by Leah Zerbe, an online editor at RodaleNews.com
The cyclical nature of life is perhaps nowhere more apparent than on a farm. The trusty tomato plants of summer are shriveled, brown, and barren by October; even the ragweed that plagued our fields and tested our patience all growing season have long disintegrated back into the earth by the autumnal equinox.
The animals we know and love? Sometimes they, too, come and go in what seems like the blink of an eye.
It was late February, during the final polar vortex in Pennsylvania, while still missing one of our roosters, who’d fallen victim to a fox attack several weeks earlier, when I popped my head in on my younger free-range flock. Startled, I jumped back when I saw what I thought was a tiny mouse wobbling toward the feeder.
I let my eyes adjust, and—oh, my gosh—it was a tiny, abandoned chick! It was 5 degrees out, and baby chicks need to be kept at 95 degrees to live, so I quickly scooped him up and brought him in the house.
Over the next few days, I gave him the heat he needed by wrapping a hot water bottle in a towel, where he comfortably would tuck himself in. In all honesty, though, he preferred to sit in the front pouch of the sweatshirts I wore, so that’s where he stayed as we indulged in DVDs of Oscar-season movies over the next two weeks.
He literally cooed like a baby during 20 Seconds from Stardom. Gravity? Well, he didn’t like that too much. Too stressful, I guess!
I created a makeshift brooder in an old Seventh Generation box for the first few days, but soon invested in an EcoGlow brooder—a safer, more efficient version of a heat lamp. A cardboard brooder from My Pet Chicken came next, giving him a much larger swath of my living room floor. (I put down thick plastic sheets over the floor and covered them in pine shavings.) I’ve raised chicks before but found some really helpful, new tricks in the My Pet Chicken Handbook.
The baby is, amazingly, 1 month old today! Gone are the adorable fluff feathers. Today, he (I guess I could say she, too. We don’t know the sex yet.) is in a bit of an awkward stage and will look a little funky until all of his real feathers come in. He grew SO fast!
Here are some fun facts about baby chick:
- In addition to organic chick feed, he also had Stonyfield organic plain yogurt treats to aid better digestion.
- Early on, he had crushed hard-boiled egg treats. It sounds weird, but it does help them eat better early on, and this boy was weak and cold when we found him and needed a boost.
- He loves snuggling under my hair by my ear. I wonder if it reminds him of Momma Hen feathers.
- If it’s a hen, she will lay white eggs. We know this because her earlobes are white.
- If it warms up in the next week or two, we’ll start making short supervised visits outside.
- In the next two to four weeks, we’re going to start working on integrating him/her into one of our existing flocks. He/she can’t live in my living room forever!
Please check out the baby chick cam—it’ll only be up for a few more weeks! Watch the baby grow, and please share your ideas for a name below in the comments!
Live streaming video by Ustream
UPDATE 4/21/13: Baby Chick is fully feathered and now acclimating to the great outdoors, so we’ve turned off the chick cam. We’re still waiting to see if it’s a boy or a girl (we’re leaning rooster!), but wanted you to know the “teenage” chicken is spending his days outside.
Leah Zerbe is online editor for Rodalenews.com. Prior to working at Rodale, she was the senior online editor at NBCPhiladelphia.com, where she headed up the station’s online “Going Green” initiative, wrote about center city crime and traffic jams, and blogged about her beloved Philadelphia Phillies. She and her husband run a sustainable organic farm in Schuylkill County where they grow vegetables, strawberries, herbs, and flowers, and raise heritage breed chickens.
Chick photos by LA Adams Photography.
Leah, just love this! I kinda want him/her to live in your living room forever so you can keep writing about your new pet! But guess going back to the flock will be better. Anyway, great blog post.
What a lucky little chicken!! Thanks for sharing this story, it makes me feel good all over. And thanks for running an organic farm….I only eat organic food and am SO grateful to those who grow the healthy food for the rest of us!!
Wow! Did that chick grow! I think it’s a boy! It eats like a growing teenage boy! That’s so sweet, and I’m happy that you caught the chick before it died. You’re such a good mother hen! Maybe he’ll not want to leave the roost and stay tied to your feathers forever! Isn’t that what most mothers want? Kudos to you and keep up the good work!
My husband suggests naming him Goose!
Name him/her Lucky. It suits both sexes, and it was pure luck that you came along and rescued it.
I agree with Donna. Not only is the chicken Lucky, but you are Lucky you had this wonderful experience, and all of us are Lucky that we got to share in it! A boy could be Lucky Lou, a girl could be Lucky Liz. While the rest of us are just plain lucky!
Leah, I love this story! Thank you for sharing.
Such a blessed and lucky little chick! I vote for “Lucky” for his/her name. And thanks so much for sharing the pictures and the story. Hope to see updates of Lil Lucky growing up!
Tucker is a good name 🙂
You said he/she would tuck itself into the hot water bottle and towel as a chick when you first found it.