Pam Stone

You should see Jordan cleaning all those little chick butts,” laughed Kelly at the feed store, as I turned to see where all the chirping was coming from.

“Well, I felt so sorry for them!” Jordan countered, from behind the register, glancing at the clutch of little chicks being kept warm by heat lamps in an empty water trough in the middle of the store.

By the way, they’re $4.25 each, if you fancy keeping chickens and raising your own eggs. Normally $4,” Don explained, “but more because they’re all pullets, and you have to pay to have someone check.”

And I thought I had a weird job description.

“Can I get three bales of timothy hay and four of the alfalfa-timothy-orchard bales?” I requested, remaining at the register, and then, because I had to ask, “How do you clean them? With a Q-tip?”

“No!” laughed Kelly, walking back towards the chicks with me in tow to have a look. “She uses these long surgical scissors to cut away any poop stuck in their feathers.”

I laughed. “That’s a lot of chicks to clean. But that’s sweet that you like to clean them. Do they mind?”

“I have to!” Jordan cried, “They’ll die if I don’t!”

“Oh, that’s ridiculous,” Don sighed, plunging his hands in the pockets of his Wranglers. “They won’t die!”

“Don, yes they will!” Jordan maintained. “They get clogged up and they can’t go. You should have seen one of them yesterday. As soon as I cut away what was dried on ...”

(Further explanation omitted for graphic detail because you people are trying to eat breakfast, but suffice it to say Jordan had to change shoes.)

“Well, let’s call the hatchery and see if that’s really necessary,” Don countered, “because I don’t believe it. I’ve carried chicks every spring and I’ve never cleaned a chick’s butt."

I must say, all five varieties of the chicks looked robust and were downing their food with gusto. The store Border Collie was stationed next to them like a sentry, peering in with a protective interest and giving a suspicious eye to anyone coming too close to them. Including me.

And I must also say that when you live in small-town South Carolina, you don’t have to write material. It just happens.