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Friday, May 7, 2010

Peep, Peep: Our First Chickens

Monday night marked the first night that we officially went to bed as chicken parents. Yes, we are effectively calling ourselves "chicken parents." I never would have thought that I could hold so much affection for poultry, but it's hard to be rational with such sweet little beady eyes and such endearing cocks of the head looking up at you. We are smitten for these guys...or girls?
To be honest, we know nothing about raising chickens. Last Friday, Andy's colleague, Teresa, told him that she had a chick whose little "buddies" were pecking at its feet - pretty much all-out bullying him/her. One of its toes was pecked off, and it seemed a dire situation for this particular fella (or lady?).  Andy agreed that on Monday, he'd take the chick along with a friend. All weekend long, we waited in anticipation, and finally Monday, we met our feathery friends.

When I returned home from work, Andy was admiring the elaborate cage he had set up with chicken wire, roosting branches, and lots of space. He placed a thermometer on the cage to monitor the heat and a red lamp over the cage to ensure the chickens' warmth. The chickens frolicked around, peeping excitedly as they tripped over their water dish and pooped in their food.
I couldn't resist! I  had to take them out. They responded pretty well ~ they continued to peep and were very tolerant of being man-handled. After we put them back in their cage, the trouble began. Our little white-headed fella/lady started burying him/herself in his/her pine shavings. He/she looked very cold. The thermometer read 85 degrees, the perfect temperature for 3-week old chicks. We madly searched the Internet for answers! What was wrong with our feathery furrballs?  Several diagrams that came up on the Internet revealed that the chickens might be feeling cold due to a draft (the cage we were  using was made of wire), so Andy dismantled his cage invention, and we put the chicks in our yogurt fish aquarium to guarantee they'd stay warm enough.  We went to bed unsure that we'd be able to sleep, worried that our new babies wouldn't make it through the night (Can you imagine if we had human children? We'd for surely be insomniacs!).

Well, they did live through the night, and no - we still don't know if we have two roosters, two hens, or one of each. Either way, I'm pretty sure we'll be keeping them both. Over the last four days, we've spent sunny evenings with them outdoors (they're amazingly talented at located almost invisible worms!) and rainy nights with them indoors. They are quite amusing. Even our cats think so: the chicks put the fear of God into Carmen (she runs away and hisses at the sound of one their peeps); they are a curiosity to Benson; and, of course, they look like dinner to Tucker.None of us can even remember what life was like before chickens.

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