As a public service, commentator Bill Schubart warns public radio listeners of the deceptive practices used to entice you into inviting deadly roosters into your home in the springtime.
All across Vermont, the sound of cheeping is coming from farm and hardware stores, signaling the arrival of “chick day.” No, this is not some rite of passage for male graduates, but rather the time-honored tradition of farmers ordering their layers and meat birds from hatcheries in the Midwest.
I remember going with my father every spring to the Morrisville post office to see and hear several thousand chicks peeping madly as they waited to be delivered by the mail-route driver to the hill farms on the outskirts of town.
Chick Day is a great tradition, but it should be strictly regulated like other direct-mail offers such as 0% creditcard offers or diets promising eat-all-you-want weight-loss. The glossy pictures of fuzzy little chicks, waiting to be cuddled belies their rapid growth into a flock of testosterone-crazed roosters terrifying dogs, cats, children and visitors. At six pounds, the avian Visigoths don’t even resemble the little fuzzies in the picture.
A new neighbor from New Jersey fell prey to the deception, asking me which type and breed to order. I asked whether he wanted eggs or meat. He chose meat, further specifying the boneless kind. I explained that boneless chicks would never learn to walk right and would fall prey to predators and he should satisfy himself with ambulatory meat birds.
When he first arrived, he had asked me about getting a cow and whether he should get a skim cow or a 2% one. Needless to say, he experienced a number of other new farmer disappointments such as when he found out he couldn’t get haying equipment for his ride-on mower or when he learned that the cute goat his wife gave him for his birthday was male, didn’t extrude neat logs of chèvre, but instead ate their entire vegetable garden as well as their hi-tech plastic composter to get at the yummies inside…but I digress.
One must plan for chicks. A used penitentiary if you have one in your town works well. Forget the cardboard box on the kitchen countertop with a tipped over table lamp. That works for the first few hours until they reach 3 pounds. The catalog pictures would have you believe that your envious guests will peak into the box and admire your farming skills. Fogeddabout it, as they say in Jersey, unless there is an EMT present, keep family members away from the killer birds.
Vermont’s has limited slaughtering capacity, so plan on dispatching the birds yourself. When they get to 35 pounds it is too late, your best bet then is simply to drive to a remote location like a Home Depot parking lot and release them into the wild, even though you’ve invested several thousand dollars in organic feed getting them to this weight.
Vermont farmers are used to managing feral animals. My best advice on Chick Day is to take your kids to the neighboring farm, let them admire and touch some chicks, then go home quickly and write a check to the farmer for frozen delivery.