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January, 2008:

A box full of pure joy

A box full of pure joy.  <a href=”http://sunshinefordinner.com/2008/01/31/a-box-full-of-pure-joy.aspx”>

box full of pure joy

box full of pure joy

Contents of box:  70-75 baby hard-working hens, 10 baby lady ducks, 10-15 chicken dinners, 10 duck dinners, or as the hatchery calls it on the packing slip, 65 production red pullets, 25 straight run Surprise Special chickens, 20 straight run Hatchery Choice ducks

Did you know that chicks come in the mail?  Delightfully, they do.  An early morning (very early, dark-thirty early) call to the postmaster went something like this:

Georgiaberry (anxiously):  Did my chicks come today?
Postmaster (amused) :  Yeah, they’re here.  Do you want me to hold the phone over there so you can hear them cheeping?

Lots of cheeping.  You have to shut them up with food.

The natural hatching process of birds lends itself to shipping them in the mail.  A mama bird (chicken, in this case) lays a clutch of eggs.  Hens will lay a pile of 10-15 eggs before they begin to “set” – a lot of eggs.  After the setting period, most of the eggs will hatch over the period of a couple of days.  The first chick to hatch must wait, safe and warm, but hungry, for the mama to decide that all the eggs have hatched, and then get up and lead the chicks to find food.  So a couple of days in a warm box transported by various mail carriers from the hatchery in Texas to my house is a little like a couple of days waiting under mama for hatching to finish.  They arrive hungry and thirsty but fine.

Chickens do not bring food to their babies like a backyard songbird does – baby chicks (and all this goes for the ducks, too) are hatched ready to scavenge for food.  They start scratching as soon as their little feet touch something to scratch on.  The mama hen scratches and they scratch.  The mama hen finds something good in the dirt, and makes a certain low trilling cluck, and the chicks come running.  She bobs her head over the spot with the nourishing morsel and they obediently come and peck in that spot.  The mama hen finds water and makes the come-here-for-something-good clucking sound and the chicks come and she shows them how to drink – beak in, then tip head back to let the water trickle down your throat.  Soon they are drinking like pros.

So when chicks come in the mail there is no mother hen.  We have to be the mother hen.  As the chicks are removed from the box, each must have its beak dipped gently in a pan of water.  They find food with no problem, at first a little food sprinkled on a piece of paper, then in a low tray.  They have to be kept very warm and dry.  As long as they have copious amounts of food and lots of other chicks to cuddle with, the noise level is melodious but constant chirping.  If they are hungry or one gets separated from the rest, then shrill, ear-piercing shrieking ensues.

So in a few months these chickens will begin laying eggs for all of us, and in the meantime they will eat and grow and join their hardworking hen friends in scratching and turning compost and eating bugs.

Posted by Georgiaberry Mobley at 1/31/2008 4:36 PM <a href=”http://sunshinefordinner.com/2008/01/31/a-box-full-of-pure-joy.aspx”>http://sunshinefordinner.com/2008/01/31/a-box-full-of-pure-joy.aspx</a> | Add Comment <a href=”http://sunshinefordinner.com/2008/01/31/a-box-full-of-pure-joy.aspx”>http://sunshinefordinner.com/2008/01/31/a-box-full-of-pure-joy.aspx</a>

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