Hello and thanks for reading! First a haiku:
cold weather gives way
anticipation sprouts wings
tiny fluffy hope
Three years ago we bought our first chickens on a whim. We were coming back from a family vacation in Georgia that had gone south: kids not sleeping, I got the stomach flu, and the Airbnb didn’t quite match the pictures if you know what I mean. Squad morale was at all time low.
On the long drive back home, we decided to stop at a Rural King. If you’ve never been, RK is the country answer to Costco: part feed store, part grocery, part big box clothing/hardware shop, and you get a free bag of popcorn on entry. It’s rural America in store-form. Unbeknownst to us city-slickers, baby chicks held in giant metal tubs are a major spring-time draw for customers. We were instantly enamored with the little fuzz balls. After a short time of watching them fall over and peck each other playfully, I knew what we needed to do. We left carrying a small happy-meal-shaped box with 8 small chicks chirping inside.
Since then our family has owned close to forty chickens and we have another eighteen coming this spring. It’s hard to put into words the enjoyment we get from keeping them but I’ve put together this short list of ten things I’ve learned along the journey so far:
No food wasted. Next to worms and dung beetles, chickens might be nature’s top waste recycler. They will eat pretty much anything and turn it into eggs and manure for our garden. I can’t remember the last time we threw food away.
discipline & consistency. We are the first thing they see every morning and the last at night. One time I forgot to lock them up and a fox killed 5 chickens. A lesson in responsibility.
How to build. The chicken’s housing was the first thing I ever built with my own hands other than legos. The satisfaction of this build spawned many other backyard projects. So fun.
Joy in nature.
So many uses. Most people understand that chickens lay eggs and are edible but I’ve found them invaluable in other ways: making compost, tilling garden beds, pest control, food recyclers, and entertaining. They are great pets.
Pecking order is real. Chickens have complex group dynamics with senior and junior members. Over the years I’ve seen a number of different hens become top dog.
Dealing with death. We’ve had foxes, hawks, and some die as baby chicks. Quickly teaches kids the reality of life.
Eggs are the most versatile food. We eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. They are also a great gift and inspire generosity.
You don’t need lots of land. I used to think you needed land for this type of thing but we live on a fifth of an acre and have plenty of room.
Entertainment value. Watching “chicken tv” in the summer is one of our family’s most beloved past times. Each one has their own personality and curious way of exploring the world.