Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bringing 100 Babies Home

Bringing home 100 new chickens is a lot like bringing a new baby home.  Don't roll your eyes until you've heard me out.

The onesies have all been washed in Dreft and neatly folded.  The hospital bag (or suitcase) is waiting by the door.  The diapers are lined up neatly in a cute little pastel-colored basket.  You have a birthing plan.  You've read the full What to Expect series.  This baby will not dictate the schedule.  You will get her on a sleeping and eating schedule, nap when she naps, all will be well.  Why does everyone else seem to struggle so much with this baby stuff?  
Then, you actually go into labor (or get the call from the adoption agency), meet your beautiful baby, bring her home, and then ALL HECK BREAKS LOOSE!  
A few months later you emerge from the haze and there are diapers everywhere, you can't remember the last time you had 3 hours of consecutive sleep, every last onesie is covered in spit-up, and it still seems that wee one is calling every last shot regarding when she (and by extension, you) will eat, sleep, and cry.  And, when you look into the mirror for the first time in three days, you notice a smear some unidentified dried substance on your cheek and would not be at all surprised if it's poo.
Or in the case of chickens . . . 
You clean out the mini-fridge, set it up all cute-like on the front porch, handpaint a sign to hang at the road, gather tons of egg cartons (thanks, FB friends!), stack up the bags of feed into a nice and neat pile, purchase your egg-gathering basket, erect temporary electric fencing to protect them, make a plan for when you will feed/gather eggs/water, etc.  Then you bring them home and ALL HECK BREAKS LOOSE!

First, the chicken wagon nearly takes you all out (read yesterday's post, if this doesn't sound familiar).  Then, you realize they can probably fly over the fencing you've erected, so you start your Sunday morning by climbing into the chicken wagon with your husband and 100 confused chickens, catching each one, and clipping her left wing before tossing her out into the field.  100 chickens. Unfortunately, zero of them were down with this plan.  When I emerged from the wagon, I looked like I was giving some new chicken-poop-based all-natural skin and hair treatment a try.
After a quick shower and trip to church and back, you remove the poo-covered nesting boxes from inside the wagon, haul them to the house and give them a thorough cleaning, while once again getting covered in poo. 
Clean nesting boxes, reinstalled
Then, you decide to move the 7 old chickens from your backyard over to the farm with the other 100.  The only problem is at nightfall when everyone else is marching up the ladder and into the wagon for bedtime, the new gals can't figure out where the heck to go, so as a family, you have to corner and catch them and place them in the house. 
But, in the dark of the chicken wagon, it becomes obvious why the nesting boxes were so disgusting.  They chickens have been roosting/pooping in them all night.  So, in the dark, you have to relocate about 50 sleeping chickens to different perches for the night and seal off the boxes, so that they can't return to roost in the wrong spot.  If you happen to be a chicken farmer with a slight bit of chicken phobia, then reaching into a dark nesting box when you can't even tell which part of the chicken you're grabbing is not high on your list of most-fun-ways-to-spend-an-evening (I'm not naming names, but said chicken farmer is not me). 
Are they really out of feed already?  They need more water?  Why did we leave the chicken catching hook back at the house?  Has it really only been two days since we brought them home?  Why did I clip chickens wings all night in my dreams? 

The thing is, though, much like when you watch that new little one sleeping peacefully, when I just sit back and watch 100 chickens scratch and peck and take a dust bath and just enjoy being chickens on a warm, sunny day, I just get giddy. 
We're not yet in a routine.  We don't yet have the eggs in the front-porch fridge.  I may have been just a little late to pick the kids up from school today.  But we're all still loving it.  I know that because when I say, "who's ready to run over to the farm with me real quick?"  the kids still hoot and holler like we're headed to the county fair.  Or, when I pick Girl 1 up from dance and tell her a story that begins with, "You're not going to believe what happened at the farm while you were in practice,"  I end it with, "I bet you're glad you missed out on that one, huh?" And she replies, "I don't know, Mom.  It may have been kinda crazy, but it sounds like I missed out on an adventure."
And, like parenting in the earliest days (and, let's be honest, forever onward), this is an adventure . . . a beautiful, poop-smeared adventure.  And, so far, I wouldn't trade a single minute of it. 

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