Friday, July 10, 2020

Oh, Baby, Bye Bye

Little Cheeps went to her new home this week. It wasn't upsetting because from the outset, I knew she was being raised for my friend's flock. Even though we became attached to her, and to having her and Phyllis doing their hen-and-chick thing around the yard, there simply is no way we can keep any chicks we hatch because they'd be part of a flock whose rooster is their father.

We did ponder starting a second flock, so we could raise our own Barred Rocks, and perhaps that will happen next year, but for now, we know Cheeps is adjusting to her new place across the river. 

There was a moment, however, when I did get upset...
We'd agreed on the day I'd take the chick over but early that morning, my friend messaged to say she had to work and did I want to come another day? Because Mother and I were making a one-day (therefore a long day) road trip to Cape Breton the following day, I wanted the chick gone so Dwayne didn't have to deal with her (I was worried he'd forget to keep an eye out; he's not as watchful about the chickens as I am). 
When I arrived in the afternoon, her husband took me to the barn where I was to leave the chick.
In a cage.
In a small cage with two other chicks a bit larger than Cheeps. 
In a cage sitting on a table. 
By the time I returned home, my whole body was clenched. 
"I don't think I can leave her there," I wept. "I can't bear the thought of her in a cage for three or four months until she's big enough to join the flock."
I kept picturing her running across the backyard to catch up with her mother. I couldn't bear the idea she'd never feel grass again or eat a strawberry. 
So after supper, I went back. I wanted to tell my friend to her face why I was taking the chick back. 

Turns out, I'd forgotten what she'd said weeks ago about the cage: It's just until Cheeps gets used to her new surroundings and bonds with the two other chicks. She doesn't want Cheeps to run off. 
"I only put them in the cages when I'm at work," my friend explained. She, too, has a husband who isn't as watchful as she is. The animals are her thing (she has goats and a pony, too). 
I was embarrassed, but also grateful I'd gone back right away to speak with her. She wasn't mad, and despite the initial awkwardness, now I know the truth rather than thinking awful things about poor Cheeps new life and making myself sick with worry and regret. 

It was hard enough, I'll admit, to think of Cheeps, who I saw sitting on the roost in the cage that evening, and know she was wondering where her mother is and wondering why she isn't roaming free in the grass. But all along, I knew Cheeps was going to join another flock, and I also know my chickens have a lot more freedom than most chickens. I used to think my coop was pretty dirty but now I realize, it's really clean and roomy, and the outside pen very large and green compared to most places where the hens aren't completely free range. 

Phyllis squawked most of the following morning (when Mother and I were away) but she seems to have moved on. I'm sure she's still wondering where her chick went but this is life. This is farm life. 
I'm just grateful Cheeps didn't turn out to be a rooster because it would have been hard to give the chick to another neighbour, knowing it would be raised to be butchered. 

We all miss Little Cheeps. She talked (chirped) a lot and it was so much fun to watch her and Phyllis together. They spent every morning in "the cottage" while I worked inside then I let them out to free range around the property at 3 o'clock. Andre Poulet would fly out of the pen for a family visit; that was always sweet. 
It was a good spring for raising a chick; not too rainy or cold. In fact, the hot June weather was great. 

I'm glad of this experience, my first experience with a hen hatching out a chick and raising it. I'd like to do it again; maybe it's time for a second flock. 

Phyllis and Little Cheeps on their last morning together.

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