Our hatchlings came home in the customary galvanized steel cage, complete with a feeder, water container and roosting pole. With not a hint of a coop in the garden and with the weather still brisk, they were nestled under a warm lamp in our dining room. The following weeks would revolve around feathers, chick dander, kicked up excrement and all else that you would hope never to make it into your dining area. This was going to be a problem.
Fervently, I pushed for coop construction to begin. In the weeks before I brought our feathered friends home, I had copiously researched everything from local ordinances to feeding requirements and housing options for our new pets. A flock of books on fowl and modern homesteading neatly lined the expanse of my kitchen counters and additional intelligence gathered from various online resources piled up near the computer. The children had been encouraged to read books on chickens from the local and school libraries and their father also delved into heaps of data, although he failed to produce a spreadsheet demonstrating the optimization of feeding schedules, supplies and coop components, ultimately leaving me disappointed. Of course, that explains why it took two months to complete the coop!
Still, I made it through the first couple of months relatively unscathed. Considering the hours I spent cleaning every day and the hours I spent awake at night thanks to the chafing chirping of our new friends, the layers of skin peeling off my hands from the constant use of chlorinated wipes and the deep purple semi-circles forming under my eyes, my body and mind remained more or less intact.
The children spent incalculable hours tormenting the chicks, snuggling with them, balancing them on their fingers and wrapping them up in blankets as if they were infants. Even my husband seemed to dote on them.
Eventually, these chickens would test our resolve.