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A Conversation About - Baby Chicks

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 2/29/24 | 2/29/24

By Jean Thomas

It’s the time of year when we cannot avoid the thought of baby birds. Most obviously, we are inundated with chocolate and marshmallow baby chicks sold for Easter whenever we go grocery shopping. There’s another day in the spring that’s considered by some to be as exciting as Easter. It’s the day the farm store brings out the baby chicks!!!!! And some baby ducks, too, in the interest of full disclosure.                                        

Baby chick visits become mandatory for small children, and some days the piping noises are as loud from outside the pens as from the inside. There is a considerable contingent of adults who are equally enchanted by these noisy little fluff balls. They are, they claim, motivated by the thought of future healthy free range eggs. Some will admit to a fondness for dining on poultry, but these are fewer by far. In episode 62 of “Nature Calls, Conversations from the Hudson Valley,” Professor Nicole  Childrose discusses the realities of raising chickens. She manages to maintain a starry-eyed attitude even while going into gruesome detail about the ways things can go wrong.  Listen in at any podcast platform or at  https://ccecolumbiagreene.org/gardening/nature-calls-conversations-from-the-hudson-valley/episode-62-raising-chickens . Prof Childrose often teaches a course in raising chickens at Columbia Greene Community College, but this spring she is expanding her scope a bit and is teaching a class on “Starting Your Small Farm” via Zoom. The college has a continuing education catalog available online at  columbiagreene.edu/continuingeducation or call to register at (518) 697-6370,if you want to explore her class a bit.

Here come the warnings about baby chicks: they’re not pets. Don’t give them as Easter gifts (unless the recipient already has a chicken coop and is 4-H qualified). I find myself grumbling about “how can people be so dumb?” then I check into my own memory banks and remind myself that we all have to learn. The key thing at this stage is that they are, indeed, babies. So preparation is important. You won’t get lovely fresh eggs very soon. If you know anything about babies, human or feathered, you already know they do little but eat and excrete. Be prepared. And you “ain’t seen nuthin’” until you see a teenaged chicken changing from fluff ball to feathered friend. Not pretty. They are also an appealing taste treat to your furry neighbors, so protection is a must. If you are visualizing free range chickens waiting sedately  in line to cross the road, think again. Remember driving past that neighbor’s house and admiring the social flock of hens roaming the lawn, removing ticks? Do you remember them being there in many subsequent drive-bys?   Much as you learned to protect your veggies from bugs and diseases and furry neighbors, you must learn to appropriately protect your poultry.                         There. Now I’ve given you as many warnings as I can think of, feel free to learn about the amazing and wonderful varieties of color and size and personality available in the world of chickens (and ducks and geese). You’ll appreciate the 4-H poultry displays at the County Fairs with a whole new perspective.



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