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The peep show

Queenie, Widow's Peak, Miney, Mo, and Fudge Pie have left the brooder bin.

By Lisa Brunette

Since Mother’s Day is tomorrow, and Anthony and I are empty nesters, I thought I’d wish you a happy mom’s day with the above video, along with some heartwarming chick picks.

By week No. 3, the chicks were feathering out as fast as the days go by, and every time we lifted the mesh top of their brooder bin, they flapped around like it was an invitation to explore the garden proper.

Around this same time, I reconnected with a good friend of mine from my small-town days—Anthony and I lived in Chehalis, Washington, for three years between Seattle and St. Louis. It’s a decidedly rural town of about 7,000 residents, and one of the best people living there (or anywhere, for that matter!) is Erin Hillier, who’s raised chickens for 12 years. Erin encouraged me to let them out of the brooder bin so they could explore the chickshaw at will, retaining the heat lamp for warmth since they’re still growing feathers.

It was a great move, as the chicks immediately tested and stretched their wings, and the lamp keeps them plenty warm. Overnight temps are no lower than 43°F now, and in the daytime it’s ranging into the 60s and has already crested above 80 a couple of times.

We’ll keep them in the chickshaw, though, until they’re fully feathered and ready to range the garden, at which point we’ll use the chickshaw wheels to our advantage and rotation-graze them throughout our 1/4-acre.

What’s really fun about this breed—speckled Sussex—is how the first feathers to emerge were these epaulets, making them look like little Skeksis.

They’re full-on teens now, with all of the awkwardness that stage entails. For my sister, Amy’s, birthday, we had her whole family over, along with my brother’s girlfriend and her two kids. I baked cupcakes, and they were gone in a flash, but the stars of the day were the chickens. Look how happy they made Amy and her family!

My brother-in-law Dan, who dreams of homesteading himself, got right in there with the chicks, holding them for my nieces when they were a bit shy about it.

A lot of the day was spent chatting while standing over the chickshaw, watching the peep show, or what Erin likes to call “Chick TV.”

Admittedly, I’m pretty new at this whole chick-raising thing and still in the ga-ga stage, but I seriously wish I hadn’t waited till my fifties to take it up. Where have these chicks been all my life? I’d like to know.

If you’re on the fence yourself about animal husbandry, let me encourage you to take the leap. We have just five chicks, and it’s totally manageable. You don’t have to go all-out and have a chickshaw built like we did, either. There are some good coop designs out there, or maybe you’re more skilled than we are and can build one yourself!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the hens! And I mean that as a great compliment.

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Brunette Gardens
Brunette Gardens
Lisa Brunette