At the Farm GateBlue eggs, baby birds beat winter blahs
The promise of blue eggs from a chirping cardboard box helps beat the winter blahs at our house this season. Oh, how some tales from our household could form a nonsensical storybook. Yet, even Dr. Seuss didn’t put this color of egg into rhymes nor did he illustrate the century-old tradition of chicken delivery via the U.S. Postal Service, America’s exclusive shipper of live chicks.
Now nine-year chicken farmers, our kids this year express the most excitement about selecting a breed that lays blue-tinted eggs. The Ameraucanas on their list of laying chickens for the 4-H Fair will add a blue hue to the current shades of brown, white and Dr. Seuss-approved green eggs that currently fill our cartons.
Personally, I love the green eggs and remain fascinated with the delivery method of the baby birds. That once-a-year moment for us arrives in mid-February with a beloved postal delivery of chirpy 4-H chicks, a shipping phenomenon God made possible. Chicks absorb yolk at hatching, giving these little guys the nutrients to sustain their first days of life without food and water, like the conditions of a cardboard box.
Upon shipment, we track the location of that box, peppered with air holes for ventilation, as it travels from an Iowa hatchery to the local post office. There, we hear the chirping package in the back room before asking for it and see it making the postal workers happier. The package draws delightful curiosity from postal patrons, regardless of the line length. And, it makes the cutest racket all the way home in the minivan.
At home, the kids lift the roughly 30 chirping fuzzballs from the box, where the birds shared warmth in that confine. The kids introduce each to food, water, and the lamp-warmed, 95-degree environment they need in their first week. A few with unique markings will earn names right away. A couple may not make it, a fact of life. We sit for a while and watch the playful chicks, the groggy ones, and even the clumsy ones that toddle into the water troughs.
Within five to six months, I anticipate the arrival of the first blue egg to generate similar excitement to the very first egg the kids collected in 2012. I remember that our daughter, then age six, excitedly thanked the chickens. Then, she promptly asked for another to provide enough for a batch of chocolate chip cookies.
About the author: Joanie Stiers’ family grows corn, soybeans and hay and raises beef cattle and backyard chickens in West-Central Illinois.