I promised to tell you about the ten chicks that have been in my library for the past month.
Most of you all know that we have two laying houses in Pennsylvania. There are 20,000 birds in each of those houses.
We started out our chicken journey when the kids were little with ten Rhode Island Red hens and one rooster. Goodness, that was twenty years ago.
Over those twenty years, people came to our house and we gave them our extra eggs and eventually we started selling them and…yeah. We ended up with a lot of hens. : )
But then we moved to Virginia.
All of my chickens were in PA.
Now, I had plenty of eggs, because Watson brought flats of them down every time he came. We supplied our neighbors with them (and with beef and pork) and they gave us things in return, but it just wasn’t the same.
One of the best things about having animals is watching them. If you’ve never sat on the porch and listened to cows munch grass, you are missing out. There is just something so relaxing about their languid movements, their easy calm, and the satisfying tear of the grass as they rip it up and chew. Even the scent brings the nostalgic, no-pressure days of my childhood back, pushing the cares and responsibilities of being an adult away as dusk deepens and the darkness of evening falls down.
Now at that time of night, the chickens would already be roosted, but there is just something I love about hearing a rooster crow in the morning and listening to hens cackle their “I JUST LAID THE MOST BEAUTIFUL EGG IN THE WORLD” cackle, then watching as those industrious hens scour the yard looking for bugs and worms and all kinds of yummy things to eat.
It’s such a joy and pleasure to look out your kitchen window, hands buried in dishwater, kids chattering behind you, loads of never-ending work forgotten as the hens go about their “daily grind” with a cheerfulness that I often envied, but always tried to emulate. If my chickens can have a good attitude, I can smile and be happy too. Right?
More than watching the chickens, I admit, I have never lost my absolute love and fascination for gathering eggs.
From the time I was little, braving the pecking and blood, sticking my hand under a hen’s warm breast feathers and feeling around for those smooth, beautiful eggs, to my time in Pennsylvania in the laying houses packing, literally, millions of eggs. (We ship a quarter of a million eggs every week.)
Okay, lean in close because I’m going to say something I haven’t said to too many people and you probably won’t hear me say again: (I don’t like eggs. I eat them anyway, because, you know, we have 40,000 chickens, but they make me sick. Not even kidding.) But I LOVE to gather them. Always have.
In Virginia we had no chickens and no eggs to gather, so the day we moved in I said to Watson, “We need to get some chicks.”
Yeah. That didn’t go over well. He reasonably replied, “We have 40,000 chickens in Pennsylvania.”
“But I like to watch them and I’m in Virginia.”
“You can go to Pennsylvania anytime and watch the chickens to your heart’s content.”
So that was that. No chickens and no egg gathering in Virginia for me.
Earlier this spring Watson needed feed so the girls and I rode along to the feed store with him. On the way we saw some ducks in a pond and one of our girls said, “Oh, those ducks are so pretty! We should get some for our creek.”
Watson: “That’s a great idea!”
Me: Wait! She gets ducks but I don’t get chickens? (Okay, I know that’s a childish argument, but seriously, how are ducks any different than chickens?)
Watson: If you want to see chickens–
Girls: (finishing his sentence) …go to Pennsylvania and look at them.
Me: But green egg layers would be so much fun! (The only thing better than gathering regular eggs is gathering green eggs. Trust me on this. I speak truth.)
And so the rest of the way to the feed store, Watson explains why we are NEVER getting chickens in Virginia and how I don’t need chickens and how ducks are different and how I need to be happy with no chickens or go to PA blah, blah, blah.
Bottom line was this: NO CHICKENS IN VIRGINIA. NOT NOW. NOT EVER. End of story.
I know he’s right and I kinda thought when I started that argument that I was going to lose it, and I can be a gracious loser (ha) so as we pull into the feed store, I say, “Fine. No chickens. We’ll get ducks instead.”
Watson: No ducks, either.
So, anyway, we park and the girls and Watson get out. I get my Kindle app up and start to read. (I only go into stores if forced to do so. I really don’t like to shop.)
You know how you get lost in a book and you kind of loose track of time and suddenly you look up and realize that a LOT of time has gone by and your family should be back and maybe you should be worried?
So that happened to me just before the girls opened the door and got in the pickup. I’m relieved so I turn around to greet them and ask what took them so long when I see that my two youngest are both carrying little boxes with handles and small round holes in them.
Then I hear chirping.
Yep. It’s the week before Easter and the feed store is selling chicks. Would you believe the only kind they had left were female Ameraucanas? (Ameraucanas lay green eggs. I’m not even kidding.)
I guess the girls were charmed and Watson, who likes to act all tough, is just a big softie and he bought me…um, the girls, ten chicks. (Along with a waterer and feeder, because all our chick raising equipment is in PA.)
So, this was totally an impulse buy. We have no place on the farm that is secure enough to keep baby chicks. Everything eats them, they have to stay warm (under a heat light warm) and dry, and we just don’t have any place that will keep out the predators – snakes, owls, cats, skunks, rats, coons, possums, etc.
I remember years ago back on the farm – and I’m sure some of you do too – when the box of chicks came from the feed store, it got set in the kitchen right next to the wood stove and that’s how we kept the chicks warm.
I always loved walking in the kitchen of the old farmhouse and crouching down by the box, just hunkering there and watching the busy little chicks.
Well, I got to do that again, kinda, since we put our ten chicks in an empty water trough, along with their feeder and waterer and attached a heat light to a board across the top and put the whole thing in my library. (See the pics below.)
I wrote Me and the Sweet Snowstorm in my library, while the chicks chirped and played beside me. Super fun. They kept me smiling for sure.
(Just a little dose of reality, because nothing is perfect, right? Back on the farm, I don’t remember the kitchen smelling bad, but I’m sure it did with the chicks in it. In my library, it was fun to watch, fun to hear, but it smelled terrible, just saying.)