Fresh from the Farm

By Susie Middleton / Photography By Susie Middleton | February 13, 2014

There’s something even better than juicy strawberries or fresh peas in late spring (I know, how could that be?): Going to the post office to pick up a box of day-old chicks, shipped straight from the hatchery. Gently lifting out the fuzzy little puff balls and cradling them in your hands while you offer them a drink of water. Putting them down in a bed of shavings in a warm brooder, built from old barn boards in the corner of Roy’s shop. Watching them learn to hop up on the edge of a little piece of wood and jump down with glee. Looking all around the farm for Libby and finding her glued to the brooder, naming each chick—Sugar, Jelly Bean, Oreo, Chippy—and pointing out to us which one is which, based on subtle color differences. Seeing their feathers start to emerge from the tips of their wings in only a few weeks time. Carrying them out, one by one, to their new coop and watching them marvel at the space and open air—and fresh grass.

We love baby chicks so much that we get some every spring. We started with just 8 the first year, then 50 the next spring, and 25 the next. And that’s not counting the 500 laying  hens we now have that we purchased as pullets (16-week-old female chickens). So, yeah, we don’t really need more baby chicks, but we can’t help ourselves. Plus it’s fun to have a variety of breeds in your flock (our pullets are all one heavy-laying breed), so we get Buff Orpingtons (fat and friendly—the absolute best backyard hen in my opinion) and Aracaunas (smart, quick, and layers of the famous blue eggs) and other breeds here and there. We’ve even raised an injured chick inside. Bambi (short for Bambino) not only lived and thrived, but got to hang out on the tummy of our dog Farmer, with a little help from Libby. A little girl, a dog, and a baby chick—just about the cutest thing I ever did see.

Excerpted from "Fresh from the Farm," by Susie Middleton. © 2014 by The Taunton Press. Used with permission.


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