Baby Chicks Have Arrived

| 3/20/2015 8:26:00 AM

Larry ScheckelOh, did the Scheckels raise chickens! It was a major source of income for the our 11-member family out on Oak Grove Ridge, near Seneca, in the heart of Crawford County, Wisconsin. Five hundred White Leghorn laying hens and 200 Cornish Rock roosters roamed the farmstead every summer and fall.

Dad and Mom received a postcard in the mail that gave the date the baby chicks were to arrive. There was always the worry over cold weather. Baby chickens need to be kept warm.

Chickens were Mom’s job. That was her undertaking. Dad would tend to the cows, horses, pigs, and sheep, but Mom raised the chickens. The chicken coop or brooding house had been prepared days in advance. Walls were cleaned, the floor scraped clean, and disinfected with a smelly brown liquid applied with a wide paint brush and sprayer. That stuff was so bad it was later banned. But it did kill lice!

The brooder was installed. A contraption with a sheet metal hood, four sided, apron down to about 4 to 5 inches. A thermometer kept track of the temperature ideally held at about 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Chicks soon develop their own heat, so the thermostat was turned down or backed off periodically. We helped set up glass bubblers for water and small metal trays for chicken feed. Baby chicks needed warmth, water, food, and a quiet brooder house. Sudden, loud, sharp noises would frighten the wee fowl and they could bunch up in the corner and smother.

The big day arrived in late March or early April. The baby chicks came by way of the rural carrier mailman. He had four or five boxes of the little peepers stacked up in the trunk of his car. The mailman pulled his Chevy Coupe into the driveway of the farmstead, instead of the usual stop at the mailbox on the gravel road.

A rope from the trunk latch hung down over the boxes and was tied to the bumper. All of us youngsters gathered around, getting as close as we dare. We could hear the chicks chirping and peeping away. We tried putting our finger into one of the air holes of a box. Mom scolded, “Back away, kids.”

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