My wife was out of town, so I decided to pick up some chicks.
I took the kids with me, of course. They had been driving me nuts for a few days, and I thought that they could probably use a fun distraction.
We headed over to a little live-poultry place down on 207th that I had seen before. The place was dank and dim, a cacophany of flying feathers and indignant squawks. The kids loved it. Chickens of various sorts peered out from cages. The kids peered back.
I asked how much three chicks would be. After a bit of discussion, they told me that the chicks would be free. I felt like I was living in a Dire Straits song. I may not have had money for nothing, but I was certainly getting chicks for free.
The store produced a paper bag, and the proprieter poked holes in it with his pen, while three tiny, fluffy, not-entirely-cooperative chicks were produced. When we left the store I was cradling a perforated lunch sack that emitted a series of soft peeps. I wondered what people were going to think of us on the subway.
When we got home, I took one of our many plastic toy tubs and converted it into a chick house. Heating was an issue. New York is cold, and chicks will freeze without enough heat. Our new guests huddled in a cluster in the corner of their bin, giving off plaintive peeps. This needed to be remedied.
For the first day, I used Mardell’s projector lamp, which had a big, bright bulb. Alas, the lamp was soon knocked over, and its big hot bulb melted through the side of the lamp and through the bottom of the toy tub. Oops. Sorry, honey.
Oh, yes. She was home by now, and none too happy to see that I had brought home some chicks without asking her first. (Had I learned nothing from Joseph Smith’s experience?) In any case, the chicks were here, and we joined forces to save them from the cold. We ran to Target and located a sturdy, hard-to-tip desk lamp. We added a 100-watt bulb, and the chicks spread out and relaxed under the warm light like an upper East Sider at her favorite tanning salon. Mission accomplished.
The kids loved their new playmates. Kace in particular liked to take them all over the house with him. He often carried them on his shoulder, like a pirate in training. The chicks acquired names and personalities. Neighborhood kids came over to play with them. Our house became the most popular place on the block.
But fun often devolved into violence at the poor chickies’ expense. Kace (the impulsive one) decided one day that it would be fun to play basketball with a chick. How would this be possible? Simple — the chick becomes the ball! Quick parental intervention stopped that project seconds after it had started, but not before at least one trip through the basket for one bewildered chick. (Fortunately this was a 3-foot Playhut basket, and not something regulation height.)
Our chicks needed a new home. Mardell’s patience with me was wearing thin. And with our kids’ creative play ideas, our home was not safe for them. Every day brought the possibility of a fatality. We called some shelters, trying to locate a nice place for them. One shelter in Brooklyn said they took in chicks. An hour and a half subway ride? I wondered if I could just set them free in a park. I suspected that any attempts to re-enact Born Free would only enrich the palate of the local cats.
Then fate intervened. One of Mardell’s friends in primary had a two year old son who had come over to play with the chicks. He loved them, and so she had gone to the poultry store herself to find some chicks of her own. However, it turned out that chicks aren’t normally sold at that store — we had been lucky to get there just after they had had some new hatches.
Mardell’s friend wanted chicks; we needed to get rid of ours; a transfer was made. The chicks took their comfy lamp with them, which was fine. We didn’t want them to freeze at their new home. We went to visit them at their new home a few times, and it was always fun seeing them again. They eventually outgrew that home, and around the time we left New York, their new owners were busy transfering them to a location upstate.
I enjoyed many things about our few weeks of living with the chicks. I loved watching the kids playing with their new playmates. I was reminded of watching children play with chicks and ducklings on my mission. (I was also reminded of how much feathers make me sneeze.) And the kids loved having them around, and were sad to see them go. Indigo and Kace still talk wistfully about how much fun they had with the chicks.
But as fun as it was, the whole episode did test the patience of my wife. And so, in the end, I think I learned a valuable lesson from my experience with the chicks:
Never bring home chicks without your wife’s permission.