The day after Easter.
But, the rabbits were not simply a spring time whim. They were well thought out, and would be cared for by our eleven year old 4-H'er who has a track record for following through.
We also had two three-pound packages of bees on order, so chickens seemed like the logical next step.
Of course we were cajoled into flock ownership by the fact that both of our younger girls had hatched chicks in their classrooms and promised to help care for them. (Our teenage basement dweller pledged right from the beginning that she wanted nothing to do with them.) (Or the bees.) She did, however, pony up half the funds to purchase a third little rabbit, to help grow her sister's chances at the 4-H Fair in August.
Chooks were just one more small addition to our experimental hobby farm it seemed. And, the fact the fluffy little birds were available at all of the farm stores we now found ourselves frequenting only added to their charm. Without fully realizing it, I began navigating to the 636.5 section in the library and adding titles like Chickens in Your Back Yard to our sturdy denim library bag.
We started researching chooks. What did we want from a chicken (eggs, meat or companionship)? What breed? Where would we keep them? How many birds did we want?
We inexplicably settled on 15. A huge number of birds it now seems, as we've learned that the books where not kidding when they explained that the fluffy chicks that steal your heart are prolific eaters and indiscriminate poopers.
After researching we decided to go with a heritage breed ... from China ... the bantam Silkie that in all seriousness was described on Marco Polo's journey to the Far East. Our local farm supply stores didn't regularly stock bantams, let alone the Silkie. Which lead us to hatcheries that still ship day-old chicks via the US Postal service. (Most hatcheries require a minimum order of 15 birds, which is how we arrived at that number.)
Silkies are a small gentle bird. They have black skin. While we don't recall seeing any living Silkies during our tenure in China, we certainly saw our fair share of dead ones ... in the grocery store, heads and feet still attached and standing out with their tell-tale black skin and unusual fifth toe.
Silkies are known to be gentle birds and great parents. They have fluffy feet and funky feathered crowns, and a fun ancient Asian history. In the "what do we want from our chicken's" questionnaire, we apparently wanted companionship, and perhaps camaraderie on the China connection. At least we'll have enough chooks to make a meal of their tiny cream colored eggs once they begin to lay.