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Five Crazy Things That Happen To You When You Start Raising Backyard Chickens

chicken stanislaw mikulski

PHOTOGRAPH BY STANISLAW MIKULSKI/SHUTTERSTOCK

Five Crazy Things That Happen To You When You Start Raising Backyard Chickens

You’ll feel like a new parent, and it’ll be so worth it.

I lived a pretty dysfunctional farm life growing up. It was livestock-less, with no vegetable garden, and for all intents and purposes, we lived like your run-of-the-mill suburban family who just happened to be plopped onto a 65-acre chunk of land. In full disclosure, I did not learn how to plant a tomato until I was 27 years old.

None of this seemed particularly odd to me until I moved away and lived in Philadelphia for several years and started paying more attention to where my food came from. Once I shook the hand that harvested my asparagus at the Harvest Local Foods’ Meet Your Farmer Day, it was a done deal. In less than a year and a half, my husband and I were living back on the farm, figuring out how to grow and harvest three acres of vegetables by hand, and, perhaps most rewardingly, raising about 40 amazing, entertaining chickens for eggs. I permanently traded in a life of fancy city restaurant dinners and Coach handbags for one filled with dirt and chicken crap—and if you’re considering it, here are some tips to help you through this transformation.

terrified igor stevanovic

PHOTOGRAPH BY IGOR STEVANOVIC/SHUTTERSTOCK

You’re Terrified

Sure, they’re just tiny fuzz balls of chirping cuteness, but learning How To Take Care Of Baby Chicks is scary. It’s up to you to keep them alive, and I obsessed over this fact for a full two weeks. You learn to wipe caked poo off of their backsides, otherwise, they can become plugged up and die. Sometimes you hold them until they fall asleep in your palm and you generally just fall in love your flock in those first few days. Dark circles develop under your eyes. It feels like you’re a sleep-deprived new mom. You are. It’s worth it.

chicks zakalinka

PHOTOGRAPH BY ZAKALINKA/SHUTTERSTOCK

You’re Hypnotized

Once you get over the fear of killing your chicken charges, you can relax a bit and enjoy them. Kelly Coyne, coauthor of the book Making It: Radical Home Ec for a Post-Consumer World, once told me her backyard chickens were “hypnotic.” She’s right. Expect household and garden productivity to drop off temporarily—you’ll want to sneak over to your chickens, listen to all of their noises, and watch them grow and develop a small society amid the coop and your backyard.

humanize chuck wagner

PHOTOGRAPH BY CHUCK WAGNER/SHUTTERSTOCK

You Start To Humanize Them

Here’s where it gets a bit weird, and please, people, I’m hoping you all do the same with your chickens, or this might just be awkward. Because chickens are so hypnotic, you spend a lot of time watching them. In fact, watching chickens became the default form of entertainment for my friends and me. During that first summer, we’d mix up a few cosmos, pull out lawn chairs, and try to pinpoint which human each chicken reminded us of. We had a Polish rooster, for example, who was flamboyant and dramatic, and he reminded us of my cross-dressing former Philly hairstylist, Jason. When this chicken would run, it honestly looked like he was dashing about like a large man in high heels. We had another that looked like a gawky teenager who was a clumsy freshman on the high school basketball team.

henstoroosters ariene studio

PHOTOGRAPH BY ARIENE STUDIO/SHUTTERSTOCK

Hens Turn Into Roosters

Here is something you really need to prepare yourself for—the worst-case scenario. We ordered zero roosters and wound up with 10. That meant that one quarter of my flock would turn into aggressive, horny, out-of-control maniacs. That’s too many roosters per hens, so we had some tough decisions to make. When I ordered the hens, I didn’t envision ever having to kill any of the roosters, but we decided to butcher five when I returned from a work trip. As if sent by the rooster gods, I ran into vegan activist Alicia Silverstone the day before we were set to butcher 5 of our 10 ornery roosters, took it as a sign, and by some luck, found a larger pastured chicken operation that actually needed a few good roos. We were able to avert slaughter, but do not count on this outcome. Be prepared to separate excess roosters or be ready to eat them. Be prepared to be attacked from time to time, too; I have the scars on my leg to prove it.

goat snova

PHOTOGRAPH BY SNOVA/SHUTTERSTOCK

They Become Gateway Livestock

Once you have Everything You Need To Know About Raising Backyard Chickens, you start to think about bringing other farm animals into the mix. For us, that meant adopting three goats as the chief organic weed-management team at Potter’s Farm. They love multiflora rose—a thorny invasive—and delight in eating poison ivy. Even if you live in a city, you don’t have to limit yourself to just backyard chickens. If you need inspiration and a good laugh, read Novella Carpenter’s Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer.

source : Rodale,s Organic Life

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