Fixed on Chicks
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Is there anything more adorable than a small child squealing with delight over the antics of a puppy or a kitten? Hardly, but the same goes for chicks around here. Our daughters are smitten with each new batch of tiny puffballs. Though chicks do not lick faces or chase balls of string, they steal a child’s heart with their soft peeps and fuzzy feathers.
Over the years, I have brooded many small clutches of chicks in our utility room. For three or four weeks at a time, the otherwise most boring room in the house is instantly transformed into a kid magnet. The girls are ever-present, peering with large, round eyes into the storage tub that houses the little brood. At their desperate pleas, we let them frequently hold the chicks. Even on the busiest days, the overjoyed looks on their faces as they gently pet each one is certainly time well spent.
After several years, the girls still love to hold each group of new chicks, and their agenda has become more elaborate. Using their cardboard-construction skills, the girls recently made a sprawling play castle for a set of white Cochin chicks to explore. This rare exhibit of architectural talent featured a balcony, covered walkways, and even a drawbridge. As the self-appointed chick safety inspector, I mandated higher walls, reinforced with sturdier cardboard and more tape. As a result, the scenic balcony view suffered a bit, but the chicks did not appear to be terribly upset about it.
Time goes quickly, and soon we carry them to the coop. As much as the girls love holding the chicks during those first few weeks, the two are just as ready to see them moved out of the house afterward. Unfortunately, it is becoming more difficult for the girls to hold them. The chicks’ toes have become sharp, and their large, feathered wings beat wildly at the air. Now the girls pull on their old boots, and we march the brooder out to the coop. With words of endearment, they carefully place each chick inside its new home.
As the beloved chicks grow toward adulthood, the girls remain interested. They spend plenty of time filling feeders and searching for dandelion leaves. These are considered to be a tasty treat and are eaten from their hands. For the next few months, the girls wait impatiently for them to begin laying eggs. In the meantime, they console themselves by picking them up, once again … as long as they keep those sharp toes away! Arms extended, they follow the docile creatures around until all seven, in turn, are lifted up lovingly. The big chicks’ legs and feet now droop down toward their knees.
When spring rolls around again, you can be sure that the focus will be back on baby chicks. First, the girls will pour through our favorite chick hatchery’s new spring catalog, with high-resolution glossy photos of nearly every kind of chick you can imagine. Next, we’ll visit the local feed mills and farm supply stores to admire hundreds of newly-hatched chicks on display. Finally, we’ll bring home a batch from the hatchery, and once more, the utility room will become a happening place.
The girls have displayed their love of chicks over the years in a wide variety of creative ways. They have drawn countless pictures of chicks in all colors, shapes, and sizes. Many chick stories, as well, have been lovingly scribbled in crayon or marker on the pages of homemade books. My favorite was a light-hearted, fun-in-the-sun story about a chicken family vacationing at the beach. On one occasion, Miranda wrote a bedtime story for a particular setting hen and read it to her while she sat on the nest. For that same hen, Sarah crafted a baby mobile made with plastic bowls and string to alleviate her boredom.
All this experience with chicks piqued their interest in gaining more knowledge about them. Both girls had a school project about (yes, you guessed it) chicks. They learned the anatomy of an egg and studied the three weeks of chick embryo growth. Impressively, they memorized particular developments inside the egg on each of the 21 days of incubation. This was accomplished by putting the sequence to the music of the favorite children’s song, “Jesus Loves Me.” They even learned to imitate a rooster crow with a plastic cup, a string, and a piece of sponge.
So, what is to become of these girls who are truly friends to all chicks? What is next for these egg-sperts at care and management? Perhaps they will become chicken farmers someday. They might even own and operate their very own chick hatchery. You never know — they may instead write articles for a poultry magazine. (Wink.) In any case, these nine- and seven-year-olds should have plenty of years ahead to hatch out a plan.
Originally published in the February/March 2021 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.