Stories of Rural Life! Chicken Farming - Part 1
Date Posted: 25/02/2015
By Jim Reid, Caledon, Ontario
“Can I help you?”
“Yes. I would like 4 chicks.”
“4 thousand?” came the response.
I shook my head.
“4 hundred then?”
“No, just 4, thanks.”
“You mean 4 dozen then?”
“No. I mean 4 chicks period. You see I have 4 children and I thought that I would give each of them a chick for Easter. You know, real ones instead of chocolate.”
The lady behind the counter was starting to lose her patience. “I am sorry. You can’t do that.”
“I don’t see why not. Your sign here gives the price per chick. I just want 2 dollars worth,” I said.
“You can’t just walk in here and buy 4 chicks. You must buy at least 2 dozen.”
“Well then, I would like to order 2 dozen chicks thanks.” I really hadn’t thought very hard about what I was asking for.
On the drive to Fergus I had plenty of time to think about how we could manage looking after 4 chicks. I would get a big box, maybe a heat lamp and two bowls, one for water and one for chick feed. It all seemed quite manageable. Now on the 40 minute drive home, I had time to think about how on earth we were going to manage 24 chicks. Obviously I needed a bigger box. But I didn’t have one. Needless to say, this surprise I had in store, was going to be even bigger than I expected. I came up with what I thought was a very good idea. I would simply use the kids’ portable Ninja Turtle swimming pool. It was about a foot deep. By the time the chicks were old enough to jump out of there, it would be warm enough to move them outdoors. I moved our dining table in the breakfast room out of the way. We could still have our meals in the dining room. For now, the chicks could have their very own room, with large glass windows to look out at. They were going to live a very privileged life on our farm, in our house actually, well just temporarily of course. I would give each of our 4 children the responsibility of looking after 6 baby chicks, making sure that they had clean water and food. Then when the time came, I would take them away to have their heads cut off. No sense traumatizing the children unnecessarily.
Fortunately, that day, when my wife came home with the kids, they used the front entrance. My surprise awaited them in the back room. My wife greeted me at the front door and immediately asked “What is that noise?” Before I could answer she sniffed the air and added with her nose all curled up “And what is that smell?”
“That is my surprise that I have waiting for all of you. Come and see!”
I was expecting a little more excitement from everyone. The surprise was spoiled somewhat, by the fact that now there were several chicks running around the breakfast room. How could those little birds possibly get out? My wife was not thrilled. “Get them outside immediately!” came the order.
Now this was March, late March mind you, but it seemed pretty darn cold to be sending these little creatures outside, exposed to the elements at such a young age and not many feathers. I suggested the mudroom would be appropriate. “No! They stink! Get them outside!”
This was not how I planned things. We did live on a farm however and we did have a chicken coop. So maybe I could find some way to keep them all together in a heated space. Over the next couple of weeks, things were progressing quite well, after a few more investments such as heat lamps and bigger water feeders. The chicks grew at an incredible rate and drank gallons of water each day. They lived in a huge wooden crate with about a 3 foot wall around them. That is when I made the fateful decision. Rather than be satisfied with my little poultry experiment. I decided it was time to expand the operation. Why not get into turkeys I thought?
Turkeys I soon learned are much more expensive than chicks and a lot bigger. But, I was able to get away with only purchasing 6! Not a bad deal, I thought, even though the birds cost me a couple of bucks each. I decided it was time to use our chicken coop, the way it had been designed. I let the turkeys run around wild. Again, things were progressing along quite well. And then it started. One day I noticed one of the turkeys was missing. Maybe he just wandered off somewhere, but to be sure I made sure that they were all secure in their little abode at night. Within just a few days all 6 turkeys were gone. I had spent almost 20 bucks and was not even going to get one drumstick. So, my attention was immediately focused on keeping my chickens protected. They were still in their crate but I continued to count them several times a day. I was getting a little paranoid. One day, after taking roll call I came back less than an hour later and one was missing. One had been stolen in pure daylight! So, I got some chicken wire and kept that over the crate.
My youngest son, Jared, was the only one it seemed, that was interested in following in his father’s poultry steps. Jared asked if he could feed the chicks. I was not paying close enough attention. Jared had reached into the wrong bag and fed the chicks not chick feed, but rather weed and feed! By the time I realized the mistake, it was too late. I grabbed as many as I could, tried to get them to cough it up by holding them upside down and getting them to flap their little wings. Then I tried to get got rid of the weed and feed that was scattered about and hoped for the best. The next morning, much to my dismay, there lying in the crate were about half a dozen little critters lying upside down with their feet sticking in the air. I decided to bury them on our lawn. Who knows, maybe in their final place of rest, they might be put to good use and not only fertilize the grass, but maybe even kill a few dandelions?