Spring turns some people's thoughts to chicks

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Mon., Mar. 11, 2013
One of about 250 chicks that arrived recently from Pennsylvania. Photos by D. Coffey.
One of about 250 chicks that arrived recently from Pennsylvania. Photos by D. Coffey.

Woodstock resident Paul Letourneau was shopping at the Tractor Supply Store in Putnam on March 6. In his cart was a heat lamp, wood shavings and a square box with six tiny chicks inside. Harbingers of spring, the chicks had arrived just days ago from Pennsylvania. Pullets, Leghorns, bantams and ducklings filled a collection of metal tubs far from the cold wind coming through the front doors. Their tiny cheeps reached into every corner of the store.

Letourneau was with his son, Matthew, and daughter, Kaylee. He was buying the chicks for the eggs they’d lay and the pest management they’d provide. Chickens are known to eat ticks and fleas when they are allowed to range freely. He and his family have recently moved to Woodstock, and the chicks were another step in building a hobby farm.

For those who want to raise their own food, chickens are a logical extension of the vegetable garden. The birds are fairly easy to maintain, their manure is a natural fertilizer, and some breeds are high-production layers. Sharon Palin and her husband started raising chickens when they moved to the Quiet Corner from Pawtucket, R.I., three years ago. They buy about 25 birds a year, some layers and some meat hens. “My husband is a Medievalist at heart,” she said. “He always wanted to butcher his own food.”

The Palins prepared for the task by reading books and magazines. “They are so easy to keep,” Palin said. “But you want to make sure you get it right the first time.”Letourneau studied the huddling chicks. The bantams and ducks were an unsexed straight run, a huge red flag for Palin. “Don't do the straight run,” she told him. “You'll regret it.” A straight run means the birds are a mixed batch of males and females. You should get about 50-50, Palin said. The problem is getting rid of the extra roosters. “Nobody wants them,” she said.

Letourneau left with three red pullets and three white pullets, high-production egg-layers, according to the sign advertising them. All he had to do was make sure they stayed inside for a few weeks. It was still too cold, and they were much too young to be let out into the coop and run he'd built for them.

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