Share the post "Understanding The USDA Hardiness Zones"FacebookTwitterDiggStumbleUponE-mailUnderstanding The USDA Hardiness Zones by Robin Follette Reprints by permission. The USDA zones are too often misunderstood. As a result of the misunderstanding, they’re More »
Ava and the Meat Chicks
August 25, 2012. The day Taylor, our youngest daughter, moved back to campus. Moving day is busy. We loaded the Jeep and put a few things in the truck and hit the road. Taylor left ahead of us to make a stop in Bangor. I waited for the phone to ring, but it didn’t. Someone calls to say “Come get them” or “Billy’s on his way by, he’ll drop them off,” but not this year. This year our mail is delivered through a different post office because of cutbacks.
My phone number was on the shipping label. I thought they’d call. They must not have come in. Would they survive until Monday?
We pulled into the drive late in the afternoon. “There they are,” Steve said. Instant relief. He picked up the box of loudly peeping chicks and set them down on the kitchen counter. Ava, our two year old English Shepherd, was ecstatic. She knows peeping means she has work to do. She stood on her back legs, right front foot pawing the air, wanting her chicks. I moved the box to the floor.
Ava tipped her head from side to side, ears perked up, and listened for a few second before the work of getting the box open began. She sniffed the top and sides of the box. She pushed it around the kitchen floor. She found the weak spot, a corner with a lip big enough to get her snout under. She pushed the box to the cupboard for stability, stuck her snout under the edge and pushed up the corner.
“Be easy,” I told her. “They’re babies, Ava. Be gentle.” Ava is an intense dog. She’s one of the two most intelligent dogs I’ve worked. She’s a thinker and a planner, and she’s stubborn. Give her an inch and she’s off on her own. Her way is usually better than mine. Ava has epilepsy. I can almost pinpoint when the changes in her brain started. Stress and anxiety induced seizures. A second medication got her back on track two months ago but I’m still careful to watch her anxiety level. This matters in our story.
Ava snuffled every chick she could reach inside the mostly closed box. A few of them got baths. Poor things weren’t even out of the box yet and they were dealing with an energetic dog that was excited about her 25 new charges. I know she isn’t going to hurt them. She’s very protective of her chickens, ducks and turkeys. And I know the chicks are fine. Ava does this every time we get poultry and they never panic. Maybe they don’t know she could eat them in one bite.
I brought the plastic tub into the house, lined it with newspaper and added food and water. I don’t use a heat lamp in the house. I know two people who lost their barns because of heat lamps. I put a heating mat I use for seed starting under the bin. One by one, I moved chicks to the tub. Ava sniffed each one. After three or four chicks were moved she’d go to the tub, stick her head in, look at them and return to the box. She spent the first six hours watching them. She likes order, and being a herding dog, she puts everything where I want them or where she thinks they belong. She nosed the chicks to one end of the tub. They got to know each other well.
Ava started to become anxious when she couldn’t keep 26 (they throw in an extra in case one doesn’t survive shipping) chicks in the “right” place. I changed their newspapers, took the food and water away and put the cover of the tub on, leaving enough room for fresh air to flow through. To be on the safe side, because she’s Ava and intense, I added a few objects to the lid to help persuade her to leave it be. She hasn’t had a seizure in two months. I want to keep it that way. She relaxed and went to her pillow in the corner. When I got up the next morning she was peeking through the open edge. I don’t know how long she’d been standing there. It was still dark and the chicks were asleep.
In the next few columns I’ll be writing about raising meat chickens in my backyard. It’s a simpler process than many folks realize. I’m sure Ava will turn up from time to time along with battles with raccoons and the resident skunk we’ve yet to trap.