In the middle of winter, I start seriously looking forward to spring. I want to have my hands in the dirt, planting our garden. I want to be mowing the lawn. I want to go outside without my coat on. Since I can’t do any of those things when the temperatures are below freezing, we have to compromise. This year, that meant getting baby chicks and raising them inside so that when the weather is nice, we can have all sorts of hens wandering the yard and laying us copious amounts of eggs.
One of the things I love about living in a rural community is that things like chicks are readily available. Once we had the setup for raising chicks ready, we took a family trip to the local feed store to see what they had. Though they didn’t have as much variety as when we usually buy chicks, we decided to go ahead and bring home a brood. That way, they’ll be laying eggs early in the season rather than when we’re on the downhill slide back to winter. We ended up buying a batch of older chicks, which are ironically cheaper than the little ones (less time until they lay eggs and can go outside? Yes, please!), and a batch of younger chicks because there was more variety. I don’t have any particular favorite breed, so we bought several types from black marans to easter eggers to sapphire gems in hopes that we’ll have a beautiful basketful of eggs each day.
I will say, baby chicks are adorable. They’re tiny and fluffy and their little chirps are endearing. BUT, I am always quickly reminded how much I hate having baby chicks inside. They’re dusty, they get louder and louder as they get older, and they STINK to high heaven. Seriously, no matter how often I clean their trough, I have to hold my breath and run past them.
Good thing the kids like taking care of them. They’ve named them and can generally be convinced to take care of them without too much prodding, because it also means they’ll be able to hold them.
We’ve had a few chicks take a turn for the worse and not be able to pull through, but nothing more than the average chick mortality rate. We’ve already run back to the store and replaced them with other chicks who have done well and other than one who appears very suspiciously to be a rooster, we’re having excellent luck with them.
The older hens were sent outside today now that the nights will be milder, and they seem to be enjoying the sunshine and fresh air (while I’m enjoying the reduction in smell, noise, and dust) and the younger chicks will be hot on their heels in a couple of weeks. That means I’d better get to work on converting one of the stalls in the barn into a luxury chicken coop so everyone has room to coexist. Until then, our three flocks will keep living their separate lives until it’s time to turn them into one big happy family. Outside. That day can’t come soon enough.