Recently our friends asked us if we wanted two Barred Rock chickens, “IF YOU TAKE THE ROOSTER, TOO…”
I’ve always wanted Barred Rocks. Always…
We picked them up. The Rooster was proud and not interested in being caught. He puffed up his shiny, feathered chest at the children and made them flee with his menacing eye brows.
“We’ll take him”
We got him a no crow collar, he sounds like a muffled sort of drowning and owns the peck yard. We don’t let him out of the gate, he can be mean. The same friends lent us a metal box incubator.
We wondered recently if any of the eggs were being fertilized. Or not. “Should we try it and see?”
We saved 12 eggs and lined the up in neat, round rows in the small, gray box under our house. It made a low hum when it was turned on. After one week, we turned off all the lights as we crouched in the small space beneath the living room with dirt floors and held a flash light under some of the eggs. Some glowed dark red, illuminating the room.
“I think that means this one is fertilized… We’ll see. It only takes 21 days.”
We set our calendars for ‘hatch’ day so we could see if any of them would begin hatching.
Two days before that day, I was sitting in the living room. I heard a bird outside. No…it wasn’t outside.
It was under my feet. It wasn’t a bird chirping…it was PEEPING! Loud peeping…
My heart started racing…had the chicks hatched already? Were they just sitting in that metal box? Were some of them dead… I used to have a specific dream as a child of finding a pet in my pocket that I had forgotten about and it had since died. It was bringing back these unsavory flashbacks.
Andrew and Finley were running an errand, so…
“MARIA!!!!! MARIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I started calling, trying to quiet my mild panic.
She popped in the room, “Yes?”
“Maria…..” I breathed totally 100% calm that she wasn’t buying, “Maria…I think…I think the chicks hatched…”
She threw her head back, arms up, “YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!! YES!!!!!!!!”
“Let’s go… let’s go…”
She skipped out of the house, turned the corner and descended the dark stairs to the now loud, peeping box. I tiptoed behind her, much slower, Andrew’s phone ringing on speaker. I am not the animal person–Poppy and I are aligned in that way.
“Andrew…I was sitting and I heard, I think the chicks hatched…”
“What!? Wow! Early! Did you check on them?”
“NO…Maria is no—”
“AWWWWWWW!!!! MAMA!!!! COME SEE!!! THEY ARE SOO CUTE!!!! AWWWW!!!”
I look from afar, not really wanting to see… “Are any of them dead, I can’t see them if yes…”
Luckily none of my strangeness effects her exuberance, “NO! THEY ARE SO CUTE!! And some are not hatched, one only has a foot out…”
“I don’t know, like 3o minutes…”
“Amy…it’s fine, they are supposed to be in there, they are fine…I promise…”
“What, I know, I’m fine…I’m just saying, like, come home…”
Andrew pulls up soon after, Finley pops out of the car and runs down to the chicks, gazing at them adoringly with Maria. We count them, 10 tiny, black, round chicks with wet fluff. Two are still inside eggs.
Soon we would have 12 for 12. All 12 were fertilized, all 12 would hatch.
Poppy and Elijah wake up. Andrew lifts the metal lid, Maria and I quickly start scooping them up and into a box with soft hay to carry to the heat lamp in the garage. I grab one before it rolls out and onto the floor.
Everyone gathers around the chicks under the glow of the light in silence. They are precious. They stretch their legs out and lay down. Their black heads and white details make them look tiny penguins. Everyone holds their breath and coo over the tiny babies cozied up together, peeping quietly, the children are melting.
Elijah whispers to them that he can be their daddy.
Elijah holds them and wraps the up with the edge of his shirt, holds them to his round little cheek. Somewhere deep down he knows newborns need to be nurtured, even though that was not his experience when he was newborn. “Come her little fella…” he whispers onto their down little heads. He asks to spend time with them every day.
Maria raised all her money for her trip to Mexico. She wrote letters, “I believe helping people in need is the most important thing to do.”
People wrote her back kind notes, “I know you will do amazing Maria, I am so proud of you! We are praying for you.” Her face would light up as she tucked the note into her save box, “Wow…” she’d say. Her cousin Max from Ukraine wrote her a kind note of encouragement and mailed 7 one dollar bills of his own money to help her go on this trip. Maria was so encouraged.
We’re working on getting her an American passport prior to the trip, although the Russian one will do. We had to jump through many hoops, when Russia closed, so did our agency, and many of the things that should have happened immediately didn’t and couldn’t, but we are making progress. She goes later this month.
Finley is one of two kids in his class who gets picked up early so he can come home and nap, or rest.
Poppy is in dance class. She is indifferent to the experience….
Hah, just kidding. She loves it. I like encouraging the other moms, most of whom have their first born in the class. Moms stress if their child is too shy, or won’t listen, or too exuberant. “She’s amazing, she is loving it!” I tell them, and they tell me right away, “I’m so worried!!!”
“Don’t worry, all the kids have different kinds of days…she is doing wonderfully! I am impressed by her! Time changes everything.” I tell them, remembering back when I used to be worried about Finley when I just had him.
Otherwise, we are doing great. We told our friends about the chicks, some are going to make coops, and love those chickens well.
So now we decide on schools for next year. Do we have the boys start going with Maria even though we LOVE his school, just for the ease of it? We aren’t sure, only time will tell, it will work out the way it should.
So, 12 tiny chicks. Who would have thought.
Even though I am obviously an animal expert, I’ll admit–not me!