One Year Of Chickens
We got our chickens the first week of June in 2012. They were a week old, so I did some math and figured out they were born the last week of May 2012. Last week was the last week of May 2013, and I said to my wife, “Hey, it’s the chickens’ birthday.” She didn’t feel like having a party. The chickens probably didn’t either, since I don’t think chicken culture has the concept of parties. I, however, have the concept of thinking about things too much, and so I decided to look back at the past year, and see if I have learned anything.
The big thing I think I learned was that you should not get the chickens until you have the coop. I spent a lot of last summer building the coop, as the chickens got ever larger in their brooder. If you do decide to build your own coop, I hope you have a plan, and some knowledge of how to use tools and/or how to build things. I didn’t really have those things. I pulled it off, but it got pretty hairy towards the end. The chickens were more than ready to go outside by the time we got them outside, and were almost out of space in their indoor pen (even after one space upgrade). I might have some idea of how to build stuff now, but I also probably aged myself a few extra years due to stress and forgetting to put on sunscreen while out working on this project. I will tell you to not get the chickens until you get the coop, but many people will not listen. I heard this rule, and I didn’t listen either. I think maybe it’s a rite of passage. I am now a man, and can take my place in chicken society.
If you’re new to the internet, you might not realize that people have a lot of opinions online. They do. I’m kind of amazed at how quickly people have gone from hiding behind screen names to using their real names and Facebook profiles to post mindblowingly vicious things online. However, I also read the comments on news sites, which I know I need to stop doing. It’s like staring at a car wreck full of kittens. (I totally apologize for that image. I may be turning into one of these people myself). People also have strong opinions about how to handle chickens. When we first got the chickens, I stumbled on a rant by a farmer about people naming their chickens and considering them pets. “Chickens drop dead all the time for no reason!” he said. Goldfish drop dead all the time for no reason, too, but those are considered acceptable pets. I think what he was trying to get at was that getting chickens isn’t the same as getting a dog. They have specific needs, and you have to commit a lot of time to them, and it’s not always as fun as throwing a ball, or letting them stick their head out the car window on a drive (though I don’t think you’re supposed to let dogs do that either). But as a farmer, I think the idea of chickens as pets was so alien to him he started to lose it. Or maybe building his coop wasn’t going so well. It’s hardly the worst chicken opinion I’ve come across. Often the first answer to a “my chicken is doing this, what should I do?” question is “kill it.” Euthanasia is something you have to keep in mind in many cases, but not always. Getting information from the internet should be like going to the doctor. Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. There are plenty of them out there, and it is the internet, so many of them may actually be wrong.
The last thing I take away from my first year of this chicken business is that this has been far more enjoyable than I had any reason to expect it to be. Someone I know recently emailed me about having spent some time around chickens, and how he found it very meditative. I think that’s a good way to put it. In small numbers anyway, I find them to be very relaxing. Being in a factory chicken facility is another story. Chickens are also hilarious. One day one of mine found a worm in the dirt, and half of it was hanging out of her beak. Another chicken saw this, and wanted in. She lunged after it, and the first chicken spun in circles as she choked the worm down, with the other one in hot pursuit trying to eat it out of her beak. Double chicken spiral! Sure, there is work, but you also get entertainment. And eggs. Don’t forget the eggs.
Someone recently dismissed my first year of efforts as no big deal, since all the bad stuff happens in the second year or beyond. Nothing is worth doing if you look at things that way. I’m prepared to deal with tragedy if I have to, but I’m not going to let the fear of it stop me from enjoying the parts of this that aren’t tragic. I think there are still more good things to experience. In the past year, I’ve killed more hard drives than chickens, and I’m supposed to be a computer guy. Hard drives aren’t as charming as chickens, anyway. And you know what? Without chickens, I wouldn’t be able to come onto Garden Guys each week and share with you what a complete ding-dong I am. That’s something we all benefit from.