Does Chicken Keeping Ever Get Boring?
Can or does chicken raising ever get dull? I’ve been at this chicken keeping business for years now. I don’t know about you, but when I first began my journey, it seemed as though I couldn’t learn enough about chickens. I read every book about chickens at my local library and purchased twice as many. I talked to fellow chicken raisers, fell in love with the baby chicks in the many YouTube videos I watched every day, I kept notebooks and journals of all that I was learning, sketched chickens on my homework pages (oops), delighted in the hundreds of online articles regarding chickens and poultry keeping that I found, and had the pages of my Meyer Hatchery catalogs memorized. Okay, so maybe my infatuation with the idea of raising my own chickens was slightly obsessive, but I also bet most of you can relate, on one level or another, to my excitement and eagerness to keep these creatures.
After a couple years of raising my own flock, I stumbled upon this incredible resource and website of fellow chicken lovers and overflowing information…perhaps you’ve heard of it-- it’s called Back Yard Chickens.com. I can’t fully articulate how helpful this site has been to furthering my knowledge, understanding, and overall rhetoric of chicken keeping. Plus, the friends I’ve made here on BYC have been life-changing. People I meet in my everyday life often mention how knowledgeable I am about chickens. While I’m not one to brag and I don’t mean to call attention to myself, I will say that I know a LOT about chickens, far more than I ever imagined I would. And the crazy thing is I’M STILL LEARNING! There’s always more to grow in and learn, which is so amazing and inviting to me. But that doesn’t mean the entirety of chicken keeping is fun, bubbly, and happy all the time. At the beginning of this article I posited the question, can chicken keeping ever get boring? And here’s the honest truth: yes, it definitely can.
The time of watching your baby chickens grow up is over. Your pullets laid their first eggs years ago. You’re waiting to get new birds until your old ones pass on because you don’t have enough time or space for more chickens. The henhouse needs cleaning and the waterers need to be scrubbed. Dull seasons can and will occur in anything we do in life, chicken raising being no exception. Most people don’t talk about the boring moments, but they exist, nonetheless. They can be triggered by a change in family dynamics, like having a baby, getting a new puppy, or grandma moving in. Getting a job promotion, working longer hours, or moving can all put a damper on our chicken keeping fun. Other times, it’s simply the grind of everyday chores that make chicken raising feel boring at times. But, here’s the deal folks: that feeling of displeasure does not diminish the worth of your flock and the work they still require. Chicken keeping can most certainly be boring at times, yes. But this does not give you an excuse to slack off on caring for them.
One of the many reasons people are drawn to keeping chickens in the first place is the uniqueness of the whole experience. It’s a fun hobby for the whole family. It’s a great conversation starter and brings people together. You can make a profit off of the eggs or meat your birds provide. It’s a fun adventure. It provides an escape from the stresses of everyday life. All of these facts don’t change even if the seasons of enjoyment do. I’ll be honest and say that I recently went through a stage of not being interested in my flock. My favorite hen is now crippled. My least favorite hen seems to be getting more annoying and bossy. And several of the hens in between are just eh. But, I still love them. They’re “my girls” whom I raised from chick-hood. Even if you would have told me back before I owned my hens that in 2018 I would be so busy with school, dance, traveling, friends, my family’s lodge, and other things that I would no longer be as excited about my flock as I was at the beginning, I would not change my mind about choosing to raise them.
My knowledge and understanding of chickens is one of the few things in my life that I feel overly confident in. Thanks to these past years of experience and learning about keeping chickens, I can now say that I am a chicken rhetorician. And I wouldn’t be that way if it weren’t for these seasons with my girls…ALL the seasons included. Don’t give up and sell or butcher your entire flock just because you’re “bored” with them. Continue to care for them even in the lows, and grow in your understanding, as I have. Then it’ll probably hit you, like it did for me recently: “Wow, my chickens are really awesome. They’re old but still alive and even laying the occasional egg. They come sit on my lap and eat from my hand even though I’ve been a lousy owner to them. And man, I’ve sure learned a ton about chickens in general thanks to them!”
Now, moving onto another point: earlier in this article, if you remember, I mentioned the word “rhetoric”. Many people don’t fully understand the meaning of this term and might be confused why I chose to use it in this article about chickens. When it comes to picturing what rhetoric is, some people may think of a military commander using rhetoric to inspire and fire up his men before a battle, others may think of a sneaky person using crafty rhetoric to manipulate another, or perhaps you simply think of someone speaking with grace, eloquence, and rhetoric in a speech they are giving. Rhetoric is defined simply as “the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing”. So, we see that the previous three examples all pass as examples of rhetoric. But, I’m using this word in a different manner in this article. The ancient, classical method of teaching breaks up the process of learning into three stages (also known as the "trivium"): the grammar stage, the dialectic stage, and the rhetoric stage.
As a brief summary of what these stages encompass, the grammar stage involves the studying of terms, definitions, and basic principles of the particular subject being learned. In our case of chicken raising, discovering that hens don’t need roosters in order to lay eggs, that Buff Orpingtons are one of the top ranking breeds for families with kids, that it takes 21 days for standard chicken eggs to hatch, or that table scraps should only take up 10% of a chicken’s daily diet are all examples of basic pieces of grammar that one picks up as they are reading and learning the fundamentals of chicken raising. Next, one moves into the dialectic stage. This stage can simply be thought of as the stage of conflict. Your brain is toiling with all the grammar it has previously encountered and trying to make sense of it all. This is when all that you have learned is wrestled with, considered on a practical level, discussed with others, and, ultimately, put into practice. This is the stage in which you make logical connections, such as chicken breeds with large combs, small bodies, and fewer feathers wouldn’t be fit to live in a climate with severe cold temperatures, or that adding one new Silkie into a large, established flock of Rhode Island Reds is a dumb idea.
Finally, one eventually moves into the last stage of learning: rhetoric. This is where all that you’ve learned and processed flourishes. You’re able to explain what you know and why it works the way it does. Einstein once said that “you don’t understand something fully until you can explain it simply”. Can you explain to people why calcium is vital for a laying hen? Do you understand the nutritional needs of your maturing boilers? Could you tell your friend down the street two major differences between the Ameraucana, Araucana, and Easter Egger breeds? Can you break down the fundamentals of a chicken coop and why, for example, ventilation is important? Could you describe the anatomy of an egg to an eight year old? If you answer yes to these questions, you are more than likely in the rhetoric stage of chicken raising. You aren’t having to Google every issue that pops up in the henhouse, and you don’t feel as frantic in your thinking.
How awesome it is to be in this final stage of learning about chickens! But, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows from this point on. Chicken keeping, like any hobby, has its ups and downs. There are seasons to everything, including chicken raising. Some days you may be completely delighted by your beautiful flock and won’t be able to take enough pictures of them or praise them enough for their lovely eggs they laid for you. Other days you’re going to be fed up with the poop in the nest boxes, Wyandotte who won’t stop bullying your bantam Cochin, opossum who keeps sneaking into the coop and snatching eggs, and layers of dust that have accumulated in the henhouse that need to be taken care of. Don’t get me wrong, chickens are truly a joy. But, people rarely talk about the dull seasons.
Here on BYC, one common trend can be observed among people and conversations: a love for their birds. And while everyday new posts pop up about problems occurring within a flock, it’s rare to find a thread about someone talking about their current state of boredom with their chickens. Granted, most people will probably say they aren’t bored or tired of their flock, which is great. But, this article goes out to those who are, in fact, in a rut of a season and are pondering if continuing to raise chickens is really worth it. I also want all of you to realize that it’s not going to be sunshine and puppy dog tails 24/7. Chicken raising involves work, time, effort, and a never ending process of learning. Your chickens never get tired of existing so you can’t bail on them when you are finding caring for them to be dull and uninteresting. As cliché as it sounds, seasons go and seasons come. Don’t use your feelings of laziness to give up on your chicken raising adventures…and also don’t let your thrill of jumping into chickens head first lead you to buy more birds than you can handle.
Whatever stage of learning you’re in currently will continue to grow and blossom into the next. If you’re finding all the grammar overwhelming, keep pressing in-- it’ll all click soon. If you’re stuck in the dialectic stage feeling frustrated with all the opinions, questions, and details, don’t worry; you’ll soon come out of it a refined and wise poultry keeper. And if you’re finding chicken keeping dull now that you’re in the rhetoric stage of learning, don’t stop here. Keep researching. Continue your conversations with others (chickens are seriously one of the best conversation starters ever!). Add some new chickens to your flock this spring. Find a way to share your knowledge and experience with those around you. Heck, I wrote a 100 page book about raising chickens! To say that my rhetoric grew in that process would be quite the weak understatement. Most importantly, continue to care for and love your chickens. They’re the ones who sparked your interest and learning in the first place, right? Because of them, you are now on your way (or maybe you’re already there) to becoming a wise and eloquent rhetorician. Provide your chickens with the happy lives they deserve. Your rhetoric of chicken keeping can continue to be refined, even in the dull seasons. And who knows, maybe you’ll inspire others to embark on this crazy adventure of learning, growing, and understanding as well.
Here's to ALL the seasons! Thanks for reading,