One of my favorite things about working on a farm is raising chicks. Everything from setting up the brooder to helping them take their first sips of water to seeing how fast they grow and how quickly they outgrow their first home is both exciting and miraculous. It is always comforting after a long day of hard work on the farm to spend time with the chicks, watching them hop around, jump over each other to reach their food, and cuddle under the heat lamp.
When I arrived at EST at the beginning of March there were about 300 week old chicks living in the basement in a cardboard box. It was a great surprise and in my first few weeks I busied myself feeding them three times a day and cleaning their brooder every few days to keep them dry and prevent their smell from reaching the kitchen. Soon they were figuring out how to jump out of their box and had grown so big that they took up 3/4 of their box. It was clear that they were getting too crowded and would need to be moved.
Oliver and I spent some time deciding which greenhouse they would do best in and then got to work building them a new home. We screwed together a few boards of plywood, put on a plastic roof, and installed a sliding door for easy access. Next we loaded the chicks up into boxes, 100 at a time, and drove them down to their new home as they chirped nervously, not knowing where they were going or what their future held. As we unloaded the chicks their screams of terror were almost unbearable. We knew that they were scared and confused and vowed to monitor the situation. However, by the end of the day they had settled into their new home and were chirping contentedly. The only thing left to do was name their home. After throwing around a few names we decided on the "Chick Shack."
They've been out their now for a few weeks and they are thriving. The've survived many a cold night, started to eat compost, and have practically survived the awkward "teenage years" when their feathers change from yellow to brown. Not too far down the road they will be moved again, this time to live with the rest of the chickens where they will start laying eggs and become productive members of the farm.