Here’s a hypothetical situation for you:
Let’s say that, for a couple of years, you’d been considering raising a few chickens. This started back when you lived in California, where the backyard chicken craze was really taking off. But between three kids and no yard at all, it didn’t seem like a possibility. Then — hypothetically, of course — you moved to a small town in Vermont where everyone, it seemed, was raising chickens (among other things). You still had the three kids, but a much bigger yard. Chickens seemed like more of a possibility, albeit a remote one.
And then, right at the end of your first year in Vermont, when things with the kids and the house and the yard seemed to be getting under control, your daughter’s preschool class obtained an incubator full of eggs for hatching. Back when you were in preschool, your class hatched eggs, too, but you never really considered what happened to the chicks after they’d hatched and been cooed over by the class. No doubt they were driven out to the country somewhere. But NOW, YOU live in the country, so here’s what happens at your daughter’s preschool: Near the end of the 21-day incubation period, a sign-up sheet appears on a large poster, decorated by your daughter’s class with adorable chick pictures, which says, “HELP US FIND GOOD HOMES FOR OUR CHICKS!” The pick-up day is in one week.
Well, what would you do?!?
Here’s what I did: Called my husband, of course. Called him at his office, where he was busy fielding panicked undergraduates (whose entire lives apparently hung on their final grades in Introductory Statistics), when he wasn’t researching how to rid the world of poverty and disease.
“Free chicks,” I said.
“Um, okay, I guess so,” he replied.
And so I signed us up for three chicks. (Three, of course: one per girl).
Here’s what I did next: Rushed to the library to check out all the books I could find about raising chickens. The week in between signing up for the chicks and picking them up felt kind of like preparing for the arrival of three newborn babies…in seven days. We read, we looked online, we talked to our real live friends who raise chickens, we dragged the girls around to Agway and the Paris Farmers Union. Many times, we thought — and said — “What have we gotten ourselves into?” And Erick helpfully pointed out that my original declaration of “Free chicks!” was not, in fact accurate; that we’d fallen prey to the classic pet-store scam of giving away free goldfish, because the fish aren’t the expensive part.
But the girls had already picked names for their chicks. There was no going back.
They are currently living in a box under a heat lamp in our garage, while we scramble to build a backyard chicken coop in less than a month. (Helpers welcome!)
Our hope is to have three laying hens who will provide us with fresh eggs, eat the ticks in our yard, and somehow manage to survive the owls, hawks, foxes, skunks, possums, raccoons, weasels, dogs, and small children that our backyard has to offer. The problem is, it’s too early to tell if they’re hens or roosters, so please cross your fingers that they really do turn out to be the three Gong Girls.
“What if one — or more than one — turns out to be a rooster?” I asked one of our chicken-savvy friends.
“That,” she said, “is what you call ‘dinner.'”