Peep Prep: What to Expect When You're Expecting Chicks

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Like any gardener knows, spring is a busy time. And, as any parent knows, spring is an insanely hectic time. Now, factor in a nursery business, plus a new garden addition and upcoming garden/farm tour, three kids and their myriad activities, school commitments...and my favorite season is gone in a blink of an eye.
 

I've been a bit sentimental about the passage of time lately. April is also the birthday month for two of our children: Kristen, a.k.a. "Chicken Mama," and Mikey. Truly, my babies are growing into independent young people too quickly. Just six months ago, Kristen still looked like a little girl, but now she's turned into a pre-teen, with long, long legs and sassy, cute outfits. 
 

 
(My sanity saver is that she's still climbing trees in her sassy outfits. And she just ripped one of those sassy shirts this afternoon while stuck on a branch. Yeesh.)
 
 
 
Plus, of course, she talks about chickens non-stop. I'm hopeful this trait will continue through her teen years, as the incessant chicken-chatter may deter the boys.
 
Honestly. The girl talks about chickens in her sleep. I'm not kidding. She also has been known to bark in her sleep, too, but that's another story...
 
So, because I'm a firm believer in keeping kids busy with their interests so that they can't get into trouble, Chicken Mama is now a member of the 4-H Poultry Project.
 
 
 
She's beyond excited!
 
When I was young, I thought you had to live on a farm to be involved with 4-H. Not true. We live in a suburban subdivision, on .8 acres.
 
The 4-H Poultry Project is a terrific program developed for kids to teach them how to raise and care for a small flock of chickens. The 4-Hers raise day-old chicks to 24+ weeks for egg production. Then, at the end of the 24-week time period, the student selects his or her best pullet to be shown in competitions. Integral to the program is a project book, where the 4-Her records important information learned while caring for the flock.
 
Frankly, I think there should be an adult version of the 4-H program for all of the backyard chicken enthusiasts. While it's easy to impulsively stop in your local feed and seed during “Chick Days” and pick up a few fluffy lovelies, there's much to learn for the first-time chicken-owner.
 
Chicken Mama, of course, is an expert after raising her first flock of girls. She read more than a dozen books on raising chickens, pounces on Chicken magazine at Barnes & Noble, and is a constant member on the BackyardChickens.com forum (with my supervision, of course.) She'd rather play with her chickens than play Wii.
 
 
In fact, she was a guest panelist at our local showing of Mad City Chickens, a movie featuring individuals who raise chickens within city limits. My little semi-shy girlie introduced the audience to Saltine, one of her new pullets, and answered questions from chicken-owner wannabes.
 
I was a proud mommy. 
 
 
And—I was amazed at the number of people who turned out to talk chickens! Who knew? Every seat was (eventually) filled.
 
 
 
Much like a "Toddlers and Tiaras" mother, Kristen is prepping her new babies—Saltine, Sugar and Spice--for shows, one of the primary reasons she wanted to join 4-H. Among the materials she received from Clemson University's Extension Service, the sponsor of the 4-H project, is a guide to Poultry Showmanship.
 
But rather than focus on the showmanship aspect of chick rearing, I thought I'd share some of the more basic requirements: 

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