of water. We gathered pebbles from the driveway and put them in the water bowl to keep any others from taking a swim.
With the chicks finally cozy and happy, the peeping slowed and quieted to a tolerable level.
Once all the excitement was over and a few chicks had been petted, Ava was completely done and begging to go back inside. I snapped a few pics for the blog, but with all the drama, they didn't come out all that well.
I got us fed (a late breakfast) and settled into my recliner to watch Sesame Street and recover. Today was definitely one of those days that make me wonder if I'm ever going to get caught up around here, but as it turned out, a nap was definitely in order.
Tomorrow morning I take my daughter to the dentist. That should be just as much fun...