Note: This article I wrote showed up in the Northfield News last week!
In less than two months, our youngest batch of layers changed from adorable fluff balls to gawky little birds that are still growing their feathers, leaving bald patches here and there. They darted around their coop as I filled their feeders today, and it seemed like a whole era had passed since they were cute baby peepers.
We had a power outage in the brooder a couple hours after the babies first arrived in December, which knocked out the heat lamps that kept them warm. To survive their first week, chicks need heat. Thankfully, we discovered the problem quickly and replaced a fuse to bring the lights back on, but we lost a few more than usual that first week.
In a way, the chicks that didn’t make it will always be little fluff balls while the rest of their flock has moved on into a new stage of life without looking back.
Unlike chickens, people look back. In my mind, I can see a perfectly clear picture of those cuties. Maybe because I worried about them so much after their heat lights went out. The picture of those baby chicks seems almost as real to me as the young birds that are darting around their coop with their newly grown feathers.
My life before farming is preserved in my mind like those long-gone baby chicks. When we visit my husband’s parents in our old Minneapolis neighborhood, I see houses that I passed hundreds of times while we lived there, and feel as though we’ll be pulling up in front of our old home any minute.
The life that I imagine stepping into is almost six years out of date. The blonde preschooler who toddled those sidewalks is on the verge of middle school. Some of the friends who kept our old house sociable and warm have faded from our lives, and people that we didn’t know six years ago have become like family. I can almost see myself walking those sidewalks, preoccupied and dreaming again about whether or not I’d ever be able to farm.
I’m so grateful I could make those dreams reality by moving away with the family and raising some chickens. The dreams of farming were adorable and cuddly, and the reality is gawky and awkward, but I’m OK with that. It shows me that things are moving along the way they should be. Chicks that never make it past their cute phase don’t survive to run around in the clover. They’ll never squawk, or tilt their funny heads to get a better look at me, or run around proud with a worm. They’ll never give eggs or meat.
In my memory though, the chicks will always be bouncy balls of fluff. Some of those memories will stay with me for a long time, and others will slip away unnoticed, maybe when all my thoughts are busy with work and the riot of spring.