A brood for our brood

Published 9:26 pm Saturday, April 8, 2017

There are six Isa Brown chicks in a coop in our side yard. Walking the outside perimeter of that coop is a 60-pound German shepherd and a curious — and often hungry — cat.

At any given moment there are dozens of little fingers poking at the chicks through the wire.

If these six helpless creatures make it to egg-laying adults it will be a miracle of God.

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We are not chicken people but for some reason we decided raising chickens would be a good life lesson for our brood.

While we are intimately familiar with commercial chicken houses after living directly across the road from several of them years ago, I’m guessing this 4-by-8 coop is a different animal.

For one, I have my doubts that it can keep the dog out. It was made in China, and although it cost a fortune it definitely isn’t built like it.

The roof is out of square, the frame is made of cheap 1-by-2s and the wire is held with the tiniest of staples.

We shall see how long it lasts. My hope is that it manages to outlive our interest in chickens.

The six chicks are definitely cute and irresistible to our two youngest children. But it’s hard to get 2- and 3-year-olds to understand they can’t be held like puppies.

I, of course, am paranoid about one of them getting salmonella after poking a chick in the beak through the wire.

We didn’t really know what to expect when we bought the birds. They have yet to put on feathers and spend most of their time poking at the grass under the coop. It’s not that exciting, and I’m not sure why I thought it would be.

The older children have spent more time opening and closing the various doors and windows on the coop than actually watching the chickens.

It was only after we got the birds home that we read the “how to raise chickens” pamphlet.

A quick glance told me chickens will be more trouble than I thought.

They must be fed and watered daily. That’s easy enough.

The slide out poop tray must be cleaned daily. That’s understandable.

Baby chicks need a constant temperature of 95 degrees. What? How in the world will I make that happen? We bought a heat lamp and are hoping for the best. By the time you read this, today’s chilly morning air may have claimed them all.

Waterers should be scrubbed clean daily, the pamphlet says. Seriously? I don’t always have a clean cup to drink out of. Surely that’s overkill.

We also learned it will be September before we have eggs. That’s a long time to wait, especially considering fresh eggs was what attracted us to the whole coop idea in the first place.

I’m not sure we can keep these things alive until September.

I’ve already started imagining the inevitable and I’ve started planning for how to repurpose this expensive Chinese coop. We could put rabbits in it. Or maybe baby ducks. Or even a large turtle or snake.

The children might be less inclined to stick their fingers through the wire if there’s a snake on the other side.

We will give it our best to keep these chicks breathing and hopefully I’ll have fresh eggs for breakfast this fall. But I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch.

Publisher Luke Horton can be reached at luke.horton@dailyleader.com.