Chick days have started in Montana and this is one of the first signs of spring. Chick days are when the local farm supplies get baby chicks. Folks who just want a few chickens or a mixed flock this is the time that they can make it happen locally.
For those of you unfamiliar with baby chicks, if you don’t hatch your own, or know some one who does, your chicks come from hatcheries. It used to be that there were many smaller hatcheries all around the country, but those have long since disappeared. As this happened the remaining hatcheries had to be come creative, which gave us chicks via the US Mail. (Bees come the same way!) Boxes are designed to hold 25 day-old chicks for the trip. This special box outfit is such that the chicks are not bounced around too much, but kept warm enough, and have access to fresh air. If you wonder how they make this trip without food and water, chicks gorge themselves on the last of the food before they hatch and they can go two days without food and water. When they arrive you dip their beek into the water tray, to signal to them it is time to start your life in the real world. It is not a perfect system, but since we have so few hatcheries left it is the only option available to many of us.
Farm stores set up six to ten stock tanks with heat lamps in anticipation of chicks arrival. Each week the store will get multiple shipments of chicks having some of the most popular breeds and a few of the rarer breeds. They arrive on a given day and the chicken folks flock to the store waiting for it to open so we can have the broadest selection. I have done this a time or two and I can tell you that you need to be there when they arrive, period. No excuses. If it means you drive 100 or so miles one way, set your alarm clock early. Those who snooze, will loose. I don’t mean that your selection will be crummy, I mean the chicks will be gone. 10 o’clock is getting late, by noon the chicks are nada.
This week I will be calling five farm stores to see what type of chicks they will be getting and the planned schedule. I will then figure out which store and week is my first choice and which is my second. Then I will be planning a vacation day and road trip to get this year’s chicks.
In Montana nice weather is months away, tulips and daffodils are still weeks away, but the first sign of spring baby chicks is here. I am getting spring fever.