Day 1 - Chicken World
In the past, Spring has always meant that plants were going to bloom again. I could go outside and play in the dirt. The sun would shine, the birds would sing, and plants would grow. Well, this year, things are different, very, very different. Okay, maybe this does not seem like much to many of the readers here being farmers and all, but it's my first Spring where I am entereing a new Kingdom, the Animal Kingdom.
It feels like a whole New World has opened up. It dawned on me how, back when I took biology in high school, I learned about the three Kingdoms: animal; vegetable; and mineral. Everything on Earth was somewhere classified within these three Kingdoms. Today, I opened a door into that first Kingdom. I'm talking about animals, and maybe you already know the critters I am talking about but I'm not giving it up just yet. I also admit, I'm not counting our dogs as animals because their more like my kids then pets, to be totally honest.
Christine and I used to go to a restaurant in Portland a few years back since out of existence. The name of the place was Piccolo Mundo, but Christine could never remember the name exactly. She called it Pollo Mundo (Okay, if you speak Spanish, now your suspicions are confirmed.) She has Hispanics that work with her and one day, while thinking of where we would go to eat, she laughed for some unknown reason. Then she was silent and asked me, "Why is that fine restaurant at John's Landing on Macadam called 'Chicken World'?" Then I laughed too. "It's called Piccolo Mundo, which means 'small world', silly girl." And so it was this morning that I left my small world of plants and minerals behind to enter Chicken World!
To be sure I had a choice, I went to the farm store early. They told me that all the chicks were already reserved. The chicken lady just left to pick them up. He was not completely sure, but she would be back soon to let me know. YIKES! For weeks I have been priming Christine that we were getting chickens, now if I did not get them, it would be at least a week before we could get chicks. My mind stuttered as I thought, "It might even be a year!" So I didn't hesitate. I jumped in my car and raced to farm store #2, a couple of towns down the highway. They were not taking reservations. It was first come, first served. I also noted they had the Silver Laced Wyandottes I had been envisioning running around our fields. They even had Gold Laced Wynadottes
Christine and I had agreed we would go for six chicks. After the duck seminar last weekend, we were resigned to losing one or two through illness or predation, so we figured if we had too many eggs we could give them to friends or sell them, but we would go for 6, even though we probably would be okay with three. The list began at the farm store #1, with a Rhode Island Red, a Buff Orpington, an Australorp, and a Barred Plymouth Rock. The farm store #2 reported it would have both Silver AND Gold Wyandottes, besides the first four breed mentioned at farm store #1, which was closer to home. So, you see, it made sense to just get up and go!
Arriving at farm store #2, the chicks were not there yet, which was easy to tell because it was so quiet! I confirmed I had as good a chance as anyone to get chicks and went to where the empty troughs waited in the dark for the young lives to arrive. About 10 others waited as well. I noticed some of them were holding cardboard boxes with handles on them, so I inquired and found one for myself. Sure, it would hold six chicks easily. Then, I overheard an employee call on their radio for another employee, who responded loudly over a cacophony of cheeping chicks in the background. My pulse quickened. This is it! This is big! Okay, at least, to me this is big.
The store silence was broken when a soft cheeping could be heard cross the building. Then the cheeping became louder until, as she rounded the corner to the aisle of the troughs, the cheeps and chirps became almost a buzz. Everyone looked around. I felt a little competitive. I think I may have even felt an instantaneous urge to peck someone, but I let it go ... quickly! The tops came off the boxes and the Leghorns were first offered. Everyone passed, poor birds. Then the Sex Links, and a couple chicks never made it to a trough, but went right into a box. Rhode Island Reds were next and I chirped that I wanted one. Yes, I only wanted one. Then the Barred Rocks opened up and I asked for one of those as well. Yes, I only wanted one. A big guy on the other side of the troughs asked for ten! I was relieved that I had resisted the urge to peck at him. He must know something more then book learning about chickens, I figured.
As I stood there, I noticed also that my chicks did NOT get along. The Red was going after the Rock, so I asked to replace the Red. I know, chickens have to peck. I really understand it, but I thought this would not bode well, so she went into the trough to join her own kind and a new one was put into my box. This gal seemed more inclined to celebrate diversity. Then the Rock pecked her. Oh well, I don't have all day to find the perfect, peaceful flock of chicks.
It was a cultural experience. A Russian grandmother were there, asking me to point to the sign so she could see which birds the latest chicks were going to grow up to be. The sign had all the breeds and their eggs. I believe she was interested in the brown eggs and not the white ones, but not speaking Russian well enough, I can only guess this was her intent. There were also Latinos. Which kind of huevos were they seeking? I do not know. But I can say that some were interested in the broilers. No dual-purpose chickens for those particular folks. They wanted entrees, not omelettes!
The Silver Wyandottes were finally announced and I stepped in for my one chick. "Well, that's it!" Confused, I asked about the Orpingtons and Australorps and the Golden Laced Wyandottes. A bad winter has led to poor results this year. It seems those breeds, though pictured on the troughs, were not available. So, I doubled up on the three breeds I had, another Red, another Rock and another 'Dotte would do just fine.
My world has greatly expanded now. I have animals. As I write this, I hear them chirping in my living room where my own trough is set up with a heat lamp and food and water. I checked on them twice as I wrote this. Plants they are not. But I have left that Piccolo Mundo, for Pollo Mundo. My life will never be the same.