Above: red roses for the Reds, a white for the Leghorn, and an orange for my Buffy.
After listening to some advice that we get back in the chicken-keeping saddle, yesterday I made a call to Belt Hatchery to order more chicks. They happened to answer the phone when I called (which doesn’t usually happen). They happen to ship on Wednesdays, and they happened to have exactly the chicks I wanted right then and there. Would I like them shipped out this afternoon? Feeling a bit emotional (and hence impulsive), I said, Sure, why not?
And, like clockwork, a bit before 8 a.m. this morning the post office called.
It was decidedly surreal driving to the post office this morning to pick up new babies when the others weren’t even all buried — and when I was still ready to cry at any mention of my lost chicks. But it was also good, in a life keeps on sort of way, and also in a holy cow, did the other chicks really start out this small? sort of way. Looking at the six remaining older chicks, and then at the itsy-bitsy day-old babies, I was halfway convinced that perhaps the hatchery had made a mistake and sent us bantams (miniature chickens) instead.
Emmett assured me that the other chicks had, indeed, started out this small. And that’s a miracle in and of itself — how quickly creatures can go from tiny, helpless things, into fully-feathered, sassy, full-of-personality teenagers, from generic little imps into birds you know and care about.
But the true miracle of the day came when Emmett and I drove over to the coop to bury the chicks.
Now, yesterday, both Emmett and I had separately made several visits to the coop just to double-check… just in case one of the babies had managed to make it back home, and was huddling, lonely, in the empty structure. Each time, we walked up, hoping to hear a little cheep-cheep and see one of our little ladies fluffing her feathers, scratching in the hay, or wandering around in search of her lost sisters. But each time, the coop was empty.
And then, this morning, when we were only thinking of funerals, what should we hear when we pull up but a little cheep cheep cheep.
I admit to a moment of delusional denial: for a second I thought, maybe most of them are back, maybe this was all a bad dream, maybe the fox just took a few of them and the others had hidden in some tree and found their way back home. That’s how it would have happened if life were like The Incredible Journey, or Homeward Bound, after all.
It wasn’t exactly like when Shadow ran into the arms of his waiting boy — but still, when Emmett and I walked up to the coop, incredulous, one little Rhode Island Red ran up to the door to greet us.
Somehow, this little miracle chick not only survived a fox attack, she also survived two nights outside, and one full day, all by herself. We couldn’t believe it.
A new start, a miracle — and a funeral. Emmett and I buried the last of the chicks — two Rhode Island Reds, and the lone wing of my favorite little Buff Orpington, which was the hardest by far — later this morning. We promised to make the coop into a steely, impenetrable fortress, so that something like this would never happen again. Many tears were shed. (In fact, I’m tearing up just thinking of Buffy right now… the way she would always fly out of the brooder as soon as the lid came off, just to get a better vantage point, and the way she’d come right out to the edge of the coop as soon as I opened the door, and step up onto my hand. The newest little Buff Orp has a lot to live up to.)
But it’s pretty hard not to smile, even through tears, when you find yourself watching day-old chicks, and one little Rhode Island Red picks up a piece of poop and starts running around with it the way chickens do when they’ve got a tasty morsel they don’t want stolen by anyone else. This particular little one was darting all around the brooder, pulling out all kinds of evasive maneuvers, all so nobody would rob her of… her poop.