Some dreams are ambiguous. The beginning is fuzzy. You can’t recall the exact moment it starts they just ease into existence. But other dreams, big dreams usually, you can go back to the moment they started over and over again. That is how chicken farming was for me. It was a dream that was born late one Friday night, pregnant and sick watching food documentaries on Netflix.
Maybe it was the hormones but the cruel treatment of even “free range” chickens for eggs and meat broke my heart. It was no life to live. Chickens thrive on foraging. Scratching and pecking for a little bug or grub, taking a glorious dirt bath, and of course finding the perfect hangout spot and hanging with friends are all important parts of chicken life.
Chickens cannot achieve this life if they are in a cage with 8 other chickens and only enough room to turn around. Chickens poop a lot. True story. Which is great if they are running around your lawn fertilizing it for free but terrible if they are trapped in a tiny cage pecking at the ground where they and 7 other chickens are pooping. This means they are eating poop, breathing in poop, and then having to be pumped full of antibiotics in order for the poop not to make them sick. An egg is only as healthy as the bird it came from. Still want to eat those store bought eggs?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against antibiotics. Sometimes animals get sick and they need them just like you and me. I am not going to let my animal suffer just so that an egg is antibiotic free. I am going to fix my animal but I have had chickens for a year and not one time have I needed to use antibiotics. Tiny shock collars for not leaving the yard and crossing the road- yes. Antibiotics? No. Not so much.
So, after that Netflix binge I decided that I wasn’t going to put up with it. I was going to have chickens and raise my own farm fresh eggs. Maybe I would even go super farmer and raise meat chickens. Or get really crazy and get a pig- or maybe two pigs so that someone else could buy the second pig and then pay for my pig at processing time. Well then I would need some land and if I was going to get some land I was going to need a tractor too and before I knew it I was going to be a farmer.
I think when I first said I was going to have chickens my husband just kind of laughed and was like ok and lovingly (or was it patronizingly?) patted me on the head. Then three years later when I came home with five chicks he was livid but still in denial. And then when I came home with five more he was starting to realize there was no stopping me. He might as well embrace the chicken. But you know what? The ladies won him over because chickens are awesome.
Chicken watching is therapeutic. If you have a long, hectic day there is nothing more relaxing then pulling up your lawn chair and watching your birds. They do silly things, they love a treat, and they are always exploring, and establishing “pecking order”. They are friendly and even our cats love them. Thats right our cats love our birds and I don’t mean the taste.
Our barn cat Tilly is like a sheep dog when it comes to chickens. She goes with me every day to feed them. She keeps the rooster, Putin, in line because just like his name sake he can be a bully. She watches over the baby chicks and will even jump into the brooder with them. You would think a cat, especially a wild one, would eat them but she doesn’t. She loves them as much as me.
What I love the most about chickens though is what they teach my daughter Charlie. We practice counting by counting baby chicks. She learns where food comes from and seasonal eating by collecting the eggs. It teaches her responsibility and gentlness by feeding and caring for them every day. She is engaging with the world around her and learning to have empathy for other living things. Basically it encompasses my world view of living simply to live fully and the kind of lifestyle I want her to create when she is grown.
So why do I chicken farm? I think you could say because I was meant to. I am the steward of a gift. I get to watch over these funny, friendly ladies and take care of them and in return they feed my family delicious, golden yellow yoke, nutritious eggs. It is a great trade off. Especially with an egg shortage going on. Be the change you wish to see in the world. Been on the fence about chickens? Get one. We can make a difference one chicken at a time together.
Or you can chicken farm vicariously through me…all good options.