To my utter astonishment, this morning at 7:07 am our phone rang. This time of year, it is still dark until about 7:30 am and I was still asleep. The phone woke me and I stumbled out of bed to find the phone. I got there just in time to look at the caller ID and see that it was a “private number” (blocked), so I assumed it must be a wrong number. But, I decided to check the voicemail just in case since it was such an odd hour. The fact that it could be the post office with my chicks did not even cross my mind. How could they be there first thing Monday morning? That means they would have had to either travel through the US mail on Sunday (fat chance of that), or they had to sit somewhere in their box, cold and alone over the weekend. Besides, the hatchery said “sometime during the week of February 9th” – I really didn’t think that before dawn on Monday morning was an option.
Anyway, I checked the messages and heard,::peep peep peep:: “Hi, Lisa, this is Kathy at the Post Office and I’m calling to let you know that your baby chicks have arrived. The window opens at nine.”::peep peep:: ::click:: No way. Not possible. They’re here?! They’re here!!! Holy crap they’re here!!! It took my sleepy brain a minute to wake up enough to realize that it wasn’t a dream. My next thought was – which Post Office? I’d done research ahead of time on this topic and realized that there were many post office options around us, but I figured that I would get a notification email that the chicks had shipped and THEN I could call around to the various post offices to figure out where they’d end up. Since their arrival preempted my chance to do this, and Kathy from “the post office” didn’t mention in which post office she was located, I was at a loss. Long story short I ended up calling five different post offices to no avail. But, the main branch said they would try to track them down for me and they eventually did. They were very nice. Turns out the branch where the birds went was the one place I called over and over and never got an answer at all. Go figure.
At this point, I still had about an hour and a half until the “window opened” so I dashed about like a maniac, filling my makeshift brooder with wood shavings (luckily purchased yesterday from the feedstore for just such an occasion), turning the heat lamp on to heat up the booder (set to 90-95 degrees under the lamp during my preparations yesterday as well), mixing up their special “arrival water” concoction of electrolytes (called Quick Chik) and table sugar to fill their baby waterers, and filling up their feeders with my organic chick starter feed (also called crumbles). I have to tell you that I was FREAKING OUT. I was so surprised that they were already here, plus I am still recovering from the multiple mightmares I’ve had in which my chicks arrive and I’m not ready for them and they all die one by one as I run around trying to get them food and water.
When it was all ready, I headed down to the appropriate branch to arrive right at 9:00am. I got there at 9:04am and there were already five people ahead of me in line. As I waited, I could hear my babies peeping desperately from somewhere inside the mail room.
PEEP PEEP PEEP!!! PEEEEEEEEEEEEP!!!!!!
As I waited for what felt like an eternity for each person to be helped, the babies would periodically stop peeping. This set me into full panic mode every time. Oh great – they’ve been in this box for days already, they’re freezing and starving, and now they’ve gone quiet! I just kept picturing the babies’ dropping dead one by one as the minutes ticked by while I waited. Besides, I have been doing a ton of reading and everything I’ve read has said that I can most certainly expect some dead babies on arrival. The trip through the mail is not an easy one, and it’s worse in late winter when it’s coldest out. Sometimes they’re all dead… if not, you lose quite a few soon after you get them home.
When my turn finally came, the seemingly deadpan man at the window broke into a smile when I told him I was there to pick up some chicks. “Oh yes! Yes you are! They’re right here! They’ve been waiting for you. Take good care of them and enjoy them.” When I took my box back out past everyone else in line, most of them were smiling too. Those cute little peeps really seemed to lighten the mood in the fairly dreary post office.
My first thought when I saw the box was how could it possibly hold 26 chicks? It’s so small! As I drove home, the peeps escalated each time I hit the breaks, accelerated, or turned a corner. They quieted quite a bit when I turned the floor heater up to 90 degrees and put their box right under it. When I finally got home, I was prepared for the worst… but when I opened the box a living, breathing, peeping mass peered back at me. It looked like most of them made it! Amazing. I still assumed I’d find a few dead ones underneath the live mass. I felt like I was racing time as I picked up each chick, checked its rear end for “pasting up” (more on that later) and then shoved its beak in the drinking water before letting it go. I was still convinced that they would start dropping dead from stress at any moment. But, miraculously, when I finished the task, I had 27 live babies, 0 deaths.
During all this time, I had been communicating with a local woman who was planning to split my order with me. I had them at the house less than two hours before she showed up, and I have to tell you – it wasn’t easy giving some of them away to her. Brian and I both already felt like they were OUR chicks and didn’t know how we would choose which to give away. Besides, by the time she arrived, they had all just figured out the feeders and were chowing down happily and snug and warm and hydrated. However, we really couldn’t keep all 25 – it would be too much and was never the plan. Cori said she wanted any chicks that we didn’t want to keep (and she would pay me for them, of course), so I quickly picked out ten chicks for her, stuck them in a box, handed them to her, and tried not to look back. So now, here I sit, with 17 chicks left. They are all happily peeping away (the happy peeping sounds distinctly different than the distressed peeping), eating, drinking, pooping, playing, sleeping, and bugging each other. Update: Cori is also blogging about her chicks. If you would like to see how they are doing, please go here: http://myemptynestdays.blogspot.com.