The other day, while standing around watching (a.k.a. “learning”) the real farmers feed the chicks in the brooder, I got my chuckle of the day when Ted Senior, Farmer Ted’s tractor-driving-loving and dentist father, arrived on the scene.
Ted Senior: “Any one seen Teddy?” (I bet Farmer Ted loves it when his parents use that name… Same as he must like Farmer Ted. I’ll have to ask…)
Julia (Ted’s wife): Yeah, I think he’s picking up chicks at the post office.”
Pasture John (that’s what we call Pastor John, the ministry intern/farm hand): “Well, you’re quite the understanding wife, aren’t you?”
Me: “[Guffaw, chuckle, chuckle]”. (I’m one of the few, apparently, who gets Pasture John’s jokes.)
For example, just the other day while eviscerating our 9.5 lb chickens and stuffing them into turkey bags, us farm hands were having an invigorating discussion about meat bird sizes through the years and debating the meaning of the term “Capon.”
Jeff, our “If-I-had-a-job-title, it’d-be-‘farm-manager’-I-guess,” said he thought capon meant a small, young, meat chicken, like around 2 pounds.
That’s when Pasture John said, with a thicker than normal accent, “Really? I thought it was something you used at the grocery store.”
Me: “Ha ha! Like, ‘wait just a minute, I got a capon for that!’ ”
No one else seemed amused.
(In case you’re interested, a Capon is actually a 7-10 month old, specially-fed, castrated rooster. I looked it up on the internets. You can find out a lot about what kind of chickens to eat there, too!)
But I digress. About those chicks Farmer Ted was picking up. They were actual livestock, as in a box of live, one-day-old baby chicks, peep peep! We get in a new shipment via the USPS (and you can, too!) every other week or so while the weather’s nice.
When they’re a week old, and old enough to heat themselves, they move over the divider to the slightly bigger space in the brooder, and get even more food. Well, they don’t actually move themselves. Us humans have to move them. After Farmer Ted had finished putting down fresh sawdust in their new quarters, he climbed in and began the process of scooping up chicks and dropping them down over the barrier to the other side.
“Oh! Can I help?” said the eager clueless farm hand as she jumped in with the sea of chicks. Raising chickens for food is not for the sentimental, and my desire to prove myself as farm-worthy overwhelmed the delicate allure of their peeping fluffiness. I began scooping up chicks with abandon and hurling them to the other side.
“Whoa there. You, uh, wanna be a little gentle with them, okay? They’re delicate,” instructed Farmer Ted, having himself achieved the right balance of practicality and staying on the good side of the humane society.
“Ah. Okay,” I answered. We continued to move the chickens over by the handful, gently, until the pen began to have more visible sawdust than fluffiness. It was then that I turned around and saw it. The baby chick. Lying on her back. Eyes rolled up. Lifeless.
“Uh oh, looks like there’s a dead one here,” I reported.
“Um, yeah,” Farmer Ted gazed over. “Looks like it just happened. You might have stepped on her.”
“Oh no!” I gasped. Poor birdie. I wasn’t quite needing to cry about it, but I sure felt bad, and a little afraid to tell my husband and mother about it. They might not be able to look at me in the same loving way ever again.
“Don’t worry. It happens. We’ve all done it,” Farmer Ted offered by way of consolation. We finished getting the last of the chicks settled, and then he lifted up the dead chick by the feet and chucked it into the woods.
“There’s a raccoon who hangs around here waiting for stuff like this. He’ll be happy today. It all works out,” shrugged Ted.
Well, as mom always said, “It’s all fun and games until someone steps on a baby chick.”