What a beautiful birthday present! Baby chicks! I was laying in bed sound asleep when I heard the all too familiar pop of a text message arriving on my phone. The text was from my husband. He asked me to call him the moment I opened my beautiful eyes (his words not mine;). So I propped myself up on my pillow, looked out the window to affirm that we were truly living on our newly acquired homestead reminding myself that the fact that we finally purchased a small acreage was a reality, not just a dream.
I called my loving husband, Mountain, who immediately wished me a happy birthday then launched into his apologies about how he didn’t mean to have the chicks arrive on my birthday when he was at work and unable to help get them set up. I love my land but the farming aspect of things is more my husband’s passion. I like to watch him do his thing and he is already creating a beautiful homestead for our family but I am pretty much clueless when it comes to farming and livestock.
The realization that 16 day old chicks were waiting for me to rescue them from the post office sent me into a bit of a frenzy. I made a cup of tea for my 12-year-old daughter Ary and one for myself, woke her up and we were off to pick up our very special package. We arrived at the post office at 8:23 am which meant that we needed to wait a whole 7 minutes before getting our chicks.
We both felt worried and concerned for the health and well being of our mini brood of “Easter egg” hens. Ary was especially upset, fearing that they may all be dead or possibly die right before we got to pick them up. For those of you who are veteran backyard chicken enthusiasts, you may think we were being a tad dramatic but neither Ary or I had ever before picked up a package containing living beings!
The anxious look on both our faces caused our fellow post office patrons to let us pick up our parcel first. What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. Inside a small cardboard shipping box with numerous ventilation holes were 16 of the cutest, tiniest little beings you could ever behold. They were not just alive, they were thriving!
Ary held them on her lap as we made our way home. Luckily our micro farm is within city limits so it was just a quick ride. As we pulled into the driveway I realized that I hadn’t been paying attention when Mountain told me how he planned to accommodate our tiny new house guests. I began to feel somewhat overwhelmed but decided that these baby chicks needed me to take action, not stand around feeling dazed and confused.
Luckily we had already purchased most of what we needed for baby chick survival (heat lamp, feeder, waterer, electrolytes, wood shavings for bedding and some weird gooey green gunk that you use to supplement their diet for the first 24 hours after they arrive). What we didn’t have was a chicken coop! At the time I honestly didn’t know that they weren’t big enough for one yet anyways. The look on Ary’s face when she first opened their tiny little cardboard shipping container was priceless!
I managed to create a makeshift chick habitat with a large Rubbermaid container we used during our recent move. Ary and her big brother Cedar quickly jumped in to help get organized. I was having a hard time finding decent information online, but the one thing I read was that they get cold rapidly which can cause all kinds of issues, including death. It took us about 15 minutes to get them fully set up. If you’re wondering why there are pictures of them in a basket, I hate to admit it but that was an entirely selfish move lol. I just thought they’d look so cute in a basket. I was right!
Once they settled in, they seemed pretty happy. I had to go drive the kids to school (both our youngest children are hybrid home schoolers, so they start school a bit later than other kids). I drove Cedar to his high school and dropped Ary at middle school, then made my way home. I immediately checked on the chicks which was a good thing. To keep them warm, we had cut holes in the bin lid, screwed a hook from the top and hung the light on the hook at what seemed to be a safe distance from the chicks. I was honestly quite pleased with myself.
But when I opened the lid to check on them, much to my shock and horror, the lid had been melting hot plastic into the chick bin! Luckily baby chicks are smarter than they look (who knew something that freakin’ cute could be so intelligent). They had all huddled up at the other end of the bin to escape the extreme heat and the hot, dripping plastic. I made some minor modifications to my system and after a few minutes could tell they were doing well.
Without a lid, our tiny chicks had a huge target on their feathered backs. We have a 2 year old cat named Jack, a 4-month-old kitten named Ponyo, a 4-year-old rescue heeler named Diamond and Diamond’s curious and sometimes destructive daughter, Bindi who celebrated her 1st birthday just a couple weeks before the chicks arrived. Each of the animals in our home licked their lips and drooled when they either heard or saw the chicks.
I realized that, if the chicks were to survive the rest of the day, they needed a safe haven away from the rest of our pets. We ended up deciding to put them on top of the washer and dryer in our bathroom. The trick was that everyone now had to remember to be diligent about keeping the bathroom door at all times. The smell in our home was a little noxious at times but this is where our chicks spent the first 2 weeks of their life and it didn’t seem to bother them one little bit (thought we were all ready to take back our home and create an outdoor habitat for our backyard brood).
I am writing this post and the posts to come to share this with anyone who is already raising chickens or considering it. The journey so far has been life changing in so many positive ways. If you are new to backyard chicken raising, feel free to reach out and ask questions. Although I am a newbie, I am also a mastery learner with a knack for research and a plethora of related resources on hand. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find someone who does!
I welcome you to follow our backyard brood through this blog and hope that at some point you will share your journey with me as well!
From my heart to yours,