A Lesson in Raising Chicks

:: in which we learn that chickens are pigs ::

FEAR NOT – This post is not about killing chickens, eating chickens, plucking chickens, or pulling the guts out of chickens.  I will address all those topics in microscopic detail in another post.  There’s nothing graphic in this post.  Except for the poop; there’s going to be a lot of poop talk, so buckle up.

Let’s talk about raising baby chicks.  I had my first up-close experience with chickens this year, and I have much to say on the topic.  If you’ve ever considered raising chicks, there are a few things you should know ahead of time.

First things first: do not go anywhere near the feed store (or any other chick-peddling establishment) unless you are ready to buy some chicks.  Today.  You see, chicks are squeezably cute, heart-melting little fluffballs when they are first born.  For those first few days out of the eggshell, baby chickens are the animal equivalent of high fructose corn syrup.  That is to say, super sweet and just as addictive.  They make the most irresistible cheeping sounds that carry far across the feed supply store, beckoning you to the livestock area like a poultry siren song.  You might think you just ran in for some cucumber seeds and a new bandana, but rest assured you are leaving with a box of baby chicks.  It is physically and mathematically impossible to lay eyes on fluffy, tweeting chicks and then walk out of the store without buying some.  Einstein said that.

Dramatic Irony
Dramatic Irony

When you get home, you will of course discover that caring for chicks is a lot of work.  And the chicks only stay fluffy and tweety for a few days.  The most important thing you will learn in the first week is that chickens are pigs.  I know that sounds confusing, but this isn’t a riddle or a mind-expanding exercise like the sound of one hand clapping.  What I’m saying is that chickens are dirty, sloppy animals that will happily eat, drink, and lie in their own poop all the livelong day.  They are made to poop.  My daughter once asked me why chickens poop so much and I said that’s their job.  She said, “Isn’t their job to lay eggs?”  “No,” I replied, “because they only lay an egg once a day.  They poop 147 times a day.”  Pooping is what chicks do.

Here’s another thing you should know before you get baby chickens: chicks need to have their butts wiped.  By you.  They can easily get this condition called pasty butt in which poop sticks to their butts and dries there.  Then everything gets blocked up and the chick can’t get any new poop out.  They can actually die from this if it’s not corrected.  By you.  With the butt wiping.

Next point: When chicks are living in your house in a little brooder, they stink.  You readers who have never had chicks might be thinking, can’t you just clean the brooder out on a regular basis?  And I would say yes, you can.  And it will still stink.  Allow me to paint a picture for you.  You take your little fluffies out of their pen so you can clean it up.  You dump all the yucky bedding outside and spray down the container so it’s nice and clean.  Dry it out, and fill it with fresh new pine shavings.  Wash and refill the waterer and the feeder.  Replace the heat lamp.  Now you have a beautifully clean brooder pen, all fresh and picture perfect.  This brooder is so lovely and clean it could be on the cover of a poultry magazine.  Now place your sweet chicks back in the pen.  Blink twice, and ABRACADABRA!!  The bedding is spotted with 12 poops, there is a fresh poop floating in the water dish, and a bird has jumped up to the top of the feeder where it is poised to drop a poop right into the new food.  And the room stinks.  Again.  Wait two days and repeat.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from getting chicks.  I just want you to know what you’re getting into, so you won’t be freaked out when the poop starts flowing.  I will also tell you I LOVE having chickens.  They’re adorable (even now that they are no longer chicks), funny, interesting, and rewarding.  The experience of raising chickens is definitely worth all the poop wrangling.  And when you move the birds outside, the poop situation changes and becomes less overwhelming.

In summary: Chicks are cute.  Chicks are pigs.  Chicks are made to poop.  Get some anyway; they’re worth it.

Indian and me

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