I am a terrible chicken mother.
Two weekends ago, our family brought home 13 chicks from the local farm and feed store. We’ve raised chickens before but haven’t for the past couple of years. To be honest, raising chickens from chicks is a royal pain in the ass. We swore up and down that we would never cross that road again, but for whatever reason, my husband and I completely forgot about the hundreds of conversations on the topic.
My father pointed out that 13 was an unlucky amount of chicks to purchase. Maybe he was right – three days after we brought the girls home, Peep III kicked the bucket. This morning we found little Butterscotch had also bought the farm. I think we got a defective batch of yellow chicks.
The thing about chickens… until they start laying those delicious, farm-fresh eggs, all they do is eat and poop. Eat, poop, eat, poop, eat, snooze, poop. Their cage (or in our case, tub) needs cleaned out daily. They stink. Terribly. And I cannot stand poop or the smell of poop. Gag.
And last weekend, four of our cute little remaining chicks had a poopy problem. Nickle-sized balls of poo stuck to their little tail feathers. Bleh.
So, I did what I thought any caring, concerned chicken mother would do. I ran them a warm bath.
In hindsight, that was probably the worst plan of action possible. Young chicks are extremely fragile creatures and super sensitive to temperature. Yet here I was, plucking the girls out from underneath the heat lamp in the garage, and walking them one by one, to dunk them in a tepid, soapy, sink full of water.
The first and most adventurous chick to take the plunge, seemed to love the bath! She sat quietly, eyeing her surroundings (my kitchen) as we ceremoniously dubbed her “Aqua Girl”. As her younger adopted sisters were added to the water, however, my kitchen was filled with loud, shrill chirping.
The noise and the water and the procedure of removing a poo ball from Chick #4 must have been too much for her. She went absolutely spastic. She began chirping even louder, flailing about. She was being quite the drama queen.
I scooped her out of the water, dried her off with a wad of paper towels and put her back under the heat lamp with the rest of the chicks.
It’s at this point in my story, dear readers, that I prompt you with a small disclaimer: What you are about to read may be disturbing to some audience members. Proceed with caution…
Worried that the bath was too much for Chick #4, I hovered around the chicken tub like an anxious parent. She couldn’t stay upright. She kept flopping over like a wet noodle. I was sick with worry. I felt utterly helpless as I watched my smallest chick suddenly flip over on her back and start convulsing.
“She’s seizing!” I screamed to my husband, who shot me a look of worry… or annoyance. Whatever. I scooped the little girl up, wrapped her jerking body in the front of my t-shirt and rushed to our bathroom. We blasted her small body with scorching air from my hair dyer. After a few minutes of certain deafness, her tiny body stopped shaking, but her eyes remained closed.
“I’m calling time of death,” my husband snickered as he waltzed out of the bathroom. As I mourned my little unnamed chick, a sudden epiphany.
I grabbed an empty box, stuck my trusty heating pad in the bottom, and created a billowy oasis with my husband’s bath towel. I wrapped Chick #4’s frail body up in the towel, turned the heating pad on high, and went to drown my sorrows in a bottle of Bourbon Barrel-aged Cabernet.
After finishing my second glass of liquid courage, I crept into the bathroom, fingers crossed, to take a peek at my roasting chick. And wouldn’t you know it, she was alive!!
She started chirping softly as I approached the box. Her eyes were wide and dark, but with a new sense of calm. Her black and grey down looked like she had just paid a visit to the local salon for a blow-out. She didn’t squawk when I picked her up and carried her back to her tub with the other girls. Maybe I am not such a bad chicken mother after all?
If I hadn’t been knee deep in a bottle of wine at this point, I probably could have come up with something a bit more clever. But from that day forward, Chick #4 became Lucky Girl.
And yes, Lucky Girl is still kicking it, four days later.