Special Delivery: Baby Chicks By Mail
SCOTT SIMON, host:
The arrival of baby chicks at a local feed store is a rite of the season in rural areas. In North Bennington, Vermont, where backyard chicken-raising is both a tradition and a trend, poultry orders arrive every few weeks.
Susan Keese - yes, rhymes with geese - of Vermont Public Radio sends us this audio postcard.
SUSAN KEESE: At 7:00 a.m., Todd Saunders from Whitman's Feed Store arrives at the post office.
Mr. TODD SAUNDERS (Whitman's Feed Store): Two boxes in here?
Unidentified Woman #1: Yeah, that's it.
Mr. SAUNDERS: Okay.
Unidentified Woman #1: Yeah.
Mr. SAUNDERS: Thanks.
Unidentified Woman #1: Okay.
KEESE: The postmistress hands him two large, flat, noisy boxes. Two hundred chicks hatched in New Mexico the day before yesterday.
At the feed store, Saunders unpacks the chicks. He inspects them for damage and sorts them by breed. Rhode Island Reds, mottled Black Bard Rocks, yellow and white broilers. A sales clerk sets them up with water and food.
Mr. SAUNDERS: Good morning, Lynn. This is (unintelligible). Good. Chicks are in.
KEESE: While Saunders calls his customers, the baby birds motor around in circles. They jostle at the feed tray. Some wiggle their naked little wings as if to fly.
Ms. ARIANNA STETSON: Aww, so cute.
KEESE: Nine-year-old Arianna Stetson has been waiting for this day.
Unidentified Woman #2: You're name, sir?
Unidentified Person #1: Stetson.
KEESE: Her family has ordered half a dozen Rhode Island Reds. Arianna holds a cardboard box while the clerk counts out six russet-colored Poulets.
Ms. STETSON: I think they're squished in there.
Unidentified Person #2: Nah, theyll be all right. It'll keep them warm for the ride home.
KEESE: Arianna will talk to the chickens and sing to them.
(Soundbite of laughter)
KEESE: Rick Miro((ph) does that too.
Mr. RICK MIRO: I talk to them. I want them to know who I am. So...
KEESE: Miro works in a gravel pit and does a little lawn work on the side. He sells eggs for cash but confesses he gives a lot away. Miro has lived with poultry all his life. He and his partner have 22 laying hens.
Mr. MIRO: I got to go home and clean the barn out when we get back. And Ill talk to every one of them while Im in there.
KEESE: The baby chicks will live in Miro's bathtub until it gets a little warmer.
Mr. MIRO: I got to tell you, they're just like a baby. You got to take care of them for a while.
KEESE: Even when the birds get too old to lay, Miro will keep feeding them. He says if he wants a chicken for dinner, he'll get it at the store.
For NPR News, Im Susan Keese.
(Soundbite of a chirping)
Mr. MIRO: Getting tire? Huh? Getting tired?
(Soundbite of a song)
Unidentified Man: (Singing) Every (unintelligible) on a saxophone empties out some old ladies home. There's clicking ticking, a tick, tick, ticking today. A man gets in an awful muddle. He don't know who he's trying to cuddle. There's a queen outside in the dark alone, then find out she's a chaperone. There's a (unintelligible) ticking, a tick, tick, ticking today.
(Soundbite of clucking)
Unidentified Man: (Singing) There's (unintelligible) a tick, tick, ticking today.
SIMON: This NPR News.