In May, we brought home 6 baby chicks, only a few weeks old. Since they were growing every day, that gave us a deadline by which to have our fences repaired, the shed converted to a coop, and the yard ready; things I had been meaning to get to for a long time. We set up the babies in a box in the garage, and the kids got to work taking care of them, very admirably I might add. They made sure they had food twice a day, kept their box cleaned out, and made sure their heat lamp stayed on all night. They took them out during the day and let them run around in the garage while they played with them.
Meanwhile, back at the (literal) ranch, our grandpa came over nearly every day to help on the farm. He and the boys (men) rebuilt fences from scratch and learned a great deal about construction. When the yard was finally contained and secure, they set about converting the back of the shed into the coop. We picked up a couple of old doors from the Restore Store that really added to the farmhouse feel of it all. The boys chopped up the firewood that had been stored in the shed previously so they could move it to a new location. They cleaned everything out; then, Andrew helped Grandpa convert some old bookcases into 4 nesting boxes. Mighty fine work, if I dare so.
The day finally came for the chicks to move into their new home. Once they had all their feathers (and had gotten too big for their box), they graduated to the new crib. Happy birds. Happy kids. By this time, we actually had figured out the difference between a Barred Rock and a Rhode Island Red (that's the one I mentioned initially - the one that made her own bread).
All summer I watched as the kids worked in the garden and took care of the animals, both of which were new to our family. The thing that surprised me the most was not how good they were at it but how happy it made me feel every time I looked out a back window and saw how happy they were (kids and chickens). They love taking the scraps from our table out to the animals who appreciatively come running in anticipation of a treat as soon they see the back door open. They love being the ones to find the eggs and bring them in. Chamane picks them up, tucks them under her arm, and carries them around the yard like a baby. Josh even loves cleaning up after them. Andrew, particularly, has discovered a passion that I doubt he knew he had before this new adventure. He is now planning what kind of a farm to have when he grows up and exactly how one goes about acquiring the right property. I'd have to say that those 6 silly birds have changed everything! The kids have learned how to tend to animals that we depend on to produce. They have learned the actual ins and outs of raising chickens (who knew?), and I have been surprised at the peace of mind that comes with just that little bit more self reliance. Kind of cool!