The Dangers of Shopping at Tractor Supply in Springtime

our babies

Let’s be 100% clear. This is not totally my fault.

Yes, I have been known to bring home stray dogs. Even stray donkeys. And yes, I have purchased rather large horses without consulting with Jim. Guilty.

But this time, I’m not to blame. Not totally.

We stopped at Tractor Supply on Sunday JUST to grab a bag of horse feed. That’s all. Quick stop. In, grab the feed, get back out. Simple.

Let me preface the rest of this story by telling you that Jim happened to bring home a flyer all about raising baby chickens. Odd, but they were handing them out at check-out last time he was there. Yeah. He just picked it up and happened to bring it home. He wasn’t suggesting anything.

OR WAS HE?

So back to Sunday.

We were heading back to the stacks of horse feed…which happen to be directly adjacent to the area where they keep baby chicks every spring. Little tiny peeps popping into the air were like the magnet of a siren song. My feet made a beeline.

“Awwwww…look. Jim. LOOOOOOK.”

He was looking. And looking. And I was looking. And looking.

And we looked at each other.

Were we about to be really spontaneous? It’s really not a great idea to decide to add an animal to your world on a whim. It’s really not. I tell people that all the time.

But Jim and I are admittedly not normal people. And we’ve been pondering the idea of adding chickens to the farm for some time now. There are perks.

Eggs.

Weed control.

Bug control.

Justification. BAM.

Our “in the door, out the door” quick stop into Tractor Supply turned into an hour-long shopping extravaganza (would eggs-travaganza be too cute here? Perhaps).

We bought a stock tank to serve as a nursery. We bought a heat lamp, chick feed, a feeder and special water bowl. We had to have wood shavings for bedding. Oh, and a book all about raising chicks.

And yeah, we bought chicks. Jim let me pick them out. One because it was pretty. One because it was spunky. Another because it wasn’t doing well and I couldn’t bear to leave it there with the other chicks stepping on it. Two because I loved the white spots on their little black heads. Two more because they were sexed pullets so we would be guaranteed at least two hens. The rest could be roosters, or they could be hens…a total gamble. Fingers crossed for more girls than boys!

We raced home, laughing at ourselves for our spur-of-the-moment new farming enterprise. We set up the nursery in our garage with a heater to keep the air warm and the heat lamp affixed to one end of the trough. Nursery complete, we introduced the little peepers to their new digs.

Six of them immediately started investigating. Our little quiet one just sat in the warmth of the heat lamp. Sadly, despite our best efforts (and we did try!), the tiny little guy, who was struggling when we bought him, didn’t make it.

We kind of knew that was going to happen. But hey, he got to be loved for just a little bit there.

The remaining six were still doing quite well. They were active, they were eating and drinking, and they were pooping. In fact, some got a little poop stuck to their tiny, fuzzy bums. But…um…it would fall off, right?

After arriving at work this morning, I checked in with my co-worker and resident chicken expert, Lindsay. She informed me that poopy chicken butts must be cleaned immediately or the babies could get sick.

Huh.

So I called Jim. Here’s how that conversation went…

Me: “Hey, you know how some of the baby chicks have poop stuck to their butts?”
Jim: “Yeah…”
Me: “Well, Lindsay says that’s bad and needs to be cleaned off asap.”
Jim: “So you’re saying you want me to go out and wash chicken butts?”
Me: “Yes. Yes I am.”
Jim: “Don’t you want me to wait so you can video that for Facebook?”

Oh Jim. You get me. You really get me.

And yeah…I sort of DID want to be able to video that little feat of chicken grooming. But the need for clean butts trumped my desire to have him wait the eight hours so I could document it. Plus, I’m guessing we’ll have another opportunity…or six.

All in all, I’d say we’re off to a great start as chicken farmers at Tails You Win Farm. Especially if I arrive home to nothing but shiny, clean chick tushies.

You’re on that, right Jim?

Jim?

 

 

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The Night Shift.

Home from the hunt

If you look closely, you will see what Kainan sees. One to the far right, one to the far left. The night shift is heading home.

The young couple heads home from the night shift. Traffic is light. Most of the world is still stretching and shaking off the last fog of sleep.

They have had a busy night. They always have a busy night. Their work follows routine, familiar trails where the likelihood of finding field mice, bunnies, and other small prey is high. It’s hard work, especially in the winter, but now the days are a bit longer, and the warmer temperatures mean bounty. Their full bellies will now provide sustenance for the warm, squirming secret they have tucked safely in a deep burrow by the big pond.

Now it is time to rest. Time to recover. Time to enjoy the safety of their haven. Tonight, when the moon peeks above the treeline, it will be their cue to clock-in once again. They will announce the start of their work night with a mellifluous chorus and the neighboring workforce will answer. It’s an ancestral ritual, passed through generations. It is a confirmation of life, of boundaries, of territory.

On this morning, just as at sunrise yesterday, the young coyotes dart carefully and purposefully from the cover of the trees across the open pasture. It is this last part of their path that leaves them open, vulnerable in the morning spotlight.  But they are not afraid. They know this place; they know the others who share their home.

The dogs come rushing out of the house, but the coyotes know they will stop. They have a fence they will honor. The wild ones pause, sitting to watch the silly dogs racing up and down the fence shattering the early morning peace with their frustrated cries. The coyotes know the dogs will soon become bored with this game. They will go back to the house to do whatever it is domestic dogs do.

But they know one will remain. He is different. He doesn’t bark, he doesn’t race around aimlessly. He just watches with quiet intensity. This one both fascinates and unnerves the coyotes. There is something about him that is like them, but also very different. He is huge and powerful in comparison to their lithe, agile frames. Even from a distance, they are able to meet and hold his gaze, for just a moment, before moving on. They know this one.

Often, during their night shift, they sense him there. He lies in the big yard, but he does not sleep like the other dogs do. He watches. He samples the wind with his long snout. His ears remain alert and pinpointed to their every move.

Yes, this one is different. He seems to understand the need that drives the coyotes every single night. He will sit and watch them in rain, snow, or cold. On some level, he seems a part of their world. But no, he is on the wrong side of the fence. He lives in the house.

The big wolfdog watches. Every morning he sees the coyotes cross the field. Part of him wants to race the fence and bark at them with his housemates, but he never does. He sits back and studies. He knows by the scent on the wind that this pair has young in a burrow just behind the big tree on the north side of the pond. He knows they work long nights. It is a job called survival.

On some deep level he is drawn to them. Sometimes he adds his deep howl to their evening chorus, speaking a language that was born to him. He could go. The fence that separates his world from theirs is not insurmountable.

But he doesn’t go. The other half of his brain always wins. He watches as the coyotes disappear into the camouflage of dense brush that leads to their home. Then the big wolfdog turns back toward the house, where he hears the call that puts his wild side to bed for the day and summons the playful dog.

“Kainan! Breakfast!”