The confirmation email gave our flock’s hatch information as 5:00am, June 5, 2017. By 2:00pm on the same day, they’d been boxed and picked up by the US Postal Service. I was terrified they would get to my local Post Office before I got home from my short stay with Mom and B. I was even more terrified to imagine being stuffed into a box with fifteen other birds and jostled around for two full days and a night.
But I was home when the call came to go into town and pick up my “live animal” shipment.
The box was so light, I thought it might be empty. But then a couple of small children came into the Post Office with their mom and immediately focused on the sounds of chicks in distress.
“Mama, that box is cheeping!”
I smiled and hurried out lest they want me to open it.
I handed off my precious cargo to Mike, who looked a bit bewildered, and started the car for home.
Once in the shop, we carefully cut open the tape and lifted the lid. Sixteen little downy heads were stuffed into one corner. I carefully lifted each one in turn, dipped its beak into the pool of the waterer and set it onto the clean paper towels covering the pine shavings in the brooder box.
And then remembered I was supposed to look at their butts and make sure they weren’t “pasted”. It seems that spending two days and one night in the almost complete darkness with fifteen of your closest friends (or possibly siblings) being jostled and tossed and vibrated out of your senses might tend to make you poop all over yourself.
I was reluctant to stress them any further and opted to hold off on mudbutt inspection until they’d had a chance to warm up and calm down.
We spent a bit of time adjusting the heat lamp and checking the temperature, then left them alone to settle in.
I found it almost impossible to leave them for long and probably checked them every half hour for the first four or five. They would hear me enter the shop and start running for the corner of their box. Once I knew they were sufficiently warmed up and reasonably calm, I retrieved the shipping box and collected them into it to facilitate checking each bird, beak to butt.
I had ordered fifteen birds. The hatchery sent one extra, in case of a death in shipping. All sixteen were alive and active, eating and drinking well. But two seemed a bit less rowdy than the rest. Both had pasted backsides and one even required a quick dip under warm running water to loosen the poop. She promptly thanked me by shitting in my hand.
Once all the birds were declared clean and settled for the night, I reluctantly left them and headed off for bed.
All sorts of horrid things come to mind when you leave small defenseless animals to their own wits in a new place. As I fed the dog and made my coffee the next morning, I was imagining opening the shop to find an infestation of rats and snakes. I had to stop myself from running down the walkway to the shop. No sense chancing a broken hip for a box full of snake food!
I didn’t hear any cheeping when I came through the door and really did think maybe they’d all at least gotten sick over night. But no, peeking into the box, I found sixteen fluffy little bumps scattered around the box floor, sleeping soundly. As if sensing a threat, they all popped up in a group and made for the box corner. I cleaned and filled the waterers and left them soaking up the warmth from the heat lamp.
By midday it was apparent that the uninsulated shop was going to be too hot for sixteen birds and a heat lamp. With help from Mandy and The Two Beauties, we relocated the brooder to the apartment kitchen, where it snugged in next to the wall with the air conditioner overhead. We changed out the paper towels, washed the waterers and refilled them with clean water and a splash of apple cider vinegar. We adjusted the heat lamp and left them tucked in for the night.
This morning everyone was under the heat lamp, not huddled up, but acting like it was maybe a bit cooler than they liked. I quickly changed out the paper towels, washed and refilled the waterers, and relocated the heat lamp.
And took the first of many pictures to come.
They won’t be this cute in another week. The fluff will begin to come out and feather start to grow in. Already the wings are looking less chick-like. They have started acting more like chickens as well. A gnat flew into the box and one of them immediately began to chase it. There’s one who stretches her neck up as if to look over the top of the box. And they have started to chase each other if any of them thinks another one has found something interesting.
In another week, we’ll have to have a solution to the cardboard box. And I’ll need to get serious about cleaning the coop and getting it ready for chickens!