Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New Little Friends, The Long Version

Louise II and Hilda.

As I've mentioned before, Nathan and I planned to expand our flock with a few new chicks, especially since we just finished building a huge chicken coop in our backyard (which our landlady doesn't seem to mind/notice, bless her heart). We talked about getting the chicks as early as March - the plan was to buy some babies from the farm store around Easter, and keep them under a heat lamp in the guest bedroom for a few weeks before moving them into the smaller coop. They would live there until they were big enough to hold their own with the older ladies, and then we'd put them in the big coop and hope the pecking order wasn't too painful. (The pecking order is a real thing, and if you just toss those baby chicks in with the older hens before they are big enough, the older hens will maim and possibly kill the defenseless chicks. Hens are not swayed by impossible cuteness.) 

The plan went awry immediately, when the farm store sold out of chicks before I could buy any, and informed me that they wouldn't have any more chicks this season. Bollocks. I turned to Craigslist, checking it daily, but people never wrote back, or they did write back but Nathan and I couldn't coordinate a time where we'd both be available to pick them up. (We will not meet people from Craigslist alone, as a general rule, and as I've mentioned ad nauseum this semester has been really busy.) Finally, this past Sunday, I saw an ad for two silver laced Wyandottes, one of the breeds I was interested in. Good layers, friendly birds, and lovely black and white feathers. (Yes, I am concerned about the color of my chickens. My current hens are two red and one golden, and I wanted some diversity.) I emailed the lady, we set up a time, and off we went. Less than half an hour later, I had two adorable babies in my lap and a huge smile on my face. 


New girls.

Side note: I didn't realize until after we arrived that the lady had gotten these chicks from a hatchery, which I don't personally support. These places hatch chicks by the hundreds, mail them to customers when they're a day old, and often kill the males as soon as they've been identified. While I don't know anything about the particular hatchery she ordered from, I think it's safe to say that a large scale hatchery probably has practices that don't jive with my humane, compassionate, vegetarian ideals. Still, I wasn't directly supporting the hatchery. The chicks would be sold to someone, no matter what. And I knew I could give them a good life. Thus, I handed over the cash and took the chicks home. Next time, I'll do my best to obtain chicks in a more responsible manner. I will say that these two chicks seem extra docile and sweet. All they want to do is cuddle, and they kept nodding off in my lap. It was so adorable I nearly couldn't stand it. 

This is actually Erica's lap.

The next day, Nathan went to work and I went to my computer, because I had eleven workshop letters to write for Tuesday, no joke. I decided to take a mid-afternoon break and ride my scooter to the farm store for chicken feed. While I was there, I ran into my friends Jen and Paul, who pointed out the sign outside the store: "Ask Chuck About Chicks: $2.50 Each." I couldn't resist, and so I asked for Chuck, and he plopped a large box in front of me, full of week-old chicks. I was tempted, but I just bought two chicks the day before. "What kind are they?" I asked. "Ameraucana," he said. And that pretty much sealed the deal. Ameraucanas are also knew as "Easter Egg Chickens," because they lay eggs with lovely blue shell. I told him I would take two, and he immediately knocked a dollar off the price. Then he threw another chick in for free, because "it will grow up and look just like a hawk!" How could I refuse that kind of salesmanship? Lucky for me, Jen and Paul offered to drive the box of chicks to my house, since I didn't think my new wee ones would appreciate a scooter ride. 

They're multiplying!

The one in the front with the pretty eyes is Zelda.

The Wyandottes were wary of the Ameraucanas when I added them to their brooding box, but they settled down quickly. By the end of the day, they were sleeping in a big cuddle puddle, which, oh my god, SO CUTE. Finishing that pile of workshop letters was very difficult, let me tell you.

Cuddle puddle!

I decided to surprise Nathan with the new chicks. He got home around dinner time, and I said, in my best worried voice: 
"I think there's something wrong with the chicks." 
"What?" Nathan said.
"I don't know. They're just acting weird. I think they might be sick. Can you look at them?" 
"Fine," he sighed, clearly tired from a long day spent riding an ambulance and in no mood to deal with more sick creatures. He went into the guest bedroom, looked into the box, and furrowed his brow. "Hm," he said. "They seem to be multiplying." And I started laughing, because I am a terrible liar. 

The chicks are still doing well - they're pretty quiet, which means they're comfortable, and they spend a lot of time sleeping in their little pile. They're sweet, and don't mind being picked up, and let me state for the record that if you are having a bad day, picking up a tiny little chicken and whispering sweet nothings into her fluff will definitely cure anything that ails you.

Cheep, cheep!

So now we have eight chickens - more than I meant to get, but can you blame me? Also, there's no telling who's a hen and who's a roo, so we'll see how many of these babies end up staying with us. For now, I will love each of them wholly, snuggle them judiciously, and call them all girls because I'm an optimist. <3