BABY CHICK RESCUE

February 20th, 2006

BABY CHICK RESCUE!!!

So the other day I was walking home from Waterfront Market, where I went to buy sugar free hot cocoa mix (because it got COLD here for a few days last week), and suddenly, in front of the Key West Library, I heard: “CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP!!!!”

I am used to hearing and seeing baby chicks because chickens (and roosters) roam around loose here in Key West. People originally kept chickens for eggs and meat, and then some escaped, and now they're all over the island, roaming around and in general not causing too much trouble (it's only if a rooster settles in your yard and starts crowing at three in the morning that you have to call
the Chicken Lady).

But one thing I had NEVER seen before was baby chicks without a mother hen scurrying along in front of them.

But when I looked down that day in front of the library, all I saw were baby chicks—fluffy yellow ones with brown stripes, barely as big as golf balls, only with legs, like this one:

–running around all crazylike in front of the library steps!

WITHOUT THEIR MOTHER!!!

Usually mother hens won't let you anywhere NEAR their chicks—like this one

who sat on her babies (well, most of them) rather than let me take a picture of them (PS these photos are of stand-in chickens, not the actual chickens I rescued in front of the library. I didn't have my camera with me that day).

Anyway, there was a man standing outside the library looking very concerned as well, so I asked him if he had seen the mother hen. But he said he hadn't. He also said one of the chicks had run into the road and been hit by a car! He was standing on the curb to keep more of them from getting hit.

As a baby licker, I knew instantly it was time for action! So I ran inside to tell the librarians what was going on.

Question: If you were a librarian, and someone ran into your library and told you that a bunch of baby chicks were hurling themselves in front of cars outside your door, what would you do?

Well, the Key West librarians weren't exactly sure what to do at first, either. I mean, you just don't see baby chicks without their mother around here.

Ultimately, they decided to call the Chicken Lady. While the librarians looked up the number, I asked for a box. Because it made sense to me to round up the baby chicks, so more of them didn't get hit by cars.

The librarians gave me a perfect sized box for putting baby chicks in. I ran back outside, and started rounding them up.

Question: Have you ever tried to catch tiny baby chicks who don't want to be caught because they're so scared of you that they'd rather run into a busy road and get hit by a car than let you touch them?

Well, let me tell you. It is not easy. While the nice man guarded a baby chick that tried to escape me by jumping beneath a parked car, I scrambled around on my hands and knees on the sidewalk, using the box to herd the rest of the chicks into a corner by the library steps.

Then I snatched them up one at a time, and put them in the box.

Question: Have you ever held a baby chick in your hand?

Well, if you haven't, let me tell you: They are the softest, most adorable things imaginable. You can feel their little hearts beating a mile a minute, and the moment you get your fingers around them, they go kind of limp and stop cheeping and look all confused, like, “Wha' happened?”

I seriously didn't even THINK about avian flu until much, much later. That's how cute they were.

Finally I had all the chicks in the box except the one who had run under the car. I gave the nice man the box to hold, then I ducked down under the wheel where the last chick was hiding, scooped him (or her) up, and put him (or her) in the box with his or her siblings.

Then the man was like, “What do we do with them?”

That's when I began to reflect on what would happen if I came home from buying sugar free hot cocoa mix with a box of baby chicks.

First off, the baby chicks would all die instantly. Because of course I am a baby licker, and I would find a way to kill them somehow, without meaning to, because that is what I do (which is why I do not have children). I kept Henrietta locked in the bathroom of my studio apartment for the first two weeks she lived with me because I was so afraid she would crawl under the stove and I wouldn't notice and I would turn the stove on, and she'd get baked.

It is a miracle Henrietta survived to adulthood (but now you understand why she is so weird. Clearly, if I ever had a child and it survived until adulthood, it would become a serial killer, and it would be all my fault).

I also knew that if I didn't kill the baby chicks, my cats DEFINITELY would.

So I said to the man, “I know! Let's give the box to the librarians!”

And the man said, “Good idea!”

And then I went, “You do it!”

And the poor, innocent, unsuspecting man, whom I think might have been a tourist, said, “Sure, no problem.” And then he went inside the library.

And I turned around and ran home for all I was worth.

Because I imagined the librarians were going to have a reaction not unlike the reaction my husband would have had if I'd walked in the door carrying a box of baby chicks.

Update: It has been several days and I still haven't gone back to the library to see what ultimately happened to the chicks (because I'm afraid the librarians might want to kill me for forcing a tourist to give them a box of chicks. Although ultimately it was the best thing for the chicks. Although probably not for the poor librarians).

However, yesterday I rode past my tiny three-year-old neighbor, and she screamed at me, “I GOT A BABY CHICKEN!!!!” and I heard a CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP that sounded EXTREMELY similar to the cheeping I'd heard outside the library.

And I realized what those librarians must have done with those baby chicks. And I was filled with a happy rosy feeling that still hasn't gone away.

More later.

Much love,

Meg