The cycle for chickens at Lamppost Farm officially begins at 7:45 am at the Columbiana Post Office. My fellow intern, Tim, and I pull around back and ring the bell. The post carrier, who now recognizes us for our unique package pickups, waves me inside with a smile. Waiting just behind the swinging doors is the loudest and cutest package I’ve ever seen delivered; 600 eager chicks peeping away. I load the boxes into the back of my trusty Subaru Forester and place one on Tim’s lap, just for good measure. I drive the next 3 miles back to the farm with the same care used during my driver’s license test; full stops, no speeding and smooth turns for the special cargo.
Like any good host, we have prepared their dwellings for a pleasant stay. Each brooder box is lined with peat moss and wood shavings, filled with fresh feed and grit, and equipped with heat lamps, lowered to perfect height. Their waterers contain a diluted molasses solution, known to have nutritive properties, helpful for their first few days of life.
Upon arrival to the farm, we carry the twine wrapped boxes to the barn, place them on a pallet and begin the initiation process. Each package holds around 100 chicks; yellow fuzz balls, nestled together, curious of all the excitement outside the shell. We individually dip each chick’s beak into the molasses solution and set them on their way with 60 to 80 of their fellow birds in each brooder box.
The next few days are a true test of the chick’s ability for survival. They must instinctively know to keep close to the heat lamp if cold, how to successfully drink without drowning or drenching their feathers and to avoid being at the bottom of a chick huddle, for risk of suffocation.
Inevitability, we find a few that did not make it during our morning barn chores. Their bodies start to blend with the wood shaving bedding, making it sometimes difficult to spot. This experience reminds me of both how fragile life can be, but also that eventually we will become the earth again.