I had no idea that you could buy chicks at a store. I’m not sure where I thought people bought them, but I was pretty sure that it wasn’t from a retailer that not only sold farm supplies, but also sold a wide assortment of food and country/western clothing and giant bags of sugared orange slices at the front counter. When I was young, living in that small Illinois town, I remember riding my bike every morning to the post office to get the mail. In the springtime, the post office would be filled with the sound of frantic peeping when the local farmers’ chicks arrived in big boxes with holes in the sides. This whole idea of just walking into a store and picking out baby chicks was completely foreign. Where I’d lived near Chicago, when you bought chickens in a store, you usually bought a couple of bottles of barbecue sauce too. Now we were on our way to the farm store and I had no idea what was waiting there. I was nearly insane with excitement.
The “CHICK DAYS” banner was stretched across the front of the store when we pulled up. Apparently, this was a big deal down here in southern Indiana. I’d been to this particular store before and it’s very “no frills”…although they do have free popcorn in a large popping machine with a warmer at the front of the store that was usually surrounded by old guys in seed corn company hats and plaid shirts. I didn’t remember ever seeing live animals of any kind for sale, so I had no idea where to find these alleged chicks who were the unwitting stars of “CHICK DAYS”. My son pointed to the floor.
The concrete was painted with yellow chicken tracks that trailed toward the back of the store. I think I might have squealed a bit…maybe jumped up and down a little…and then set off following the tracks. My son and husband followed behind me in a single file line. We followed the tracks toward the back corner of the store (I might have been skipping) and suddenly my son broke the single line formation and rushed past me. In the furthest back corner of the store were stock tanks set up with warming lights…lots of them. We had arrived at what I would come to call “Chicktopia”.
Each stock tank was labeled on the outside with the name of the breed of bird that it contained. I didn’t really pay much attention to it because inside the tanks was an undulating sea of yellow, constantly peeping fuzzy down. They were pecking tiny food crumbles from long feeders, stomping all over each other and just being generally adorable. I almost had to lie down from the overload of adorable. My son (who is 21), was smitten. I was a little sweaty. How in the world do you pick out chicks? I mean, you can’t go by picking out a “cute” one…you’d be there for the rest of your life. After walking from tank to tank for what seemed like hours, I finally stopped at a tank in the corner filled with an assortment of chicks of different breeds. All I could think about was my trillion dollar egg business as I watched the chicks totter around the tank on their tiny baby feet. The sign above the tank said “SIX CHICK MINIMUM PURCHASE”. Six? I’m good with six. A kid working at the store scuffed over with a cardboard box chick carrier and said wearily “Anything I can help you with?” I managed to get out something about wanting chicks…but only six…and watched while he and my son scooped three black chicks and three chipmunk colored chicks into the waiting box.
My husband was trying to figure out where we were going to keep these things and finally settled on a black, rubber stock watering tank that wasn’t the size of a Prius. We picked out chick starter, grit, a heat lamp, feeders and other chick sundries while the box peeped incessantly in the cart. My son alternated between saying how cute they were and offering me recipe ideas. We finally made it to the checkout lanes with our chick stuff and our frantically peeping box and headed for the car…which is when I noticed that my son was wearing a sticker that said “I SAW THE CHICKS TODAY”. Did I mention he’s 21?
We got home with our new charges and set up the brooder box with fresh pine shavings, the heat lamp and food and water and added our new babies to their temporary home. They toddled around and sampled the food and water while breaking all laws about being cute. They were IMPOSSIBLY cute. I hung over the top of the brooder and was immediately, hopelessly and wildly in love with them.
An addiction was born…and I knew…I needed MORE. I hadn’t read about chicken math yet. Chicken math is a phenomenon that chicken owners are afflicted with and I apparently had a terrible case of it. The ordinance I’d read said that where we lived, I could have more than six chickens. If you’re stricken with chicken math, it doesn’t matter how many you already have, you always need more.
More. Yep…that’s what I needed.