One year ago we welcomed 26 day-old chicks to Hebron Acres (buff Orpingtons and barred Plymouth Rocks). We were excited because they represented the first livestock on our place. That day began with a phone call from the post office informing us that our chicks were ready to be picked up. Kelli answered the call and then informed me what it was about. I jumped out of bed and threw on some clothes and started the truck to get it good and warm in the cab.

Before their arrival, we built a brooder box and had it lined with special wood chips. We carefully set up the feeder and waterer and built a small wire platform so that it kept them both out of poo and chips. Before I left for the post office I turned on the heat lamp and stood looking over the arrangements satisfied that I was bringing home animals to a safe, warm and secure environment.

With box on the seat of my pick up with toasty warm cab, peeps resounded and I smiled as I headed home. Having these animals seemed to legitimize our efforts at Hebron Acres. Like a kid at Christmas I opened the small box to reveal the cutest little fuzz balls.

Introducing them to the brooder meant taking them out one by one and dipping their beak in the water. Many peeped their displeasure, but once they figured out what it was, they drank to contentment. They squabbled around the brooder which was more than large enough for them to explore. Once they found the heat source, they hunkered down.

Each day found us making multiple visits to the brooder to watch them and check for the dreaded crusted butt syndrome. We found a rhythm to the process and it was as if we counted ourselves among the fraternity of livestock owners whose days are defined by animal care. This was a gross exaggeration, of course, but we enjoyed the little fantasy.

Waiting for their back feathers to form over the weeks, we were able to make the final touches on the coop and run and give them a good thick bedding of hay. As the days grew warm, I introduced the brooder box to the outdoors for short periods. When their back feathers were formed, the chicks were introduced into the coop. We watched them and taught them as they taught us. It was a new way of life and it felt good.

Fast forward to March of 2017 and the arrival of 16 more day-old chicks (Easter Eggers) was met with not much fanfare and a quick scramble to get the brooder prepared. After about 10 minutes of beak dipping and orientation, I stepped away from the brooder to go get ready for my day job thinking how I had seen this all before and it was okay not to be overly excited about the new arrivals.

I remember that we didn’t take nearly as many photos of our second child as we did with our first and kind of felt bad about that fact. Though not to the same degree of regret, I did feel as if it was wrong to not be as excited for this new batch of chicks as I was the year before for the first.

To be very candid, I found myself thinking more of those future pastel colored eggs than about the chicks I had at hand. I have to stop and think to go check on them where before the brooder was a source of entertainment and wonder. I’m not happy that I have this change in excitement.

Today, the enthusiasm that I felt had left me got a small boost. As I was walking down the hall at work a colleague passed me and remarked how she loved the photos of the chicks I’d posted on my Facebook timeline. Our small dog is very enthusiastic for this new batch of chicks. Far more than she was for the first. Maybe in some small way she’s making up for my lack.

This doesn’t mean they get any less care or poor quality care. We do pride ourselves on taking care of our animals in a humane and careful manner. Soon, these young birds will be roaming over three acres of good scratching and hunting enjoying the tastes of the farm. I’m confident they will be plump healthy laying hens before we know it and dropping beautiful butt nuggets, as some folks are fond of calling them. Integrating them into the existing flock is the next trick, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. I’m sure the girls will work themselves out. In the meantime, I’m going to make a better effort to engage these cute little fuzz balls a bit more.

Dan Grubbs

Dan Grubbs, editor of Stewardculture, lives in northwest Missouri where he is implementing and managing a permaculture-style design on his 15-acre homestead. A weekly teacher of the Bible, Dan believes that an agrarian lifestyle is one in which he can answer God's calling to steward creation through regenerative techniques that attempt to mimic God's design.

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