Our Cornish-cross chicks arrived on Thursday morning, fresh from the hatchery in California. There are about 600 in all and they are all healthy! We didn’t lose any even though the shipment spent two days in the postal system. Those chicks are amazingly hardy for being so small. They can survive for at least a day on the nutrition they received from the yolk sac in the egg, without needing any additional food or water.
The chicks are shipped in cardboard boxes with holes in the sides and lids. Each box is divided into sections with about 25 chicks in each partition to prevent them from piling up and smothering each other during transport. In the middle of summer, the hatchery usually puts fewer chicks in each box so they don’t get too hot.
Our day begins when the local post office calls to let me know the chicks have arrived. The call usually comes at 5:30 or 6 a.m. We head straight to the post office, where the poor postal workers are enduring the incessant cheeping of hundreds of chicks. I think they’re always glad to see them leave! We pull up to the back loading dock of the post office and unload all the boxes off the postal carts and into our car. Then we head straight up to the farm where the heat lamps are already turned on and food and water is set out for the new arrivals.
Keith and I each take a stack of boxes into the brooder and work quickly to unload the chicks. They are so hungry, thirsty and cold at first! Each chick makes a bee-line straight for the water or feed as soon as its feet hit the ground. They run everywhere, peeping in a state of panic and you have to be very careful not to step on them.
After their little bellies get full and they find the heat, their cries of distress fade to a quiet murmur. They all huddle under the hovers and cozy up next to the heat lamps for warmth. Their eyes drift closed as they bask in the heat. Sometimes they fall over, they get so relaxed. It’s really adorable!
We will be getting at least 6 more batches of chicks as well as another couple hundred layer chicks for egg production, over the course of the summer. This kicks off the busy farm season! We’re looking forward to a good year in 2013!
Emmie loves the chicks. She has to stay up on a straw bale so that she doesn’t step on them, but she watches them intently, quivering with delight. I think the frenzy of little running birds really kicks her herding instincts into full gear – she really wants to get them all bunched up into one spot. She’s pretty adept at herding chickens, which comes in handy when these birds are bigger and sometimes escape from their pasture pens.