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What three baby chicks are teaching me about letting go



Cecilia Pigg - published on 05/12/20

Quarantine has taught us all some surprising lessons about our need for control.

Not long ago on a whim, I bought three small chicks from an outdoor store for my husband. He has wanted chickens for a long time, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about poultry as a first pet. He has researched our city’s regulations so we knew we could keep chickens in our yard, but I was  reluctant to take care of anything more in addition to my son. I drove the chicks home wondering what in the world I was thinking as they chirped nervously in their little carrying box on the passenger seat. But, hey, it’s a pandemic so what better time to try raising chickens?

I learned a few things right away in my first day as a chick owner…

First, chicks can’t maintain their body temperatures for a few weeks after they’re born, so they need a heat lamp to keep them warm. (Note to future chick owners: when they sit huddled together in their new home it’s because they’re freezing … set up a lamp pronto!)

Second, they have to be taught how to drink and eat by being directed to their water and food. Then, heir heads have to be pushed toward the water so they know it’s water and its good to drink.

Third, removing a dried turd stuck to a baby chick’s backside gets more difficult the longer you wait. Bite the bullet and do it right away so the little chicken can stay healthy.

After a week had gone by and they were all still alive (despite my nightmares of the various ways I wouldfind them dead in the morning … is that a new pet owner thing?), I discovered a new challenge: They like to explore.

I found this out by going downstairs to check on them and finding them all out of their bin, waddling around investigating the world, pooping indiscriminately. This prompted me to improvise a makeshift ceiling for their home with a latticework of tape. Then I thought, what if they jump up to try to get out and get stuck on the tape? So I reinforced my lattice work with another layer of tape to cover up the sticky side. Only then, after all that work, did I google “what to do to keep your chicks from escaping.” Other chick owners suggested putting a blanket or old screen on top of the bin … a solution 1000x easier than my very involved lattice work. Ah, why didn’t I crowdsource the experts first?

Now that they’ve been alive for several weeks, and are definitely teenagers with all the angst, bad hair, and gangliness that comes with it, I’ve been reflecting on what these three quarantine chickens have taught me. Caring for something that starts off so fragile and helpless has given me perspective on these COVID-19 times.

In a similar way to the chicks, if I don’t try to create some community (aka huddle together virtually or at least 6 feet apart) with people, I don’t thrive.

Also, sometimes God has to push my head towards the lessons I need to learn in life, just like teaching a chicken to drink, and He says, “Look! This is what I’m trying to tell you! Do you understand?!” before I finally get it.

I’ve also learned that killing a bad habit that brings frustration and disorder to my life (much like the stuck chicken turd) is a lot easier if I do it on the sooner side.

And finally, in a time when life feels out of control, and who knows what tomorrow will bring (More job losses? More sickness? Another delayed reopening for businesses in town?), letting go of my constant worry about the future is crucial. I had no idea what I was doing in taking care of these little chickens. But with some research and effort, they are thriving. They didn’t choose to go home with a beginner chicken lady, but it’s working out. I may not have chosen some of the circumstances I’m in right now in this weird time of isolation, but I’m still here, and learning to thrive.

Read more:
What to do when you find a stray goat in your backyard


Read more:
Isolation and quarantine: What psychological phase are you in?

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