Chick Days

The twittering taking place in the Tractor Supply of Chelsea this week has little to do with any social networking site.

Instead, the tiny beaks of baby chickens emit the “tweet-tweet-tweets” you’ll hear.

“Mommy, mommy, can we pet one,” Ingram Holt asked as she stared down into a tub of fuzzy orange, yellow and even speckled chicks. “They’re so cute!” Gigi Holt said her family raised several ducks last year and she couldn’t wait for spring to bring baby ducks and chickens with it.

Tractor Supply in Chelsea expects about 500 chicks in store this week for the kick-off of the company’s annual Chick Days event.

Chantel Shamsuddin said she and her kids had been anticipating Chick Days as well.

“That’s what they’ve been looking for is when the chicks would be here,” Chantel said of her two kids Maliah and Gibran.

Maliah, 11, said raising their own ducks taught her a lot of things she would have never known.

“Now we know how to take care of them. You have to be careful with them and always remember to wash your hands after touching them,” she said. While many have tried their hand at raising ducks in ponds of their local neighborhoods, another increasing trend is to raise your own chickens, said Tractor Supply Manager John Jones.

“There are people who have already started gardens and I guess that was their gateway drug into raising poultry,” he said. “I think the whole thing has to do with the dubious economic climate. People are trying to become more self-sufficient. People’s mentalities have changed forever.”

Vicki Letlow and her family began raising chickens three years ago.

“We started because we wanted our own home-raised eggs,” Letlow said. “I know my chickens are raised without hormones and without antibiotics — I don’t know that with the commercial providers in grocery stores.”

Letlow said hens typically lay an egg every day or every other day. She said four a family of for, you would need about four to five hens to feed your family. Letlow said her family had to add more hens simply because they go through a couple dozen eggs a week.

“It’s the best tasting egg. I personally think I can tell a difference from what you get in the store. Home-raised eggs have a richer taste,” Letlow said.

Letlow encouraged anyone interested in raising his or her own eggs to do so. She said they require little upkeep. She said creating a safe nesting place is the most important thing to do if you want free-range chickens.

Jones said there are even many how-to books available on the practice of raising your own eggs. He said people can also come by the store to learn more.

“It’s a family event — something you can do together and it’s a learning experience,” Jones said.

Letlow’s daughter, Rebekah, helps feed the chickens and collect eggs among other chores each day.

“It’s been a huge learning experience for her,” Letlow said. “She knows where her food comes from and most ids her age just think it comes from the grocery store. They don’t realize there’s a farm and a farmer behind their food.”