Chickens in the Kitchen

From the Farm:


Published in the Casper Journal March 27, 2012

It’s spring, and every farm family knows ... the chicks are in!!! And whether we need chickens or not, who can resist spending time at the feed store watching the tiny yellow fluff balls? While some may mark spring with robins, rain or crocuses, I remember it with the familiar sound of chickens ... in my kitchen.
This delightful springtime memory began three years ago when we bought a home on two acres. Our children immediately started planning their farm. For Christmas the boys found two gift cards under the tree, courtesy of Grammy and Grandpa. The next day they purchased wood and chicken wire, made measurements and drew plans. The garage turned into a shop during Christmas break, and our cars were parked out in the snow, but all in the good name of the forthcoming chicken coop. After all of the sawing and hammering was finished, it was more like a castle. We dubbed it the “Taj MaCoop.” The boys painted it barn red and moved it outside.
During spring break, we heard about “Chick Days” at the farm store, so we all drove to town. There they were — two rows of feed tubs filled with soft, fluffy peeps. “Can we please buy the chickens today?” the children begged. “Do your research,” my husband calmed then, “and we’ll come back next week.” The following days were spent reading “chicken books” and making a list of which breeds they wanted.
The farm store received a new shipment of chicks every Monday, so we planned the first Monday after spring break to choose our chicks. That morning, we sent four ecstatic children out the door to school. “Only eight hours until we get our chicks!” one son smiled back at us.
As soon as they arrived home, the children went to work cutting a plastic water barrel in half to make a temporary chick home in our dining room. When everything was ready, we piled into the van, drove the few miles to the farm store ... and stopped. The parking lot was empty. The doors were closed. Pulling up to the front we checked the sign: Open from 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. We were 15 minutes late. There was a moment of silence, and then sniffing and sobbing as the terrible truth set in: no chicks today. We slowly drove home, unloaded the empty box and sat in the house looking at the vacant barrel-home. Finally my 9-year-old daughter wiped her eyes. “All day long I kept thinking, ‘Don’t count your chickens before they hatch,’” she said. “And we did.”
The following morning we made another plan. My husband came home from work early, my sons skipped swim team, and at 4 p.m. we trooped into the store. Armed with a notebook, budget sheet and pencils, the children announced to the clerk, “We’d like 10 chicks please.” It took an hour to select the right breeds, and then we were at the checkout register: 10 people, three carts, a bushel of feed, one bag of sawdust, one water bottle, one feeder, one heat lamp and 10 chicks. The boys counted out their money and it was done.
At home, everyone forgot about dinner until the chicks were safely inside their temporary barrel home. By the time dessert was served all 10 of the chicks had names: Henny Penny, Star, Thomas, Blackie, Redwall, Pooka, Blanket, Flower, Pepper and Snowball. No one wanted to wash dishes, no one wanted to fold laundry, no one wanted to do homework. They just held the chicks. At bedtime, the boys carried the barrel downstairs and put it in the corner of their room. By 9:30 p.m., the children were asleep, but the chickens were up scuttling around under the warm light.
The next few days were delightful. Each morning, the boys carefully carried the chicken barrel upstairs to the sunny kitchen. It was comforting to go about my day with their soft peeping in the corner of the room. Within days the baby chicks had grown, and feathers began to show.
Our dining room is spacious, but when there are eight people at the table, two babies in high chairs, and 10 chicks in the corner, things can get a little crazy. One day after the kids left for school, I put bibs on the twins for their breakfast squash. Feeding one baby is tricky; times two and things are downright messy. With one bowl of squash, two spoons, two zealous babies and two “helpful” preschoolers, my kitchen was a slight disaster. Right in the middle of this yellow, pumpkin mess I heard a loud peeping. There was Pooka, the largest chick, perched on top of the barrel.
“Just watch me,” Pooka seemed to say, and took a flying leap, landing at my feet. With squash bowl in hand, I danced around the squawking chicken as my toddler yelled, “A chicken’s out! A chicken’s out!” After a few cha-cha-cha steps, I set the squash bowl safely on the counter and commenced chasing the chicken around and under the table. After a bit more prancing — to the entertainment of my squash-covered twins — I finally planted the flailing chicken safely back in the barrel.
A board placed across the top put a damper on the flying lessons, and when everyone came home that evening I pronounced an end to the indoor chicken home. With a bit of grumbling, the boys removed the “poor little things” to their first night in the outdoor coop.
It’s now been two years since our first chicken adventure, yet we still can never resist the spring chicks at the store. And despite the need to “cut the apron strings” a bit sooner on the indoor pets, my favorite sign of spring is chickens ... in my kitchen.

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