I always know it’s spring, even if the weather doesn’t agree, because it’s baby season. Not the human kind, those with very tiny feathers.
Last year was the first co-chickening endeavor with my neighbors. We lost a lot of them though – our chickens range freely, and hawks and coyotes are a perpetual risk. Just last night we lost Sweet Pea, our last Buff Orpington chicken.
Melissa, my neighbor, and I agreed that it was time to try a rooster again, but because we need to quickly augment a flock that is now down to 6 chickens, this morning we went to get 8 new baby chicks. It takes more than 10 to keep both houses in daily eggs, and we can go up to 18 residents in the coop.
We somehow came home with 4 baby ducks as well, which has been my daughter’s dream for almost a year. The ducks will live with the chickens in their coop when they are older, but for now, 2 shaving-filled plastic bins fill my house, and little shaving droppings are everywhere, no matter how much I clean up after them.
I wouldn’t trade it though, I adore chickens, and I think the ducks may be even more fun.
Chickens can have overhead – feed, heat lamps and heated waterers in the winter, and shavings for the coop. But in comparison to their willingness to consume most of the leftover food in the house, as well as the fact that they lay an egg a day each, eat ticks with abandon, and their waste fortifies the soil, the overhead is worth it. I never feel like we waste food here, because adult chickens will eat everything from week-old macaroni and cheese that got lost in the back of the fridge to the wilted lettuce from yesterday’s salad.
All they ask in return is a safe place to sleep, food and water.
So back to babies. Those tiny little balls of fluff grow fast, but there’s nothing like a newly hatched chick nestled asleep in your hand to make you appreciate life. And chicks are a great life lesson in responsibility for kids.
But most of all to me, chicks are a tiny – literal and figurative – sign of spring. Spring is the season for babies in nature, of starting over, of renewal. And most of all, of the human capacity for love.
Happy spring from my home to yours.