In my previous blog I mentioned that I was something of an expert on how baby chicks look. Not only that but stated it was a story for another day. It's another day.
When my wife and I were very young, there were few good jobs in this area. Broiler houses - buildings designed and built specifically to raise broiler chickens - became a popular way for people in rural areas to earn extra money. When I say designed I'm not talking about some high falutin, engineered building. It was simply a narrow, long building anywhere between 200 and 500 feet in length with a tin roof and tin on the each side about half way up. The rest of the wall was covered with chicken wire and had "curtains" that rolled up and down. You can imagine these curtains, which were winched up and down, were a pain. They would sag, the cable would break, it was always something...
Because, of course you had to always worry about adjusting the curtains once the chicks began to grow. Rain, heat, cold, too much ammonia buildup (yes, all that poop generated lots of ammonia), required an adjustment in curtain height.
We had two chicken houses and a batch of baby chicks was 28,000. For the first few days, even in Summer you had to have the gas brooders (large heating disks) on. It was a sight to see though. Looking down a 400 foot long house, it looked like a sea of furry yellow mats undulating softly.
Unfortunately, there was not a lot of time to get all poetic and artsy. There was work to be done. Feeding and watering 28,000 chicks is a job! Also you had the unpleasant task of picking up the dead, killing the ones with deformed beaks, extra legs, etc, (sorry if this is grossing some of you out - wasn't sure how much detail to include).
But soon the chicks were big enough to eat and drink from the automatic equipment and life got much easier. At about 4 weeks you began seeing victims of heart attack which everyone said was a good sign. I never made the correlation in pay but I'll have to tell the truth here and say I was no great shakes as a chicken farmer. It was a hard truth to face but I've learned to cope with being a failure at some endeavors.
At various times the chicken doctor would show up and bitch. I hadn't put enough saw dust down before the chicks were delivered. Now he tells me! The chickens were too hot or the chickens were too cold or they were sick. Anything else Doc? Should I move my bed out here?
At seven to eight weeks, the chicken doctor would notify us when the chickens were to be caught. Thank God! At least we had no part in this other than raising all of the equipment in the houses. Big trucks and a fork lift and the chicken catchers would show up.
I have a cousin who grew up in town. Whenever he visited my Grandmother's house, he would chase her chickens, much to Grandma's chagrin. This went on for quite sometime and even though he got some spankings (I think) for it, he didn't stop until he was older. But even he did not grow up to become a chicken catcher. Study diligently children. There are some hideous jobs in this world.
In a couple weeks we would get a check along with a list of 20 growers and our rating. Number 13 - wow! Not bad and at least we weren't in the last four. That meant you were probably on the elimination list...
After a couple years I got a job that paid decent money and we got out of that fowl business. There's a saying...what goes around comes around...I was never sure exactly what that meant but what the heck are those fowl doing downstairs?