It was March, chilly and rainy. My husband and I were on our way to a local farm to finally realize my dream of having chickens. We drove for what seemed like forever, convinced we were lost until we passed the tiny farm sign that said ‘Chicks for Sale.’ We turned around and pulled into the drive. There were a few chickens wandering about and we knew we had the right address.
Sandy came out to greet us and we told her we were looking to pick up some chicks and admitted we were first timers and very unsure what we were doing. She walked us out to the barn and we met their flock. She talked to us for a bit about their birds and what got them into this business. I wasn’t really listening. I was wondering where the babies were. I wanted to cuddle their cute fluffy faces. It felt like it took FOREVER to finally go to the barn that housed the chicks. I could hear their tiny little peeps from outside.
We were greeted by Sandy’s husband, Jim, who showed us what types they had available. Jim and Michael talked for awhile about taking care of chicks while I stared at the tiny little crazies, jetting around their playpen and falling asleep standing up. There weren’t a ton of options for breeds but I wasn’t going home without some babies.
We wanted ten birds, but decided on getting 4 this week and 6 the next week when there were more options. We got two Dominiques and two Chanticleers. At the time I didn’t care what we were bringing home as long as they were ours. I still have a very clear image of Jim reaching into the pen to pick out our birds. He swept his giant hand through the tiny flock, chasing the little buggers all over the place. They peeped frantically and trampled over each other to get away.
He made sure to grab four that were peppy and alert. He popped them into a box with some wood shavings and we bent over close to talk to our new babies. We asked about ten thousand questions about their care and Sandy and Jim answered every one. They clearly knew their chickens and we knew they would be there for us if we needed them. With the purchase of some starter feed, a feeder, and a fount, we were on our way.
The drive back home was loud. So loud. I would never think that four tiny little souls could make such a racket. They were clearly terrified and confused and cold. We joked about how quickly things move in our relationship. We had just met 8 months previous, and now we had chickens. When we were almost home they finally quieted down, all except for one. I opened the box to see if something was wrong. Three baby chicks were fast asleep, and one was running around screaming frantically and stepping on everyone. This was the chicken that would be dubbed Little Carl (read this post to see her whole story).
After one quick stop to the store to buy litter and a brooder lamp, we were home. We made a brooder out of a big bin, clipped the light onto the side and put the little ladies inside. They were flabbergasted. This new land was so exciting and wonderful and there were so many things to explo…zzzzzzzzzz….
Their first several hours in our home were spent pecking at the sides of the box to hear the echo-ey sound, staring up at us, falling asleep standing up, and learning how to drink water. In nature, chicks are taught by their mommas how to drink water, but when raised by their wingless masters, they have to have their beaks dipped in the water trough to understand what they’re supposed to with it. Not the smartest, those chickens.
We spent the week marveling at every adorable little thing the babies did. ‘Ohhh look at that one stretching out its legs! Oh this one is sharpening its beak!’ They seemed to grow before our very eyes. In fact, one of them was growing at super speed! This Chantecleer was almost twice the size of her sister by the end of the week and we were convinced we must have a rooster. Before we knew it, it was the weekend again and we headed back out to the farm to get the rest of our flock.
There were a lot more birds this time around. We told Jim and Sandy about our fast growing bird and they said we could bring it back if it turned out to be a roo. Looking through the new baby chicks, we figured we had to get a few of each. Two of the orangey-yellow Buff Orpingtons, two pale yellow Leghorns, and one more Chantecleer, just in case we did have a roo back at home.
We were about to leave when I noticed another pen of babies in the back. It was full of the most adorable teeny tiny little fluff balls I’ve ever seen. Jim told us they were bantam Silkies. All of the birds we bought before were guaranteed to be females but the Silkies with their fluffy little butts were a gamble because they hadn’t been sexed. I had to have one, nay, two.
They were all pale brown except one feisty little black one. I fell in love with her immediately. I couldn’t go home without her, and since we had at least two of every other bird, we had to get two Silkies as well. We packed up our seven new birds, bought some more feed, and were on our way. I drove on the way back and Mike squawked at the girls the whole ride home. They stared curiously up at him, probably wondering if he was their momma.
When we got home we added the new birds to the brooder. The seven newbies crowded into a corner, all fighting over who got to be the farthest back. The little black Silkie was instantly lost in the bedding. Little by little, they became accustomed to their new home. Three out of the first four didn’t care a bit that they had new siblings. Want to take a guess at who did care? Little Carl had quite the fit. She stomped angrily throughout the brooder while peeping at the top of her lungs. Her ear piercing cries were all we heard for the rest of the day.
The little babies we brought home that week grew very quickly. They started developing individual personalities, and their real grown up feathers started growing in. We were keeping their bin in the bathroom, the only room in our house with a door that closes, and one day we walked in to find several of the ladies perched on the side of their bin, and one confused tiny bird running on the floor. We quickly upgraded their box to a much larger one, that really only accommodated them for another two weeks before they outgrew that too. Our bathroom was disgusting. I never knew such tiny things could produce such a mess. Every surface was coated in a thick dust and there was a ring of poop around the bin from the ladies perching on the sides of it. We had to get the chicken run built ASAP. To be continued…