September 2015
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The Chick Is in the Mail

As early as 2009, I started thinking about getting chickens. I would always come up with some reason not to do it. Not enough free time. Too much work. Did I really want a bunch of chickens to take care of. I didn’t even like eggs that much. Of course that was because the eggs from the store didn’t taste that good. So what did I need with chickens? There was always a reason not to do it, but the idea would never quite go away. It had been planted in my brain at a young age. See my earlier post Which came first the chicken or the egg.

I procrastinated for 4 years. During that time, our self-sufficiency efforts were gradually progressing. Our knowledge of food and nutrition was also evolving. We had learned a lot about the evils of sugar, the benefits of high quality fats and proteins, and specifically the Paleo diet. So when the time finally came in 2013 to make the commitment, the main motivation was for nutritional reasons. Little did we know at the time that the benefits of chickens go so far beyond fresh eggs.

I knew this was something I had to be prepared for. I started by buying a book about keeping chickens – “Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow.” I read the book, studied web pages, read blogs, and anything else I could find for 6 months. I learned about housing, food, security, and care. We made the decision to go for it in July. We would start with only hens – no roosters. While there is no legal issue with having roosters where we live, we wanted to ease our neighbors into it. A rooster crowing at the break of day might put more attention on what we were doing than we wanted. Plus we had no plans to hatch our own chicks. We ordered 15 females made up of a variety of different breeds. When I placed the order, we knew exactly when they would arrive. They would ship the following Sunday and arrive at our post office for pickup on Tuesday morning. I had a little over 1 week to be ready. Like the old saying goes, “the chicks in the mail!” – sort of.

We would need a brooder and some supplies before they arrived. I found a plan for a simple brooder made from a plastic bin that used an incandescent light bulb for heat. There are many good plans in the internet to choose from. The size depends on how many chicks you will have. I chose a plan that used a 12 gallon plastic tub. I gathered the supplies for the brooder and put it together while the chicks were in transit. I went to the local feed store and bought a feeder, a waterer, some chick starter feed, and some pine shavings. I was ready.

When the shipment was coming in, I took the day off from work. Unless you know exactly what to do, it’s probably a good idea to plan for a whole day off. You want to make sure they got off to a good start, and you don’t know until they arrive if you’ll have to deal with any surprises. I remember being so excited that day. Why? They’re just little birds. I had always heard that chickens were considered a gateway animal, meaning once you have chickens it will lead to other animals. I was probably excited because even though I didn’t quite know what I was getting into, I knew it would be a big change. I checked online and confirmed they had arrived at the post office. They won’t deliver them, so you have to go pick them up. You wouldn’t want the chicks riding around in a mail truck all day anyway. I headed over to the post office.

I walked into the post office and stood in line like all the other customers. Somehow I felt different than any other time I had been to the post office. When I got to the counter, I handed the clerk my slip. Apparently the clerk already knew what I was picking up. She smiled at me and went into the back. A few minutes later she walked out holding the box. Those little chicks were loud. Everybody in the post office was staring – most were smiling and some had a curious look. As the clerk handed me the box, she said they hated to see them leave. They were enjoying the sound of the chirping. I walked out of the post office carrying the box of baby chicks with a big grin on my face. I knew there was a lot to learn, but you have to start somewhere. I had no idea how much my life had just changed.

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