Overnight, life changed. We now have animals to care for—baby chicks and a bunny rabbit. I have nervous-new-mother syndrome, and I am relieved every morning that the chicks are still alive and that nothing has happened to Cocoa the bunny. (Cocoa arrived last Saturday, the chicks on Wednesday.) Actually, everybody seems remarkably content. Cocoa hunkered down in her cozy hutch and weathered the 5 inches of rain we got the other day. And the chicks are happily eating, drinking, and pooping in the brooder box Roy built them, under the light and heat of an infrared bulb in our mudroom.
So every morning, once I realize they’re all okay, reality kicks in. Oh, I’ve got to take care of these guys! Everyone is thirsty and hungry in the morning, and often there’s some clean-up to do, too. (More on the lovely subject of litter another time—I am busy reading up on how to incorporate animal manure into the compost pile.) So now my morning routine involves both animal chores and plant chores (after pushing the coffee button, of course.) I start with the veggie seedlings and the baby chicks inside, then move to the rabbit hutch and the new veg sprouts in the garden outside. Boots on; coffee cup in hand; 16 different layers of tee shirts, sweaters, jackets, hats, and socks on (still), I head outside. It’s simply not warm here yet. It was wicked cold today and blowing like stink, as my Dad says—so hard that the clothes on the line were horizontal all day. Not very farmlife-picturesque.
Despite the wretched weather, I still had this oddly warm glow all day. (Especially strange since I was signing books at an outdoor event, and it was chilly, to say the least.) This glow-y thing has been growing all week—it’s the animals, I’m sure. My friend Judy says I get the biggest smile on my face when I start talking about the animals. I admit I’m almost giddy about this little mini-farm, or homestead, or what-have-you we’re creating here. I just can’t believe it’s really happening, and I keep thanking Roy for helping me make my dream come true.
I know we are kind of nuts – in fact, Roy just pulled into the driveway with a truckload of compost, which will go right next to the big pile of sand near the garden. (You know you’re in trouble when you stop going to the nursery for bags of garden stuff and start buying by the truckload). And I bought myself a book called Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre, which sounds downright scary. Well, we’re definitely not heading towards self-sufficiency around here any time soon. But the book has some great tips and encouraging statistics about selling vegetables (something I still naively think might someday actually be a positive part of my income).
And we certainly don’t have plans to make money on the animals—yet. I’ve been told that selling fresh eggs is a break-even proposition at best, especially if not done on a decent scale. But…just in case, I am keeping track of the costs of acquiring, housing, and feeding the chickens. At the very least, I’d like to know how the cost of feeding your own laying hens every week compares to buying fresh eggs every week. So far, thanks to some free lumber (and in-house labor!), we’ve only spent about $125 getting ready for the baby chicks.
And about those chicks. In case you’re wondering, here’s what we wound up with: 8 chicks, 5 different varieties. Two Buff Orpingtons, two Aracaunas, two Barred Rock, one Partridge Rock, and one Sicilian Buttercup. They’re beautiful—each a different palate of golds, browns, blacks, taupes, creams, and silvers. Each one is already sprouting a few feathers and growing a little bit every day. They don’t stay babies for very long! They also don’t stand still long enough for me to get decent pictures of them–especially down in their infrared-warmed glowy-red brooder box. But it’s a good excuse to take a chick out and hold her, as I did for the photo up at the top (right). Cocoa, on the other hand, is a bit more cooperative–especially when Libby is holding her.