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Chuck Hinman: IJMA. Baby Chicks Time On The Farm

Chuck Hinman: Baby Chicks Time On The Farm Chuck recalls the wonder of seeing the birthing process of animals but says it's easier to buy baby chicks than to hatch them. - Robert Stone.
Next earlier Chuck Hinman column - Ever Read A Telephone Book

By Chuck Hinman

Baby Chicks Time On The Farm

These warm days here at Tallgrass Estates remind me of days on the farm. They mean it's time to start thinking about baby chickens for this year. I am thankful memories are not affected by macular degeneration.

In the uncertain economic times I grew up under, 1922-1940, our chickens were a life-saver. They were dependable when most things were NOT dependable. They were always there to provide food and cash flow for not only store-bought food and simple necessities but frivolities -- things like piano lessons or a package of lady-finger firecrackers for three kids or a box of Sun Maid raisins for the cornbread Thanksgiving dressing. Thanks to our chickens, Mom and Dad shielded us three Hinman kids from knowing the awful truth. We were dreadfully poor and one good rain away from joining the Okies on Highway 66 in search of a better life.

Buying baby chicks less trouble than hatching them

We ordered 150 baby chickens this time of year (February 1934) from the Kohlmeyer hatchery in Wymore, Nebraska. Buying baby chicks is a lot less trouble than hatching them in your own incubator like we used to do.

In those days we had a large two-layer incubator in the basement. It was before we had electricity so the incubator was heated by kerosene to keep the eggs warm. It takes 21 days for a fertilized egg to hatch. The egg has to be turned daily. It is a priceless maturing experience for every farm boy such as Chuck Hinman to see God's plan of reproduction at work. At an early age I had seen the birthing process of not only a baby chicken in an incubator, but a litter of pigs, a calf, a horse, dogs, rabbits, cats, and yes, even a grasshopper. So it was educational for me to see a baby chicken burst its way out of an egg shell and stumble to its feet, bat its eyes and say its first word -- "chirp!" Isn't God's creation plan at work wonderful! I don't believe any one growing up on a farm could be an atheist.

Ordering baby chickens is a lot easier than hatching them in the basement so we ordered seventy-five Leghorn and seventy-five Rhode Island Red. The Leghorns are white and lay white eggs. They are the least "meaty" of all chickens. Even so when we started having fried chicken in June and lasting through the summer, Mom usually hooked the leg of a Leghorn rooster over the others. The Rhode Island Reds are brick-colored and lay brown eggs.

Getting the brooder house ready

Before the baby chicks arrive we will have time to get the brooder house ready. We have two buildings for the chickens, a brooder house and a chicken house. It's still cold when the three boxes of fifty chirping baby chicks per box arrive. They are so yellow, fuzzy, and lovable.

The brooder house is an A-frame building, higher in the front than the back. It is well-lighted with windows on the front or south side. It's 1934 and we have electricity. The building is 12 X 14. Before the chicks arrive, the brooder house has been carefully cleaned. The walls and ceiling have been sprayed with stinky creosote to control chicken mites. The clean floor is covered with a thin layer of peat moss to control the waste from 150 baby chicks. The peat moss is changed frequently and later straw is used like in the big chicken house. The long feeding trays and water trays are clean and ready for use. The baby chicks eat bought chicken food in the early days of their life and there are several bags of that in the front of the brooder house as well as extra peat moss.

Hoover simulates sitting under wings of mother hen

After the brooder house is cleaned, the hover is cleaned and put in place. The hover is a circular piece of heavy aluminum eight feet in diameter. It is one foot higher in the center than the edges. It is heated and lighted with an electric heat lamp that as near as possible simulates the coziness of sitting under the spread wings of a mother hen.

It's April 10, 1934 and Kohlmeyers call and say the Hinman chickens are in boxes and ready to be picked up. It's cold and Dad runs to the brooder house and turns on the heated hover so the brooder house will be cozy warm when our little chicks arrive.

Awe struck with cozy atmosphere of chicks under the hover

One of my fondest memories is walking into the brooder house before going to bed to make sure that all the chicks are under the hover and every thing is in order for the evening. It's going to be a cold night. The brooder house is dark except beneath the lighted hover. The minute I walk in I am awe struck with the cozy atmosphere -- a delightfully, a little on the warm side, atmosphere topped off by 150 chirping baby chicks. The faint creosote smell gives it an antiseptically clean smell. I could have lain down on the sacks of chicken feed and gone sound to sleep.

Nebraska farm life is awesome! Chirp! Chirp!

Written by Chuck Hinman, 12 February 2008.

This story was posted on 2013-03-03 06:22:27
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