It says something profound and perhaps disturbing about my house that it wasn't the screaming that let me know anything was wrong. Then again, you raise four kids for sixteen years and you too will develop the "If blood isn't coming out of both ears, making that sound is uncalled for" attitude, along with the "and if blood IS coming out of both ears, making that sound sure won't help." Still, it was my *wife*, and I felt a little bit obligated to check it out. I mosied on upstairs and out the back door to the greenhouse, where my wife was standing. "You called, honey?" "The CHICKS," she said, looking like she'd just seen a snake eating a kindergartener. "Eating each other's crap again?" She shook her head, "You gotta see them." The chicks are this year's crop of chickens, the rejuvenation of my egg hopes and frankly, a few crock pot buddies. I never mind a few packing peanuts in my chick order. They arrived a couple weeks ago, 27 of the cutest fuzzy butts you've ever seen packed into a space the size of a shoebox. The post office people called as soon as they arrived, and handed me a box of chicks like it was nuclear fuel. "Were they expensive?" asked the mail man. "Nah," I said, "They're cheep cheep cheep." He was asking for it, honest. Chicks are like children. They're cute so you don't kill them. My kids couldn't wait to hold them and frankly the new chicks spent more time in laps for the first week than in their cage. I once read that a chicken doubles its size each of the first four weeks. I don't know that for certain. What I do know for certain is that the chick doubles the amount of crap it produces every single day of its life. By ten days the chickens practically walk around taking food in through one end and with each step some how magically expanding it tenfold until a fountain of crap shoots out the other end. Not surprisingly they don't smell so good after a while. Not to worry, I had a heated greenhouse ready to brood them in until they were old enough to go to the run, and into the green house they went. And all was well. They went out to the green house beautiful (if smelly) fluffy gold and red, brown and black wonders who would snuggle into your hand and crap on your wrist. I loved them. Of course, time waits for no chicken, and when my wife went out to visit them what she found looked like a tyrannosaurus had a love child with a chicken (probably a rooster. Roosters are not known for their lack of restraint and if the T-Rex was even the least bit submissive or asleep, BAMM). They were ungainly beasts twice the height of what she had last seen, with fluffs of down sticking out like someone had planted dandelions on a chick and then watered them. Feathers pointed in directions that feathers should not and the whole greenhouse smelled like a chicken crap casserole. The chicks have left behind their cute stage and moved to something I call twickens. If you've raised them you know the feeling. It's like the movie gremlins where the cute little fuzzy koala winds up looking like something from the national republican convention, and you are certain that whatever it is it must have eaten your chick and is now wearing its skin around like a cape, because you can still see bits of the chick sticking out in places. Twickens are like seventh graders. Shy and flighty and you just want to lock them in a greenhouse until they start laying eggs. (I think I'm talking about the chickens here). Everything that was cute about the chicks the twickens have wrong. They lurch about like I spiked their feed with vodka. They flutter and flap like the moths from hell and have all the landing prowess of a drunken delta pilot. And they stink. It doesn't matter how often you change the bedding. It doesn't matter if you have fans and vents and it wouldn't matter if you installed a glade air freshener *factory* in that green house and staffed it with tiny Asian men to spray everything. They still stink. It's a fact of chicken life. I know this for a scientific fact, because I sniffed one of my barred rocks, and while it is still giving me that sideways chicken stare it does not stink. Twickens do. I just keep telling myself that somewhere beneath that half feathered jousting buzzard beast, there's an egg machine just waiting to come out. As I sat on the floor of the green house one of them approached and turned to practice the stinkeye. It was my favorite - a buff orpington chick who loved to be held more than anything else: A lap chicken from the start. She walked back and forth in front of me, and I reached out and stroked her. She jumped into my lap and settled down for a nap, oblivious to the twickens dashing madly back and forth and practicing chest bumping like it was NFL training day. We sat in the greenhouse, the twicken and I, and I swear you can see the feathers growing. She rose a few minutes later and went back to the daily routine of a twicken - eating, drinking, sleeping. Oh, and she crapped in my lap. I don't mind. She's a cheep girl, chuggly, and caught between chick and chicken, but I think she loves me. For that, I can put up with her crap.