We lost three. One by one, they weakened and died, poor little things, while the rest just trampled over them, oblivious to their trouble. Too hot under the hover light, otherwise dehydrated, or injured in a baby poultry stampede…


Now if they’d had their Mamas here…

That’s one reason I wanted these heritage chickens: to eliminate, from now on, this almost yearly tragedy.

Getting baby chicks by mail or at the feed store is delightful fun, but far too often it has this sad side note. Suppliers even anticipate it by including an extra few babies—in this case three, just enough to even out our loss, supposedly—but there’s more to loss than numbers. It’s still so sad to see their amazing energy turn to lethargy, then further droop and final collapse.

Incubator loss is even worse. Way worse. Often 50 percent.

“Did we ever lose any with a hen doing the brooding?” I asked.

He couldn’t think of any instances.

But streamlined ways—and breeds—make for higher egg output, or more breast meat. And production speed. Of course, speed. Everything faster is better, right? And man knows all kinds of ways to improve on God’s designs.

So we had bought the lie, and got into the practice (till now) of ordering the latest designer big-layer for eggs, and for meat the fastest growing freak…

And freaks they are: Bred for lots of that breast meat, fast growth, and innate gluttony to get them there. And if they don’t become barbeque they die just from inability to get around. They grow so top heavy and excessively fat, it’s no kindness to prolong their lives.

This, dear friend, is probably the chicken you bring home from the supermarket or take-out, or dine on in the restaurant.

Commercial raisers have to compete in productivity.

But a little “backyard” venture? I don’t think so, not anymore. The more informed I got, the more I thought we needed to make some changes.

Not just for chicken benefit, but for mine, too. Spring and summer get too overloaded around here as it is, and having to race their high-speed growth, to prepare chicken meat for the freezer and hold it in the fridge the couple days it should “age,” right when family and friends arrive for their yearly weekend visits is always problematic, and I’m no spring chicken myself anymore. (And, psst, the job really isn’t much fun.)

Even chick arrival often makes for stress. Like last week. Because just when they come, so, oftentimes, do spring storms, and if the power dies, so do they, from cold. And the coop is way up the dark wet stormy hill, and at some point shortly after their arrival, I have to tend them alone, myself.

That’s why we cozied them down in the basement last week: to be near at hand. But as the storms approached and roared through, how I prayed for God to keep the power from going out! Who wants to go out in pitch dark alone with a wee flashlight and try to start the generator (which requires both my hands)? How to aim the flashlight? How to see what I’m doing? And meanwhile rain may be pouring down my neck, lightning flashing around me, and some unseen whirlwind racing down the hill.)

No thanks from now on. Please, God. Let this happen naturally. Mama hen does a better job, just as You designed her to.

And besides, there’s the wonder… The incredible, delightful wonder of how the Mama-hen-and-baby-chicks thing works… I never stop being amazed…

But I’ve used up my six hundred blog-post words. So I guess I’ll have to tell you about that next time.


Q: What, in your life, might be better done by God’s wisely designed way, rather than by man’s “new, improved” ideas?

2 thoughts on “On Baby Chicks and Better Ways

  1. My dad used to purchase baby chick when one of our hens was in the setting mode. Until the chicks came, he put a wooden egg in the nest to fool her. She was so happy to see the new babies. As they grew, the roosters became Sunday dinner, and the layers mingled with the others. This was before the new and improved chicks. Anytime a product says “new and improved,” I cringe because it will be worse than the original LOL. Sorry about the chicks you lost.

    1. What a great idea, Hazel! I wish we’d thought of that, long ago! I bet Mama Hen didn’t lose any chicks! Thanks for this delightful comment.

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