And I learned where the nearest Agway is

My latest mail-order purchase arrived today. The post office called up and left us voice mail: "Hey... your chickens are here. Come and get them." It's amazing what you can send through the mail, if you can figure out how to get the postage to stick.

Since we live in Massachusetts, where the state government doesn't have enough revenue to turn on the heater yet (despite the amount of taxes we pay), it's still hovering around freezing at night. So the Critter and I did some research on the Internet, and built a brooding pen in the garage. We figured, this way, we can acclimate them to the weather, and get the giant slobber producer we live with a chance to get used to having some company around.

I have to admit, I was pretty dang proud of our handiwork - ok, never mind that I ran out of chicken wire. Actually, the wood walls in the corner would reflect the heat back onto the chickens, keeping them nice and toasty. Erm. Yeah. I planned it that way.

Except, I forgot to account for how dang small chicks are.

When I went to pick up the chickens, they were packed into a slightly-largish shoebox, with a few holes poked in it. I plunked the box down onto the passenger seat, and listend to them cheep-peep an asynchronous Inna Godda Da Vida the entire ride home.

Man those little things are loud.

But they really are as cute as they make them on TV. We ended up with 17 different breeds of chicken, most of which are considered some sort of 'heritage' breed. (i.e. they're not the plain white chicken that Gonzo used to make sweet, passionate love to on the Muppet Show. That really was sick when you think about it.)

We huddled together and took stock as a family of what it was we had just gotten ourselves in to. Or at least, we will, as soon as we get over adoring the little bundles of downy cuteness.

Even the dog got into the act. She was fascinated by these tiny creatures that showed no fear of her. She's clearly already gotten the idea that these are 'her' chicks, and has taken to checking on them every few minutes.

We're a little unsure as to whether she's concerned for their well-being, or if she's trying to make sure that the one she's picked out as a late night snack might try and make a break for it.

After an hour or so of cooing and cuddling, we figured we'd try and put them out in their new (temporary) home. Remember when I said they were small? Remember how big that pen was?

Yeah. Um. Oops.

According to the instructions, you're supposed to keep the chicks at a toasty 90 degrees for the first few days. Also, you're supposed to gently wipe each chick's rear from time to time to make sure the manure hasn't become stuck to the down.

I only wish I was making this stuff up.

OK, some quick thinking is in order here. In the meantime, small chickens, please get to know further the giant, salivating descendant of wolves. She's still trying to figure out what the hell you little things are.

We ended up with a smaller, warmer abode for these newborns, in a box in my office. The mad, incessant chirping actually slowed down once we began to get a little warmth back into the tiny balls of chickeny cuteness, and all afternoon, they sat warm and cozy, in their new hut, except for when one of us would stop by and take a poke at one, to get our tiny-fuzzy handling fix.

This is a very temporary solution - probably a few days, until they can move to the garage, and then a couple of weeks until they head to the barn, and then a couple more weeks until their out in their proper chicken house (still to be built).

But in the meantime, I'm surprisingly ok with having 31 living souls of one sort or another in our house.

These most recent 25 additions make the house feel like a farm again. And that feels remarkably comfortable.