Little chicks announce arrival of spring

Jerry Apps
Jerry Apps says the arrival of baby chicks was one more sign of the coming of spring.

The phone fastened to the wall near the kitchen door was ringing, one long ring and three short rings. My mother got up from the kitchen table to answer. This was our ring on the party-line.

She said, “hello,” listened for a bit, and said, “thank you.” She hung the receiver on its little hook on the left side of the telephone. “It was the depot agent,” my mother said. “Our chicks arrived on the train this morning, and we should come and pick them up as soon as possible.”

Each spring my mother ordered chicks from a hatchery in southern Wisconsin. Usually, 100 White Leghorns and 25 White Rocks. The former to replace laying hens and the latter to be butchered in the fall and sold.

After the barn chores were done, Pa and I drove to the Wild Rose Depot. Upon entering, we immediately heard the sound of little chicks peeping, several cardboard boxes of them waiting to be picked up. Each box was about two feet square and divided into four compartments. Several small holes allowed air in the box. Each compartment had a straw bottom, and a half dozen or so little balls of yellow, loudly peeping, chicks.

“Hello, Herm,” said George Collum, the depot agent. “Those boxes over there are yours.”

We put the boxes of little chicks in the back seat of the Plymouth and headed home. Once at home, we put them back of our wood-burning kitchen stove, to make sure they remained warm. They continued peeping.

Meanwhile, Pa started the stove in the brooder house, a little building some distance from the main chicken house. The brooder house stove was about two feet tall, had a big hood around it, which provided a place for the little chicks to stay warm, eat, drink and grow. Spring had come.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: The arrival of baby chicks was one more sign of the coming of spring.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to