I have to admit, I felt a bit like a poser when I started writing about my adventures in homesteading. Sure, I’m growing squash, tomatoes and bunches of herbs in my garden. I live with thousands of little red wigglers in the basement, eagerly chomping down on the paper and kitchen scraps that used to go to waste around here. I stock my freezer with homemade chicken stock, soups and pesto. But it wasn’t until this weekend that I felt like the real deal.
That’s because this weekend, the chicks arrived.
I’d like to introduce you, dear reader, to three lovely ladies who will truly turn this Home to a Homestead. Meet Susie Q, MaryAnne and Roz.
It took weeks of preparation to get to this point. Taking pages of notes at Chicken School. Working with the City of Minneapolis on the permitting process (still a few things to do there, but I got the go-ahead from Animal Control before I brought the babies home. Very important step!). Reading books on raising a flock. Preparing the brooder. Ordering a coop.
And finally, taking a deep breath.
I could barely sleep on Friday night. I literally dreamed of chickens running around the yard, me trying to keep up with them. I felt like I was a child again, waking up every few hours the night before we left on a family vacation I’d been anticipating for months. I was so excited I could barely stand it.
At 6 am, I woke up and got to work. The chicks needed a warm, cozy place to call home and I had to be ready. I unpacked the “chick kit” I bought the day I ordered the little ladies at my new favorite hangout, EggPlant Urban Farm Supply in St. Paul.
I lined a large plastic storage bin with paper towels. I filled the feeders with water and food. I adjusted the height of the heat lamp and revved it up, hoping it would be warm enough to keep the girls healthy but not too hot that they’d be sweating when they arrived at their new home. I re-read chapters on the first few days of raising chicks.
It was time.
Bob and Audrey own Egg Plant and were waiting for us. The chicks were three days old and more than ready to be taken home.
There were five little ones hopping around in the brooder at the store, three belonged to me. Bob prepared a cardboard box with paper towels lining the bottom and presented the first test as chicken owners: catch the chicks.
I reached in and snagged the Barred Rock first. She was incredibly light and soft. I cradled her gently with both hands, feeling her fragility. She flexed her black and white wings within my grasp. Bob explained that the small red mark between her eyes was vegetable dye and it would wear off soon.
Next up, I went for the Americauna. She will be an especially lovely addition to the flock because she will eventually lay light green, blue or even pinkish-brown eggs.
And then it was Jay’s turn. He’d been slightly quiet and observant since we walked in the door. I imagined him thinking about the day when, after months of uncertainty, he said he’d be happy to buy me a chicken coop for my birthday. And now here we were. Two chicks packed up, his job to get our third.
The Buff Orpington looks most like the typical Easter chick. She’s soft and yellow and the biggest of the bunch. She’ll grow up to be dressed in beautiful gold feathers. The little bird ran around the feeder and under the warm light, trying to avoid Jay’s fingers, not understanding how valued she’ll be in her new home. But within seconds, Jay had her cupped in both hands, a huge smile on his face.
Beaming, we took the girls home.
Of course, not everyone in the house was prepared for the chicks. The worms were understandably apathetic. But as soon as the Westie heard chirps coming from the box, he wanted to know what was up. Henry followed us to the basement. I felt a surge of anxiety, but Henry seemed to be filled with curiosity, not a hunting instinct.
To minimize the chicks’ stress, we moved Henry away, put them in their brooder and quietly watched as the girls discovered the warmth of the heat lamp, the tasty snacks waiting for them in the feeder and the refreshing water for them to drink. In their new home they’ll grow. Eventually they will move outside. And a few months later, they’ll produce their first eggs for us to eat.
I’m officially a chicken owner.
The real deal.