We placed the order for our first batch of chicks with My Pet Chicken during the summer of 2010. Once the order was finalized, we knew that there was no going back. The coop needed to be finished because its inhabitants would set foot on our property during the end of September. Heat waves would have to be endured during the week that the roof needed to be completed. Fingers would have to be repaired at the local emergency room when I collected my first chicken-keeping injury. The show had to go on: There were baby chicks to prepare for.
For our farm, that constraint was a deal breaker. Our coop would be a girls-only dormitory. There were no roosters allowed. I’ve mentioned before that we raise chickens at 1840 Farm, but we don’t eat chicken. It was a choice we made long before we entertained the idea of adding a flock of heritage breed hens to our farm. No matter the reason or timing of our culinary decision, we were only interested in purchasing hens. Fresh eggs were the commodity we were after. We simply weren’t raising birds to grace our dinner table.
I read each breed’s profile on My Pet Chicken’s site and discovered that some were better suited for life at 1840Farm than others. For instance, the Australorp seemed like just what we were looking for: a champion egg layer who wouldn’t mind living through the bitterly cold New England winter and was likely to have an easygoing temperament. I continued reading the breed profiles until I felt confident that I had a short list of breeds that would be happy to call our farm home.
Our flock of hens has provided so much to the three generations living at 1840 Farm. We have been entertained by their activities, nourished by their fresh eggs, and inspired to try things we never would have considered before. The three goats living in our barn are testament to the latter. Who knew that I would owe a debt of gratitude to seven hens for the fresh milk I collect every morning?
With the assistance of the helpful staff at My Pet Chicken, breeds were selected and a hatch day of April 30, 2012, was chosen. It was again time to circle a hatch date on the farm calendar. We readied the brooding pen and waited for the call to come from the post office. My children listened for the phone to ring and talk in our house revolved around the anticipation of the delivery of our newest batch of chicks.
On the ride home, my children’s excitement was too much to contain. As soon as we arrived home, we went to the barn and prepared to open the package. I carefully cut the top of the box free from the package and picked up a corner of the lid. Inside, there was a batch of chirping, living chicks ready to make 1840 Farm their new home.
Watching this second batch of baby chicks was just as exciting as watching our first batch a year and a half ago. They were so small, so delicate, and represented my hope for our family and our farm over the next year. I can’t help but feel my spirits lift when I watch them. Listening to my children talk about the chicks and watching my children observe them reminds me why I throw myself so fully into the work of our family farm.