Not long ago I shared with my readers my desire for chickens. In that article I outlined my practical reasons - a natural source for fertilizer when properly composted, fresh free range eggs, and getting my sons more in touch with the natural world, letting them see and have a relationship with the source of their food. All this, of course, is wonderful, but in the dark of the night lying in bed I find I must be honest with myself. If not then, when? The truth is, I wanted chickens because they're hilarious.
I'd had a pond shell in my shed for six years. I'd wanted to install it, but I didn't feel comfortable having a pond with kids around. As fate would have it, I found a lady who makes chicken coops who wanted a pond shell. So I traded, pond for coop. I took this as a divine sign that I was meant to have chickens. I then discovered that several of my online friends had chickens. More validation from the universe! I insisted to my husband that this meant I was not so unusual after all. He insisted that we were all weird and simply drawn to other weirdos, but he did place his blessing upon the coop and wished me luck in filling it with poultry. A feeder, a waterer, pine shavings, a grit box, a bag of feed and a mix of grains called "scratch" later, my coop was outfitted and ready to go!
I first bought a young black Australorp from a local feed store. The young man there effortlessly lifted the chicken up out of her pen and tucked her in my cat carrier, no problem. I took her home, talking to her all the way (because I'm sure she cared what I had to say.) In the backyard, my preschooler knelt next to me in wonder as I took the top off the carrier to get the chicken out. She was very pretty, I noticed - her feathers had that iridescence most commonly seen in grackles. I got a good look at those feathers, because I was chasing her for most of the rest of the afternoon. I was not fast enough when lifting up the top of the carrier; she went "BAWWWWK!" and with a battering flap of wings, was out of the carrier and in the yard.
I wasn't willing to dive at her, and she was really spry. I finally managed to herd her into the chicken coop with the enthusiastic help of my preschooler.
My other chickens came from a poultry farm an hour and a half away. It was quite a day, getting my crew out there and back. It was worth it, though, showing us all the birds, and the fellow who ran the place was an elderly good ol' boy of the best sort. He showed the kids his chicks, which were adorable, and very fragile. There were some lovely roosters, a waddling flock of ducks, chickens of every color and variety, even a massive tom turkey who fluffed his feathers and dragged his stiffened wings in the dirt towards us threateningly. We were continually trailed by the four massive white dogs, Great Pyrenees, who apparently ran the show. We left with the cat carriers full of cackling chickens and two boys who were in love with them already.
As I put the youngest, a barred rock, into the coop, my toddler came over to look at her. I held the chicken in front of him, and he laid his head down on its back and sighed. The chicken just went "bok-bok-bok" softly and didn't react. My heart melted. I looked into the hen's bright eyes and said, "Chicken, you just earned yourself a pampered life." This particular chicken has gone on to be the tamest of the bunch, even fluttering up to perch on my shoulder. Which is not to say the others are not tame; they are. My preschooler loves to let them out to mill around his feet (supervised of course), tossing down handfuls of scratch for them to peck at, alternately picking them up and hugging them gently, or as he calls it, "loving on them."
I did come up with one potential roadblock to my relationship with chickens. I do, after all, have a fox totem. I am hoping it translates into a delight at eating their eggs, when eventually they start laying. They're still too young yet. Real foxes are not so filtered. I saw my first wild fox early this morning, in fact. He had slipped in through a hole in the fence and was eyeing my chickens when I saw him on the back porch. My first thought was "Oh my various gods, a fox! A real fox! I am so blessed with this sight - in my own backyard!" Once the shock wore off, my next thought was "Get away from my chickens you mooch!" Fortunately the coop is very solid and predator proof. I will still spend the next few days inspecting the coop from every angle, trying to find weaknesses. And patching up that hole.
My husband might have thought I was somewhat nuts at first (and I agreed with him on some level), but we are now convinced that getting chickens was the right move for us. All our reasons are ringing true. My preschooler is already more interested in where food comes from, and is asking such deep questions as "Where do pizzas grow?" It's made me think more about food, about what we put into our bodies. They're a fun pet, a unique expansion of our animal family, that is low maintenance (compared to a dog, anyway) and gives back, both in eggs and in affection, at least as much as their tiny chicken brains are capable of. And finally, my real, deep-hearted reason for wanting chickens has come true - they're hilarious animals. The way they move, the sounds they make, their expressions, everything they do makes me laugh with happiness. Who could ever ask for more than that?
About the Author: Julie Cox is a new pagan writer and artist who lives with her two young children and husband in Texas. She carries degrees in both Art and Religion. To see more of Julie's artwork go to Shopping and Art gallery on our main menu.