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Another Day in the Country

Learning life lessons on the cheep

© Another Day in the Country

Five days of waiting seems like a very long time to a 10-year-old. Ten days seems like an eternity.

Once we’d made our totally insane decision to “get chicks” for my Napa Valley grandson, we could hardly wait for day-old chicks to arrive at a feed store and for our Chicken Split-Level Urban Home to get here.

Evidently, my daughter caught chicken excitement, too, because she started calling around to neighboring towns to see whether anyone within 50 miles had baby chicks for sale immediately. She found some in Santa Rosa —about an hour away, California time.

The next day, Dagfinnr and I drove to Santa Rosa to find the chicks.

“I wonder what kind they’ll have,” Dagfinnr wondered. “For sure we have to get three different breeds, just like in that book I’m reading.”

When we saw the chicks, they were a little older than newly hatched. They already had their little wing feathers and sprouting tail feathers. I guessed they were 7 to 10 days old — a day is a long time in chicken time — but they were cute and small and available.

We brought home a White Leghorn, a Rhode Island Red, and a little Bantam hen (we hope).

Four days later we made a trip to the Napa feed store and got three newly arrived chicks — all girls, of course: An Americana, a Silver-laced Wyandott, and a Black Astrolop.

Seeing 2-day-old chicks suddenly gave us a comparative tool to judge the age of our first chick acquisitions. We had a problem I’d never encountered: We had older chicks and newborns, and how would we interface their needs?

“Have you ever tried to raise two ages of chicks together?” I asked the guy at the feed store.

He shook his head. “No, you’ll just have to watch them and see what happens.”

That much I already knew. What I wanted was some wisdom as to the outcome.

Before my daughter had a child she had geckos. Luckily she’d kept one of those cages, high on a shelf in the garage. This was just the thing for baby chicks — a chicken condo with wide glass windows and built in electric lights. This became the home for the “older kids,” while the babies maintained in a cardboard box.

For two days we maintained the chicks in their separate habitats. And then this enormous, heavy, flat box arrived on our doorstop — within three days of ordering it — with the makings of our Chicken House!

After “some assembly” — my daughter brandishing the screwdriver and me holding panels in place — we had ourselves the cutest little chicken house with two levels, a fenced-in yard, and a covered patio. It is a double-nest-box miracle!

Beside the front door of our family home in California is what I call “a pocket garden,” about six feet square. The plants are sturdy and well developed. There’s also a little rock path. We placed our new little chicken house on the sidewalk, facing into the garden area, and we had an enclosed, ready-made, baby-chicken-friendly habitat.

Yesterday, in 95 degree heat, we let both ages of chicks run around in the garden for the first time.

It took a few minutes before the two age groups encountered one another.

Suddenly, Penny, the Black Astrolop chick and smallest of all — just a handful of frizz — spied the biggest older chick — Rhett, the Rhode Island Red.

Penny charged the bigger chick. Standing on her tiptoes and stretching up her neck, she only came even with Rhett’s back, as if to say, “You want a piece of me?”

The older chick was startled, looking amazed, trying to figure out just what this might be. Little Penny would not back down!

Rhett was surprisingly patient with the impertinence.

“Penny needs a ‘time-out’,” said my protective grandson, scooping up the tiny black warrior.

And so the saga of civilizing chicks has begun in our front yard on another day in the country. This week, Northern California. Next week, maybe Washington, D.C.?

Last modified July 26, 2017

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