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Am I Chicken?

April 7, 2009

img_0620I took life into my own hands today.  In some ways it is probably as close as I will ever get to being a mother.  The feeling of needing to protect, to watch over, to brood in this case was as strong as I have ever felt it; my first project to call my own has begun on the farm.  Tony always says “if you’ve got livestock, you’ve got deadstock” and I am prepared, but am I still chicken?

The snow has not let up, though the radio announcers that keep us company in the greenhouse keep insisting that spring is on its way.  We have drifts that reach my thighs and the wind won’t stop chasing what ever its after.  In theory the weather report shows bright yellow smiles starting tomorrow, but we’ll believe it when we see it. 

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We spent most of the day preparing for the arrival of our newest house-mates, and working in the greenhouse.  The first task was to clean out the chicken brooder, where the chicks grow up.  It is sort of like a huge insulated, wooden, electric mother, that will overheat and kill her chicks if you don’t watch her carefully.  I took it out in the snow and cleaned it of last years grime and it was time to lay out he bed where the chicks are to live and grow.

img_0555With about four bags of hay chaff (the loose, seedy remnants that are on the barn floor) we covered the plastic that is the very bottom of the brooder pen.  Then I spent close to two hours laying careful layers of farmers newspapers, being careful not to let the glossy advertisements be the top of a layer because it is too slippery for the chicks.

The two years worth of newspapers were extremely distracting, and were the main reason it took me so long to get the pen prepared.  Strange small town stories about local tractor square dances, giant rutabagas and the plethora of GMO cash crop advertisements kept me entertained as I put down layer after layer.

I took a few photos of the most striking headlines and pictures.

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With the lights installed we were prepared for their arrival.  But first we had to ready the driveway.  The snow drifts of just a few hours had made Tony’s return from the hatchery impossible, and the last thing we wanted was two hundred, day old chicks stuck in a snow drift.  So we cleared the lane and kept on trucking in the greenhouse.

img_0612Then, from outside came that unmistakable sound of chirping.  And in they came, two boxes, no bigger than what the pizza delivery man brings you for a Saturday night party.  Fran unveiled them as a magician does and we quickly worked to get them into their warm new home.  Two hundred and eight chicks we counted as we unloaded their tiny, fragile bodies.  They chirped and hopped around, and panicked as a group if any loud noise or sudden movement was too close.

img_06141After they were safely in their pen, munching away on the feed scattered for them on the floor, and sloshing around in their watering cans I couldn’t help but stare into the dull redness of the pen.  Every corner was a never ending slap-stick comedy routine, with chicks climbing on top of one another, pushing each other into feeding troughs and waterers and random sprinting contests to nowhere.

Fran tells me they grow faster than you can imagine, but that’s the same thing most mothers say.  I know these chickens are to be eaten, and somehow that end is not what worries me.  It is the weeks in between that worry me, what if they get sick, what if they panic and pile up and suffocate some chicks…what if.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. mcquaka permalink
    April 8, 2009 1:20 pm

    Gah! They are so cute! It is so unfair that I won’t get there until they are awkward adolescents… Enjoy the cuteness while it lasts!

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