My wife was out of town, so I decided to pick up some chicks.

I took the kids with me, of course. They had been driving me nuts for a few days, and I thought that they could probably use a fun distraction.

We headed over to a little live-poultry place down on 207th that I had seen before. The place was dank and dim, a cacophany of flying feathers and indignant squawks. The kids loved it. Chickens of various sorts peered out from cages. The kids peered back.

I asked how much three chicks would be. After a bit of discussion, they told me that the chicks would be free. I felt like I was living in a Dire Straits song. I may not have had money for nothing, but I was certainly getting chicks for free.

The store produced a paper bag, and the proprieter poked holes in it with his pen, while three tiny, fluffy, not-entirely-cooperative chicks were produced. When we left the store I was cradling a perforated lunch sack that emitted a series of soft peeps. I wondered what people were going to think of us on the subway.

When we got home, I took one of our many plastic toy tubs and converted it into a chick house. Heating was an issue. New York is cold, and chicks will freeze without enough heat. Our new guests huddled in a cluster in the corner of their bin, giving off plaintive peeps. This needed to be remedied.

For the first day, I used Mardell’s projector lamp, which had a big, bright bulb. Alas, the lamp was soon knocked over, and its big hot bulb melted through the side of the lamp and through the bottom of the toy tub. Oops. Sorry, honey.

Oh, yes. She was home by now, and none too happy to see that I had brought home some chicks without asking her first. (Had I learned nothing from Joseph Smith’s experience?) In any case, the chicks were here, and we joined forces to save them from the cold. We ran to Target and located a sturdy, hard-to-tip desk lamp. We added a 100-watt bulb, and the chicks spread out and relaxed under the warm light like an upper East Sider at her favorite tanning salon. Mission accomplished.

The kids loved their new playmates. Kace in particular liked to take them all over the house with him. He often carried them on his shoulder, like a pirate in training. The chicks acquired names and personalities. Neighborhood kids came over to play with them. Our house became the most popular place on the block.

But fun often devolved into violence at the poor chickies’ expense. Kace (the impulsive one) decided one day that it would be fun to play basketball with a chick. How would this be possible? Simple — the chick becomes the ball! Quick parental intervention stopped that project seconds after it had started, but not before at least one trip through the basket for one bewildered chick. (Fortunately this was a 3-foot Playhut basket, and not something regulation height.)

Our chicks needed a new home. Mardell’s patience with me was wearing thin. And with our kids’ creative play ideas, our home was not safe for them. Every day brought the possibility of a fatality. We called some shelters, trying to locate a nice place for them. One shelter in Brooklyn said they took in chicks. An hour and a half subway ride? I wondered if I could just set them free in a park. I suspected that any attempts to re-enact Born Free would only enrich the palate of the local cats.

Then fate intervened. One of Mardell’s friends in primary had a two year old son who had come over to play with the chicks. He loved them, and so she had gone to the poultry store herself to find some chicks of her own. However, it turned out that chicks aren’t normally sold at that store — we had been lucky to get there just after they had had some new hatches.

Mardell’s friend wanted chicks; we needed to get rid of ours; a transfer was made. The chicks took their comfy lamp with them, which was fine. We didn’t want them to freeze at their new home. We went to visit them at their new home a few times, and it was always fun seeing them again. They eventually outgrew that home, and around the time we left New York, their new owners were busy transfering them to a location upstate.

I enjoyed many things about our few weeks of living with the chicks. I loved watching the kids playing with their new playmates. I was reminded of watching children play with chicks and ducklings on my mission. (I was also reminded of how much feathers make me sneeze.) And the kids loved having them around, and were sad to see them go. Indigo and Kace still talk wistfully about how much fun they had with the chicks.

But as fun as it was, the whole episode did test the patience of my wife. And so, in the end, I think I learned a valuable lesson from my experience with the chicks:

Never bring home chicks without your wife’s permission.

12 comments for “Chicks

  1. October 29, 2005 at 4:54 pm

    Cute! I grew up on a semi-farm, and we had about a dozen chicks…who grew up into chickens. Who laid stinky, gross eggs that I’d have to gather. They were cute as chicks, but they didn’t stay that way for long. They didn’t stay adult for long, either. We came home after a weekend away to find nothing left but feathers all over the yard, and some kind of large paw prints in the dirt.

  2. Kaimi
    October 29, 2005 at 5:12 pm

    Fun, Susan.

    Yes, I wasn’t sure what exactly we were going to do when our chicks grew up. We were able to avoid the question altogether, which was good. I wouldn’t have wanted to keep three full-grown chickens inside our small New York City home.

    I was reminded of a family in Guatemala. They had cute little ducklings underfoot, which their kids were always playing with. The ducklings became young ducks, over the course of a few months as we visited them.

    And then Christmas came around, and they served us duck tamales.


  3. October 29, 2005 at 5:18 pm

    “I grew up on a semi-farm”

    Huh. And all this time I thought trucks came from factories. Go figure.

  4. October 29, 2005 at 5:46 pm

    That’s a great post, Kaimi.

    But your objectification of chickens is totally out of line.

  5. Kaimi
    October 29, 2005 at 6:29 pm

    Agreed, Frank. I’m exhibiting all the worst features of species-essentialism.

  6. Keith
    October 29, 2005 at 8:46 pm

    When I was 11 or 12, we inhereted about four chicks from a batch that had survived an accident at the airport in which large crates of chicks were toppled. We lived in a suburb of Denver (Aurora) and it was a blast to have them in our backyard (though we had to assure that the dogs and the chickens didn’t interact). Perhaps the thing I liked best was tossing them a spider or bug I’d captured (usually these were Daddy Long-legs as we called them). It was in these moments that I watched the CFL. One chicken would take spider in beak and run down the sidewalk, pursued by the others — all cackling. Chicken #1 would be ‘tackled’–knocked over–by another, lose the spider and chicken number #2 would pick up said football spider and take off, likewise pursued, tackled, with an ensuing fumble. This usually lasted for a minute or two until one chicken had the smarts (or the occasion) to swallow the spider. Looking back I should have given them names: Chicken Jones, Chick Butkis, etc. Win one for the clucker.

    Judging by the size of your chickens, Kaimi, I think they should have been ready for little league in a couple weeks after the pics were taken, maybe sooner. Sorry you missed out.

  7. Seth Rogers
    October 29, 2005 at 9:21 pm

    I remember working in a mountain resort. I returned to my dorm room one night to hear some soft squeaking. I opened up my bottom drawer to find a nest of mice behind some of my unused T-shirts. There were about 7 babies and one mother who immediately bolted carrying about two or three young uns still attached.

    I couldn’t recover the mom. So I sat there staring at the remaining 5 pink mice. After due consideration, I took them out back and dumped them in the river.

    Then I cleaned out my drawer.

  8. October 29, 2005 at 11:38 pm

    Nice post and cute kids!

    When I was about Kace’s age my parents decided that 2 ducks and a goose would be a great addition to our family (something about ducks and geese eating slugs in the yard?). They were so cute when they first came home but quickly turned into a horror for my siblings and me. They were really mean and anytime you set foot out the door the goose, followed by the ducks, would race up to you and start pecking and squawking at you. Eventually I refused to go outside and my parents decided it was time for the birds to go.

  9. Keryn
    October 30, 2005 at 1:39 am

    While we lived in a basement apartment, our landlord (who lived upstairs) got some baby chicks to put in his (inherited) chicken coop in the backyard. His two-year-old daughter loved the chicks–so much so that she broke the leg of one of them while hugging it. The chick recovered (sort of), but with a majorly crooked leg. We called it the gimp chicken, and it always ran after the other chickens in a truly gimpy way. Very hilarious.

  10. Jesse
    October 31, 2005 at 1:01 pm

    Chickens were the bane of my existence as a missionary. Our president was all gung ho, and wanted us to get up at 5:00 to study extra. What with going to bed around 10:00 – 11:00, that meant being chronically sleep deprived. And the chickens (which were everywhere) always started crowing. Early. REALLY early. One elder I knew actually bought rat poison and sent the neighbor’s chickens on to their eternal reward (the big rotisserie in the sky, or perhaps to meet the Colonel and his spice drawer in person, or some such suitable use for chickens).

    The neighbors bought new ones the next day.

  11. LisaB
    October 31, 2005 at 1:27 pm

    And I thought just DEER were evil!

  12. annegb
    October 31, 2005 at 1:53 pm

    Those are really cute little kids, Kaimi. But what are you going to do with the chickens? My friend got chickens and she’s very attached to them. They stayed home all summer because they couldn’t get anybody to tend their chickens.

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