When I moved to the farm after 13 years of living in the city, my grandmother suggested I start small. You know, small garden, only a few chickens, don’t bite off more than you can chew…I didn’t really listen. Maybe I should have. But now, almost three years into my prairie farm life, I think it might be too late to heed her wise advice…
Spill the beans is a weekly column chronicling my attempts at a self-sufficient life on this small prairie farm.
It was a little too quiet at the feed store. Or at least, it seemed that way, considering I figured I wasn’t the only one picking up my day-old chicks. There were the usual number of cars pick-up trucks in the parking lot. And there didn’t seem to be any sort of excitement around the place. Like if you had just received a trailer load of baby chicks wouldn’t you be buzzing with excitement? Apparently, the guys (and even one gal – which was a pleasant surprise, seeing as I had only ever spoken to males there previously) at the feed store don’t get too shaken up by peeping baby chicks sitting in their storage room all afternoon.
As soon as I walked in the door, though, there was no mistaking the sound of hundreds of baby chicks, all laid out in boxes of varying sizes, alphabetized, ready to be picked up by their farmers. And it was loud. Who knew such puny creatures could make such a ruckus? Some boxes were large flats as big as the pallet they were resting on. My box, on the other hand, was the size of a small shoebox. 10 baby chicks do not take up a lot of space, apparently.
So I picked up the box, waved my receipt at the feed store guy, who gave it a cursory glance, nodded and wished me luck (apparently everyone at the feed store who has encountered me in the past few months has remembered that I am getting chicks for the first time); and placed the box in the back seat of the car. I drove home. And the chicks serenaded me the whole way.
The brooder (where the chicks live for the first two months of life) is in my bathtub. Or actually, the brooder is in the bottom half of an old dog crate, which is in my bathtub. It’s not exactly pretty, but it seems quite functional, for now…until the chicks learn to use their wings a little better and fly into the rest of the bathroom, pooping on everything and anything.
We set up the brooder the night before the chicks arrived. This included finding a way to hang a heat lamp that would not light our house on fire or burn the baby chicks alive. After a few attempts and trials, a hook screwed into the ceiling above the bathtub proved to be the best option. And so far, two days in, the house has not yet burned down and chicks are not losing feathers from heat exhaustion or showing other signs of being scalded by ill-placed heat lamps.
Woodchips and newspaper rounded out the bedding on the bottom of the dog crate and medicated water and food was placed in the brooder under the heat lamp to warm up.
I didn’t sleep the night before the chicks arrived. I had all kinds of crazy nightmares and kept worrying that I wouldn’t be able to take care of the chicks.
But they seem to be doing okay.
Jamie Dyck is pretty excited about her chickens. Follow her on instagram, @jamieontheprairie.