My parents used to bring us to the State Fair in Springfield when we were growing up. My sister, brother, and myself could give you the tour of Lincoln's home we did it so many times. As boring as that is for kids, we were happy to get out of the Illinois summer humidity and even happier to escape visiting the livestock booths my father was so intent on showing us. I love my sister dearly now, but we didn't get along swimmingly as kids. There was one thing we agreed upon though: we hated those livestock booths. My parents brought us to the fair to expose us to farm culture; their two snotty suburban daughters sat outside the booths with shirts over their noses gagging from the smell.
You can imagine my parent's surprise when I told them I was moving to a farm. The surprise was even greater when I told them we were getting chickens. I'm sure the image of my sister and me with just our eyes and frizzy hair emerging from the neckline of our tank tops flashed through their minds.
In an effort to reclaim our family's food from the industrial void, my husband and I started growing and preserving our own produce, getting our milk from a local pastured cow to make our own dairy products, and established a beehive to aid pollination and produce our own honey. The next logical step in the progression is our own eggs and meat. And so now, despite my sensitive nose, we have chickens.
We ordered specialty breeds from a producer in Iowa. We scheduled them to arrive on a Saturday so my husband would be here. He raised chickens as a kid. Although he's not extremely experienced with poultry, he's obviously more experienced than the girl who wouldn't even enter the chicken booth. So, of course, they arrived on a Thursday.
With my husband at work, my father-in-law was gracious enough to allow us to use his pick-up to go get the chicks from the post office. As if picking up chickens wasn't already a leap into a different dimension, moving the rifle case, pack of Mt. Dew, and a collection of seed corn hats to pack Viv into the cab made it even more surreal. We walked into the post office, heard the adorable cheep-cheep-cheep echoing through the building, and announced that we were there for the chickens. The woman behind the counter smiled and told us, "that's the way to do it nowadays, with all the steroids and hormones in the food" and handed us this:
And so with much coaching over the phone, I filled the waterer, opened the package, dipped each one's little beak in the water, and transferred all fifteen layers and fifty meat birds to a new big box in our dining room. The toddler was in heaven watching sixty-five chicks climb all over each other. I was happy I didn't kill any of them.
We ate lunch and watched them a little more. I put Viv down for her nap. I came back into the dining area to the constant cheep-cheep-cheeping. It was just me and the chickens and a familiar funky smell. I planned on waiting for Nick to come home to get them in the coop, but their wet little feet and feathers along with the aroma in my formal dining area was quickly wearing on me.
After another coaching call I went to the coop, set up the waterer, turned on the heat lamps and opened the far side of the brooder box. I came back to my dining room and picked up the box of sixty-five chickens. With my sweatshirt over my nose, I walked our little darlings across the yard to their new residence. My sister would be proud.