The trials of raising chicks

Posted 6/16/19

Our great-nephew Jordan joined the 4-H Club at school. He thought long and hard about a project for the summer. He was leaning towards raising chickens, but he had a few problems. The first …

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The trials of raising chicks

Posted

Our great-nephew Jordan joined the 4-H Club at school. He thought long and hard about a project for the summer. He was leaning towards raising chickens, but he had a few problems. 

The first thing was he knew nothing about chickens, and the second, he didn’t have a chicken pen. He should become a diplomat because, within a matter of minutes, we were the great-aunt and great-uncle of 19 tiny fluffy chickens.

The first several weeks, the little chicks lived in a big plastic tub in his bedroom. Usually, that wouldn’t be an issue, except for the first two weeks the baby chicks have to stay toasty. This means they live under a heat lamp 24/7. I can tell you from experience that after dark, heat lamps are actually brighter than the sun. 

I was surprised at how attentive he was with his new peeps. Each day, he would call and give me a report. 

Before agreeing to keep the chicks at our house, I told him our pen had to be rebuilt to make sure raccoons and possums didn’t get in and have the girls for supper. He agreed to come over on a Saturday and help with construction. 

A few weeks later, we had a carpenter come and help with the heavy framing on Friday so that it would be ready for the final phase the next day.

After breakfast on Saturday, he and his mom were knocking on our door and ready to get to work. It took him a while to get used to swinging a hammer, and he whacked his fingers a time or two, but he was a trooper. 

When we were satisfied that the area was critter-proof, they brought the chicks over and turned them loose in the new pen. That first day, we stood there for a long time and watched them. I never knew how comical they could be. 

The next morning, Jordan ran by before school to feed and water the babies. That evening, we pulled chairs and a swing over close to the pen. Jordan, his mom, his nana, Jilda, and I spent the next hour or so sipping tea and watching the chickens play.

Several days later, I stepped down to toss some lettuce into the pen when I saw something wasn’t right. While the pen was effective at keeping critters out, the small holes in the chicken wire were big enough for a chicken snake to crawl through. I always thought that the snakes only ate eggs, but one look at that snake and I knew it had eaten one of the chicks. 

I am a live-and-let-live kind of guy. I’ve caught a half dozen snakes and released them in another zip code. Things didn’t turn out as well for this snake. Jilda could see from the deck that something was up and she stepped down to help. I caught the snake, and when it wrapped its body around my arm, she almost had a hygiene issue. I won’t gross you out with the details, but I did verify that the baby chick was dead. 

After that excitement, I drove to Tractor Supply and bought some things that are supposed to keep snakes at bay. So far, they’ve worked.

Fortunately, the little chicks have grown at an astonishing rate, and I think they are now too big for snakes, but we still spend a lot of time throughout the day watching them.

Both Jilda and I were happy to help Jordan with his project, but we are glad he didn’t join the circus and get a panda cub.

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book, "Life Goes On," is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at rick@rickwatson-writer.com.