Driving Across State Lines to Pick Up Chicks

 It played out a little like a drug deal.  We met in a park.  When I saw them arrive I casually walked over and they handed me a package.  Then I gave them some cash and we went our separate ways.  The tip-off that this was a legitimate transaction was that this mysterious package peeped.

Cheryl and Mike at Wick PlaceFarm have relatives in Sun Prairie, a small town near Madison, Wisconsin.  My son and his family live in Madison.  Since we were both planning on being that area for Easter Sunday weekend, it made sense to do the chick transaction then, and they arranged their hatch schedule to accommodate that.  The chicks pipped their way into the world in the early hours of Sunday morning.  Mike and Cheryl gathered my five little girls into a box and headed for Sun Prairie later that same morning.  Kathy and I were waiting for them in a park along with my son, daughter-in-law and two grandsons.  The temperature was in the low fifties and there was a light mist in the air.  The park had a tremendous playground, so my three-year-old grandson was having a fantastic time and was oblivious to the cool weather and the mist.  The rest of us were less easily persuaded that being in the park in that weather was a good time.
Baby Legbars Pipping Their Way Into the World
When Mike and Cheryl drove up, we didn’t spend much time in idle chitchat due to the less than idyllic weather, but got right down to the business of chick buying.  By one o’clock we were on I-94 headed for Minnesota with a box of chicks.  The cardboard box contained a chemically activated heat pouch to provide some warmth for the babies but that only lasted for a short time and then it was obvious from their continuous peeping that the chicks were cold.  They huddled against the side of the box and cuddled tightly with each other to stay warm.  We kept the car heater cranked, but we couldn’t maintain the ninety degree temperatures that baby chicks need. 

Box of Cold Chicks
I poured water from a water bottle into a jar lid and dipped each chick’s beak into the water and made sure that each one actually drank.  Drinking water is not instinctive in baby chicks so they must be taught.  Other than that, I left them in the box and didn’t handle them.  I wanted them to imprint on Courtney the hen and not on me.
We arrived home a little after five o’clock and I headed to the coop with the box of chicks.  This was crunch time.  Would Courtney accept these chicks?  I scooped the golf balls that Courtney has been sitting on for weeks from the nest and replaced them with the peeping baby chicks.  I shouldn’t have worried about Courtney.  She immediately spread her wings over the babies, began clucking softly, and preening their fluff with her beak.  She didn’t even seem surprised.  The chicks stopped peeping and cuddled in.

Mom & Babies Bonded
On Sunday night the temperature dipped below freezing.  I’ve got a heat lamp in the brooder coop and the coop is insulated, but it was still way too cold for baby chicks.  The chicks, though, were all cuddled under their mom and had a warm and cozy night.  Monday morning I expected that Courtney would leave the nest with her babies so she and they could eat and drink, but she didn’t budge.  Maybe it was too cold for her to venture out. By mid-afternoon she had still not moved, so I put the chick water font right in front of her and she drank for a long time.  Then, I dipped the babies’ beaks in the water once again.  At 6 PM, when she still hadn’t gone out, I dumped some chick crumbles in the nest right in front of Courtney.  She pecked at it ravenously, and then the chicks peaked out from beneath her wings and slowly ventured out and began to imitate their mom.  Soon they all were pecking away at the crumbles with great enthusiasm.
Today, it got into the sixties in the afternoon and Courtney and the Legbar Quints actually came off the nest for a while.  I’ve moved the heat lamp down and have decided the key is to keep it as warm as I can in the brooder coop until the weather warms up in a few weeks.  It’s now a balmy 95 degrees under the lamp. For now at least, things are going fantastically well and everybody is happy!


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