The Chicken 101 workshop was my first since becoming a Chicken Author. I was nervous as all get out. There were things I wished I had planned better—but overall it was a success. Folks signed up to learn about raising laying hens, and between the talks, questions, and conversations: that is exactly what they received. They also left with a copy of Chick Days and their very own Ameraucanas, Buff Orpingtons, and Rhode Island Reds. Not a bad way to spend a rainy Sunday.
Cathy Daughton arrived early to be my saving grace. She brought her beautiful cinnamon coffee cake braid and did everything from dishes to help answer beginner questions. I'm blessed to have her in my life.
Soon after she arrived the attendees started to show up. The recent snow melts of the last two days brought the gift of parking spaces, so everyone was able to squeeze their cars and trucks along the road. Before long the house was full of people eager and willing to see their chicks and talk poultry. We enjoyed a brunch of quiche and Daughton Cinnamon Fanastico and then got into the big show.
We started in the nursery, going over the breeds and brooder basics. As I explained about heat lamps and pine shavings, people got to hold their future employees in their warm hands. After that initial talk from me and a general Q&A we broke for lunch to eat up some homemade pizza. Collin played some banjo tunes while the PBS special The Natural History of the Chicken aired on the used television. After that, we went out into the wind and rain to discuss adult hens, housing, and diseases in the barn. It was like a treehouse club of homesteaders and future farmers. Everyone was friendly, helpful, and kind.
The workshop ended in the living room with more questions and discussion. We went over cleaning coops, predator control, stories, and more. When all of us were spent, full, and excited we filled up their transport containers with chicks and said our goodbyes. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the fellowship and fowl. I felt lucky to host it.
I'll do another workshop like this the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Already we have three folks signed up and I hope more of you decide to join us. It'll be a beautiful spring weekend on the farm, complete with romping lambs, home-brewed beer and a bonfire. And you get to go home with some chicks in a little box. Email me if you want in on the party. There's a great old grand hotel just three miles from the farm.
I didn't tell this to anyone, but the entire time I was handing people chicks or in the barn talking about frost-bitten combs—I kept thinking about a few springs earlier in Idaho. I was in their position in 2006. I had just moved to the other side of the country and wanted to produce as much of my own food as possible. Diana (my friend and mentor) showed me all of the things we covered today. It was a wash of gratitude to realize just half a decade later I was back on the east coast with my own land, flock, and telling other beginners about scratch grains and reference books. I still remember that day I picked up our spring order of chicks and I drove them in the snow to her farm. We set up the brooder, and I watched her open that postal box of babes with the awe of a 6-year-old in a pet-shop window giving away free puppies. After the chicks were settled, I remember thanking her and telling her I hoped some day to do the same for someone else. Today I had that chance.
Thank you, Di and everyone who made my farm a part of their weekend. Let me know how those little ones do.
photo by Alli Schweizer