I received a call from the post office around 2pm. They had left a message at my home and also on my cell phone. The cell phone message was from a very concerned postal worker. Apparently, my peeping package had arrived and it was making them very nervous. I suppose the Osterville post office does not see too many baby chicks come through their doors. After all, these were day old chicks, hatched, immunized and sent through the mail overnight.
I returned the call and told them I would be there as soon as possible. I had been waiting for two days with my “delivery window” and a much needed errand had me down
Cape. As quickly as I could, I drove. Someone might have even thought that I was about to give birth! As fast as I could safely go, I did. My baby chicks needed me!
I arrived about 30 minutes after speaking to the employee. The post office was cool and the air conditioning felt good on my perspiring skin. I stepped up to the counter and stated my name. I was met with, “Oh thank goodness you are here!” As the woman walked away, I could hear lots of peeping. She soon returned, carrying ever so gently the peeping package, a 6 inch square cardboard box. It had air holes and was adorned with “Live Animal” stamps on all six sides. It was even wrapped with tamper resistant plastic cording. Somehow, the hatchery knew that others would be curious.
“Open the box here!” shouted one of the employees from the back, “we’ve been listening to that thing all day.” I politely declined. I feared the worst. Perhaps, one of the chicks would be dead. I have heard that some of them do not survive the strenuous trip. What if one of them got loose? How would I ever catch it? What if they caught a chill from the air conditioning? “No, thank you,” I replied.
I signed the release form and quickly started off on my way with my peeping package. I placed it safely on a towel in the passenger side seat. There it peeped. I turned off the air conditioning, as baby chicks require the temperature to be 95 degrees during their first week of life.
I had ordered six little chicks from an online hatchery. I selected breeds that are known to be good with children, friendly, docile, good egg layers and also cold hardy. I was so excited to get home and meet my new babies, an Australorp, two Buff Orpingtons, and three Silkie Bantams. I could not wait!
On the way home, I morphed into my vision of a mother hen. I peeped back. To the best of my abilities, I spoke chicken! I mimicked their little noises for a while. The three mile trip seemed like an eternity. Finally, no more noises came from the box. In my mind, the chicks were all now dead! Yes, I do tend to think the worst and exaggerate! No, surely they must not be dead, maybe they were just tired.
I arrived home safely. I was greeted immediately at the door by the kids. They were giddy with excitement. I told them to go inside and I would be with them in a few minutes. It is not unusual to have a chick perish in transit. Thus, it was recommended that I never tell my children how many chickens I originally ordered. Just in case one did die, the children would never know.
Slowly with scissors, I snipped the tamper proof cording. I ran the scissors along the edges of the box. Cautiously, I lifted up the lid. Inside huddled into the corner were the tiniest day old baby chicks. I quickly counted and the loud peeping began again. Six. All six were alive. I called the kids out to the garage.
We had set up their temporary home in the garage, a tiny little house made of left over plywood, a heat lamp and soft pine shavings lining the bottom. We filled the food dish with crumbles and also added water to their dish. One by one I grabbed each chick. They were so tiny. As the mother hen, I inspected each one from head to toe. I was not entirely sure what to look for, but I felt it was the motherly thing to do! Their bodies seemed so small, consisting of mostly feathers. Their toes were so incredibly tiny, and so were their toenails. I even counted their toes. Yes, just as promised, the Silkie Bantams all had 5 toes instead of the usual 4.
I gently grasped each chick and dipped their beaks in the water. They stood there stunned. I did it again repeatedly until they all drank for themselves. One of the Silkie Bantams appeared weak and not as strong. I was nervous. Was this chick going to make it? It was clear that I was going to have to observe this one and pay special attention to be sure during this delicate time. Next, I took each chick and dipped their beaks in the food. Though they were confused at first, it took them no time to realize how to eat and drink. Since they had been shipped as one day old, they were still surviving on part of their own egg from which they hatched. They could survive for 3 days without food and water. However, they very quickly realized how much they love to eat.
We placed the beach blanket down on the floor and sat in front of the brooder’s window. We watched chicken t.v. The kids and I sat there, quietly mesmerized. The chicks explored their new 2’x2’ surroundings. They continued to eat and drink and officially introduce themselves to one another. After the introductions and tours were over, all six little chicks settled down into the center of the brooder. They were so tired but had no idea how to sit down. We watched each one, while still standing, fall asleep and then topple over into the pine shavings. Some woke, others continued to sleep. They ended up creating a soft blanket of chicks underneath the heat lamp. We picked out names; Tilly, Oyster Cracker, Sunshine, Chocolate, Peanut and Feathers.
I began writing about the chickens out of a desire to chronicle our trials and tribulations as newbie chicken owners, but it has turned into so much more for me. Tilly’s Nest is about the journey. It is a culmination of stories, wisdom and life’s lessons as taught by the chickens. We have had happy times. We have had sad times. We have had challenges. We have had successes and failures. I never would have thought that I would have so many wonderful experiences and new opportunities as a result of adding these feathered babies to our family. This June, the chickens celebrated their first birthday. You ask me, was there cake? Yes, I made one especially for the girls. I would not have had it any other way.
|Oyster Cracker and Sunshine~3 days old|