Autumn may or may not be the best time to move to a farm for the first time. You have the winter to plan … but it can seem like forever until spring arrives and farm life peeps out into full view.
To us, it seemed like the winter of 2015 would never end. As the spring equinox approached, my son, Colin, and I decided the time was right to start some chicks. We bought an eighty gallon steel stock tank, a heat lamp, feeders and waterers and feed, and set everything up in the basement. Then one mid-March evening, we had our chance. My husband Mark was away on business … and it’s often easier to plead for forgiveness than ask for permission.
That evening after work we turned the heat lamp on in that tank, filled the tiny waterers and feeders, and dashed off to a well-known farm supply store. We planned to purchase four chicks. But just eleven peeps remained in the store’s display that night, all allegedly, colored-egg laying Ameracaunas. We couldn’t bear to leave anyone behind. They were so little. What if no one wanted them, especially that runty looking one? She seemed bullied by the others, and small. And scared. So instead of making any difficult decisions about our new flock, into the box they all went, and into the SUV we all went, heat up full-tilt to combat the chill that blew in with the snow as we drove home.
Days passed, and they all got bigger, as chicks do. This was our first time with a giant steel brooder in the basement, and a foot of snow still on the ground. But that little one was still smaller than the others. Did the farm store trick us? Was she a bantam? We continued to hold her and hand feed her and generally coddle her. She still seemed frightened by everything around her except us. As she feathered out, we just kept saying “she’s so little.” Despite admonitions to avoid becoming attached to creatures that could become our lunch, we agreed that the tiniest girl in the flock was the first to earn a name: Little. Not Chicken Little, mind you, but Little the Chicken.
Little the Chicken
Those eleven pullets outgrew the stock tank and moved into a repurposed puppy pen, still within the protection of the basement. While the larger girls began jumping to top of the three foot high fence that now contained them, Little, who was growing both in size and moxie, jumped OUT of the pen. She also developed a love for conversation and lap-sitting, and became quite the attention-monger. We had never raised chicks before, so we had no frame of reference to determine if Little’s behavior was typical or not …