The Great Arrival

It’s March 28, 2020, which means we are in the opening and still unknown period of the Corona virus. Already two weeks at home, homeschooling and remote working, has been a big adjustment.

The boys have done it seamlessly. For I., now 12, this may be his preferred state of life: limited hours of school, access to his friends online, and being home.  As a third grader, A. has a different routine. Every weekday morning we huddle to review his school tasks for the day, which are emailed by his teacher. Mrs. J. does a nice job of keeping things focused and fun. As long as he can balance his schoolwork with games and WWE wrestling, he’s good.

And a classic Amy move happens – of course this is when I decide to act on my long-time urge to get chickens. B. can be very patient. So I ordered five chicks online to arrive via mail, an Amish-style coop that needs assembling, and headed off to Tractor Supply to buy a full pallet worth of supplies even though I have no idea what I’m doing (and not comfortable venturing out. That’s a Hall no-no.) Luckily, I’ve got dad and W. as my wingmen to help me muddle through chickening.

It all seems perfectly sensible: it’s something we can all do together, provides a whole new level of entertainment and activities, and is like a longterm science project. Not to mention my paranoia of not being able to get eggs and the warm weather arrival of backyard ticks. Bleh. Ticks. A flock of chickens is the only sensible solution.

Then we waited. Setting up the brooder in the basement was a full family effort. We carved out an unfinished closet space as a breeding area. I lined the floor with leftover linoleum floor planks and B. rigged the lighting and the barriers. Instant brooder.  The boys came down often to comment on my work in progress. I got grumpy and B. finished the project where I got stuck. Totally typical household project.

The post office called at 5 AM on yesterday morning to let me know the chicks had arrived. Bob, our awesome mail carrier, offered to bring him to the house (because B. used his superpower to get any kind of carrier to do anything for us). That was great because going to the post office felt like a massive germ exposure experience.

By 10:00 they arrived. The small box sounded like a cacophony of chicks. We opened it together, and I was so afraid we’d find a chick that hadn’t made the journey. (No need to add any more trauma to this experience.) Instead, they were nine incredibly amazingly adorable and loud fuzzy chicks. 9 is more than 5. When something is that cute you don’t care. It was glorious. And because they’re Bantam-sized, the yet-to-arrive coop should be fine. I don’t have any great video or pictures of opening the box because I had a low fever that day, and was trying to quarantine myself and not touch anything. Perfect time for my home experiment to commence.

We all did an appropriate level of fussing over every move they made. I obsessed but there wasn’t enough heat in the brooder. I. and A. oversaw filling up the feeders and the water. B. looked on and made sure we stayed calm. Every time one tumbled or laid down we poked it to make sure that it was OK. Gently. Just like when the boys were babies.

There’s no touching in the first 24 hours, so we finally went to bed. I’m happy to say that this morning all of the chicks are still chirping. You can hear them straight through the floorboards most of the day. It makes me incredibly happy. Seeing everyone fawning over the chicks – debating names, seeing their quirks, laughing at the way they climb over each other’s heads – makes me happy. Bringing Fez down for a quick meet and greet makes me happy. Realizing I screwed up and wasn’t giving them the right food did not make me happy. Luckily my overzealous purchasing meant there was 50 pound bag of chicken food in the garage.

And then there’s holding them. It’s a ball of fluff about the weight of a quarter. A. holding one for the first time and realizing how fragile and fluffy and delightful they are. I. being nervous but getting right in there and gently scooping up chicks. Learning to gently stroke the back of their heads with the lightest touch with you’re thumb to watch them calm in your hands and look like they’re asleep. Maybe they’re really just quaking in fear, but I like my version better.

Salm just texted to say that Trump is considering putting New York and Connecticut in quarantine. I suppose the real difference is guards around the borders and no cross-state movement. Not really a thing for us, but just not something you expect in life. Go chicks!

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