My granddaughters and I have participated in the 4-H Chick Chain for the past few years.

Having been away from starting and growing chickens for several decades, it took me a while to get up to speed. After a few tries, we figured out what worked and what didn’t work. Last year, my granddaughter, Jane, had a reserve champion pen at the annual Trousdale County Chick Chain show and sale. Thanks to generous sponsors, she received more than $100 in prize money.

After the show, I teasingly asked her to split the winnings with me. She refused.

“Jane,” I said, as I chided her, “I don’t understand. I paid the entrance fee. I paid for all the feed. I helped take care of the chickens, and you get all the ribbons and all the prize money. That doesn’t seem fair.”

Her response was quick and cool.

“Daddy Jack, life is not fair” … out of the mouths of babes.

Of course, under the same game rules, she suggested we participate in the Chick Chain again this year. So, in early March, I contacted Terry Toney at the Trousdale County University of Tennessee Extension office to sign up again. Unfortunately, I had missed the deadline. The best I could do was ask to be placed on a waiting list.

Weeks passed, and I found I was third on the waiting list. The prospects for growing chickens in 2023 seemed dim. Actually, I didn’t check to see when the chicks were arriving, because my chances appeared so slim.

Well, the chicks did arrive at the local farmer’s co-op on a Monday. And on that Monday afternoon, I received a call.

The voice of the other end of the line went something like this … “Mr. McCall, can you come and pick up your chicks? We had a few cancelations, and you are in.”

I tried not to panic.

“How many,” I said.

The response was, “I’m not sure, but I know you probably won’t get any of the Easter egg chicks.”

I replied, “(It’s) not a problem (as I really don’t care for the blue-eggers.) When can I pick them up?’

The reply was, “Any time before 4:30.”

So, there I was, totally unprepared to take a passel of peepers under my wing (no pun intended). I frantically began to think of feeders, and waterers, and heat lamps.

“And where on earth can I lodge them on the first night,” I wondered.

All this was complicated by the fact we were facing the three coldest nights of late spring. I thought of taking them to the feed room in our barn, where I normally started our chicks, but the severe cold presented too much of a risk. If the heat lamp happened to malfunction, all would be lost.

I decided to let them spend their first night in the storage room/pantry attached to our carport. I didn’t tell my wife, Kathy, but I dropped enough hints so she would not be taken completely surprise …. desperate situations call for desperate measures.

Arriving at the co-op at 4:15, I was eager to inspect my brood. A friendly co-op employee informed me, “The chicks in the box belong to someone else. All the rest are yours.” Mine were scattered in a large, aluminum water trough, all 18 of them.

Over the next few days, I upgraded their living quarters from one rubberized storage bin to another. After the cold weather passed, I moved my little army to the safety of the feed room and the spacious confines of a large Rubbermaid water trough. I do believe two or three are already trying to fly.

So, Jane and I are back in the laying business.

Life may not always be fair. But as Fess Parker said in the movie “Old Yellar,” “Some of it (life) is mighty fine.”

Hartsville resident Jack McCall is an author and motivational speaker.

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