The chickens have finally come home! And what a humbling experience buying our first-ever chicks was. Walking into Belle Feeds in Gobles, where they are having their annual "Chick Days", we realized how little we knew about farm life.
The chicks were all sorted into different Rubbermaid tubs, with a heat lamp hanging over them for warmth. This would be the same set-up we would use (little did we know that until we got there and asked what we had to do!). We chose six egg-layers and six meat chickens, and got all the accesories: red heat lamp (the red glow apparently calms the otherwise-aggressive broiler chickens), waterer, feeding disk, chick feed, and pine shavings and straw for bedding. We got lots of help from the eight year-old boy who was there buying his chicks to raise for the season, who taught us that we might need to add oyster shells to their feed when they get a bit older, to ensure that there eggs have hard shells.
On the way home, we stopped at another Belle Feeds to ask even more questions, like how often to change the bedding (every day or two), how long to keep them on the chick feed (4-8 weeks), and what we could give them to help raise them as organically as possible (bugs, worms, grubs, and veggie scraps).
One thing we realized is how little we city kids know. It's amazing to me that 80% of our population lives in urban areas and most of them no longer know how to do these ordinary farm things, like raising chickens and goats, and growing and preserving their own food. Once upon a time these were skills that were necessary for survival. I guess I never thought about it when I was growing up. I mean, chicken comes from the grocery store, right?
We have a lot of learning to do, that's for sure. In the meantime, at least there are a lot of helpful farm kids out there who are more than happy to share their knowledge with some silly old adults!