The first stage of raising a few new chicks is simple. We buy two or three chicks at Chick Day, in Dalles Oregon, joining the line at 8AM to pick up the pre-ordered bits of fluff. Small children, older farmwives, an occasional new generation farmer all line up, sip coffee, talk chicks, and watch the Big Chicken dancing around until it is our turn to slip into the back room, reach under the heat lamps, and pick out the new peeps. Driving home, they peep loudly until they fall asleep in the passenger’s hands.
The first peep house is simple. We have a blue plastic bin, about a foot and a half deep, that we line with newspaper. Food and water are in small versions of the standard chicken issue feeder with the pint mason jar attached. We rig up a heat lamp—a metal utility lamp I found at a Habitat ReStore—with a standard incandescent bulb. For the first few days, it hangs inside the tub. As the peeps feather out, it rests on the metal screen above. The bin is set in an inner room, away from drafts, with a door that we can shut from cats, and they are established.
Depending upon the weather, we move them outside, at least in the afternoons, as soon as possible. This year, I set up a small ring of small chicken wire staked into the ground. They were out within a few days, but it was an early warm spring. Within an hour, they were pecking away on grass and talking cheerfully about the experience. When they started to sound frantic as the sun went down, we brought them in. The ring was easily moved, so we could place it in the warmest parts of the yard.
Right now, the peeps are rapidly becoming peepsters. Their feathers are filling out, they are looking bare and gawky around the neck, they are running fast and flapping madly, trying to fly, so the ring no longer works for them and we’ve moved them into the cold frame—now known as the peep frame. It is a ten foot long, four foot wide (garden bed sized) wood frame that holds a series of old windows. We hang the lamp from the top bar in case of cold rain moving in while we are away and put them out every morning. They run around, peck at the petals that land on the glass, peep when the cats walk the ridgelines, and generally enjoy the day. We catch them in the evening and bring them inside, peeping loudly in protest.
We are almost at the end of easy peep parenting. Soon, they will be larger, faster, and louder, but not quite ready to move in with the Ladies in the back coop. Then we’ll have a month or so of chicken integration, which is ugly.
|Better with backyard eggs!|
Pastry Cream—the basis for many yummy things…
In a pot, warm 3 cups of milk
2T of butter
In a bowl, whisk together
1 cup of milk
6 egg yolks
1 cup of sugar
½ cup of cornstarch
Whisk the warmed milk into the egg mixture. Pour it all back in the pan and cook, on medium low, until thick. Pour into the bowl, add a teaspoon of vanilla, coconut if you are making coconut cream pie, cover with plastic wrap, and cool in the fridge.