Nonfiction | November 08, 2019

Before I got baby chicks, I attended chicken class at Wardell’s Feed and Pet, a few miles down the highway. Eric, the chicken class teacher, sold me a brooder. If you don’t know, a brooder is a kind of substitute mother hen: it’s a box with a heat lamp and a feeder and waterer. The chicks live in it until they’re eight weeks old and ready to move outside to the coop. It’s obvious to me why a substitute mother is called a brooder. Motherhood for me is characterized by an ongoing sense of worry and inadequacy. My own mother was not much more than a source of heat who offered food and water (and some personality issues), alongside a rigid and authoritarian perspective, and because of that, I have a conflicted relationship with caretaking and motherhood, which is to say a perpetual feeling of anxiety about my failures as a mother alongside the moral quagmire of how much power a parent wields over a child. Still, I filled the brooder with pine shavings and added feed and water dispensers and a thermometer. Then I bought seven little cheeping chicks and set them in the brooder on the second day of their lives.

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