By Craig Funston
As I sat here in the brave solitude of my lonely office the other day, I heard the repeated thuds of panicked footsteps heading out to the garage—the garage being the place where we had just brought home 150 day-old chicks. They had been in our care for only an hour, but somehow their water spilled and all 150 were wet and dying.
Wet and dying chicks generally do call for some immediate attention.
That attention was so instant yet so long–that the hot coffee I was enjoying was iced-over by the time I finally settled back down in my man cave.
With help from two helpful sons, a clueless dad (that would be me), and a determined mom, a rescue mission of epic proportions was on: Between the re-working of our power sources and heat lamps, a fresh application of everyday towels and the ever-useful, all-purpose hairdryer, the chicks cheated a certain death.
Well, they didn’t actually cheat it: they stalled it. Come mid-June, they will face a final and certain death once again, and there will be neither towel nor hairdryer to save them. There will be a frazzled old man there (that’s me), but I won’t be getting them dry: I’ll be getting them wet (Maurice, that would be their baptism in the scalder).
If these birds could think, they’d assume that we humans were a weird breed. We fight for, fend for, feed, and fondle these cute little birds for weeks, with what appears to be an altruistic motive. The heat lamp must produce the right temperature, predators must be kept at bay, all doors must shut, and every other precaution must be exercised.
As they get bigger, we make sure their grain is right, their cage is secure, the grass is fresh (free range, you know), and they have enough water. From the outside looking in, it appears that we are taking very good care of our sweet little pets.
Well, yes and no: We are taking care of them, but they’re not pets. “Meal tickets” might be more accurate.
Replace the word “chick” with “cows” and more readers might relate. Think of all the effort that goes into breeding, grazing, fencing, branding, winterizing, and protecting one’s cows. Even I can relate to that on a very small scale. It’s the right thing to do, partly because it is our calling to care for our animals, and partly because we can raise better beef with the potential for better sales.
Or if you’re not into chicks or cows, we would do the same with a car or house we’re trying to sell. We always take care of them, to enjoy them now, with a higher value later when they’re sold.
Every family should be able to raise animals for re-sale. Out in the country, with space and barns, you can raise really anything you want. There just has to be a market for your product. And it has to be cost-effective.
That’s not possible, of course, in an urban setting, unless you’re raising guppies or ants. (Not sure if there’s a market for guppies or ants these days.)
Kids need to see the connection between work and profit, something more than a standard allowance for washing dishes. It also demands some creative effort when it comes to merchandizing and marketing, sales and customer satisfaction, following through and following up. It’s free enterprise at a very juvenile level.
I’m still learning this, and as you know, I’m no juvenile. It has taken me years to learn some of these things and at the same time, pass it along to my kids. I’m not completely sure whether they have made that connection, but we plod on. At the end of the day, however, their bank accounts confirm that it was a good venture
Never in my wildest dreams, back forty years ago on Lulu Island, did I ever think that I would be up to my elbows in chicken guts, cow poop, or turkey feathers. But I look back at the insistence of a determined wife, a combination of the means and motive to help the kids make some money, and the satisfaction of eating farm-fresh, free range food, as a good reason for doing this.
As I write this, two days after the near-debacle of 150 dead chicks, I see that they are still surviving—you might even say “thriving.” They’re still in the garage (I can smell them from here), ready to be moved out soon to their new digs in the chicken house, once it stops snowing and freezing at night. (Okay, that puts us into May.)
Just got to keep them warm until then. Nothing more chic than a warm, plump chick.