So with all the enthusiasm of a misguided and uninformed fool I went online to purchase my flock of chickens. Fifteen birds would be the minimum required order with a bonus bird thrown in for free! After carefully making my selections I pressed that “BUY NOW” button and with that my wait commenced for fourteen hens, one rooster plus one mystery, exotic bird for free! The chick’s hatch date was set for June 21st, add to that shipping time from Iowa and I could expect my new “friends” delivered to my local post office on June 23rd. I had just one month to get ready. Needless to say I was very excited!
With the chicks on order next up was, what I considered to be, a minor construction project. I would need to build a chicken coop and, of course, other excellent ideas began flowing, a veritable floodgate of genius I dare say. My first excellent idea (and profound misstep) was to build my chicken coop inside one of my garage bays. I’d reasoned that with two walls already in place all I’d need to do is build two more. “No problem” I thought. Then in the name of economy I decided to incorporate “stuff” I had laying around into my project. Things like… old garage door panels, a bi-fold door, chicken wire salvaged from my failed compost bin and adding to that the cost of “a little” rough-cut lumber from a nearby sawmill and I’d have a coop. So with my plan drawn carefully inside my head, a set timeframe of one month, my ultra-rookie power tool skills intact and loads of enthusiasm oozing from every pore of my being I got to work.
I must admit it never occurred to me that I’d taken on a project too big for a beginner working alone. It just never crossed my mind. That is as they say when “ignorance is bliss.”
As construction on the chicken coop began things seemed to be going smoothly and time seemed not to be an issue. Every night after work I would go out into the garage-soon-to-be-chicken-coop and begin work. Well after dark during that spring of 2015 I could be found measuring and cutting and then re-measuring and re-cutting. Somehow every cut seemed to be wrong but I pushed on. As the days ticked by my coop building schedule was coming to critical mass. Time was running out and so I worked well past midnight many evenings after work listening to the coyotes and coy dogs who seemed to be howling just outside the garage window. I was wide-eyed and just a little afraid each night when I ran faster than I thought this body could ever move from the garage to the safety of my house.
And then one day it was done. I could breathe and I made a trip to Tractor Supply for chick stuff. I would need wood shavings, a heat lamp, feed and water dispenser, chick feed… and on and on. Like an expectant mother I readied my “nursery” and then one day an email notification was delivered to my inbox telling me my chicks were on the way by United States Postal Service Express Delivery. I’d made arrangements to take the day off from work and when I got the call early on June 23rd I rushed over to the post office to pick up my new charges.
Now I knew that I was getting live baby chicks but somehow when I walked into my local post office and heard an insistent “chirp…. Chirp… CHIRP… chirp…. Chirp… CHIRP,” I was surprised and at that moment realized the gravity of what I had done. I was still very excited but soon the weight and responsibility of caring for sixteen little creatures whose care I knew nothing, absolutely nothing about would sink in.
Inside that chirping box I found my chick order fulfilled – 6 Black Australorps, 9 Buff Orpingtons (8 hens and 1 rooster) and 1 free mystery bird − and every single one was alive. Once home I followed the instructions included with my chick shipment… dipping beaks into water, showing each the food dish, watching for pasty butt (that can be fatal) and cleaning a few butts showing pasty butt potential. Within one day of their arrival this new chicken keeper’s learning curve had arced. Oh but there was more to learn than I ever realized and heartbreak arrived within 24-hours when one of my Black Australorp chicks died and before the week was out one Buff Orpington chicks would also die. It was heartbreaking and I felt responsible somehow. I buried them in the backyard.