Friday, February 15, 2013

Picking Up Chicks

I wonder how many people have ever invoked the term "chicken emergency" before, but that was my argument to the parking coordinator at the Metropolitan Lawn & Garden Show last weekend. (I find myself saying these kinds of odd things more and more as we get deeper into farm culture.) I had just arrived for my shift as a vendor at the expo when I got a call that the post office had a left an undecipherable and/or incomplete message about our order of 26 live chicks. On a Saturday. At 4 p.m. Daddy was on Sophia time, and I was just 8 minutes from the hood where the processing center would be open who knows how much longer. The chicks wouldn't last until Monday. And I wouldn't want to get into that neighborhood after dark. So, having just paid my $7 in parking not five minutes before, I finagled my money back and sped over to pick up chicks.

In their tiny box packed tight, they chirped like they'd just been born yesterday, stuck with vaccination needles, spent the whole day on a truck from Iowa and then were stored in a cold, noisy factory until their next unknown destiny arrived. Which, of course, was exactly their plight. I'd be upset, too. But there they were: a diverse, multicolored pack I'd selectively chosen for chicken-watching rather than for being good egg-layers. A blend of Araucanas, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Golden Wyandottes, Buff Orpingtons, Light Brahmas, New Hampshire Reds, Barred Rocks and Black Australorps will look gorgeous roaming the property.

I signed for the box and headed back to the expo. This time in the lot, I snagged a primo parking spot up front -- lucky for me because when I walked out four hours later and the sky was pouring, I wasn't totally drenched. I couldn't very well leave the chicks in the car, with temperatures in the 40s, so hugging the box next to my body, I carried them into the arena, where it would at least be in the 60s. They made their presence known, and we were the hit of the night. (I inadvertently hit on a major marketing scheme I'll have to tell my publisher about. My table was surrounded for hours!)

We set them up in the sunroom in their tub with a heat lamp, pine shavings, and fresh water and food I had had the foresight to pre-purchase. That much considered, I had not anticipated the chicks needing sleep training like my own child. Instead of quietly falling asleep at dusk like the hens in our coop, the chicks chirped all night, and we got no sleep. I had wanted them upstairs as Sophia and I's winter farm project, but she was picking them up by their wings, spilling their water and sticking her hands in the poopy shavings, so down to the basement they went on their third day of life. We visit daily to get them used to us and brought them up today for a professionalish photo shoot. Check out these ladies!

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