How do I begin? I can tell you that I never thought I would own a chicken, besides the one in my freezer. I never liked the idea of keeping birds of any type. I was a cat girl growing up. Adopted two dogs with my boyfriend who later became my husband. Fast forward a few years and some of the things in my life have changed. I have a son who was diagnosed with speech dyspraxia and started to attend a school for children with special needs. He was only three years old and half of the people in our lives had something for me to try to help him or advise. At the end of the day the teachers at his school help the most. I questioned my parenting, his food, genetics, toys, television, and everything around me. So my first concern was about what he was eating and how we raised him. In today's world its hard to parent. I don't care if your a single mom or a couple with a nanny and a maid. We all have to face difficult decisions on a daily basis. I for one picked my battles. I would choose when to argue a point and when to let go. It took me years to realize that I couldn't do everything. Next we got a diagnosis for ADHD. This was the strangest diagnosis because my son had never really acted Hyper or displayed bad behaviors like shouting or screaming. Don't all children with ADHD have those kind of reactions ? No. I was wrong and I had to get educated. My son had always been quiet and introverted. Shy with strangers to a point that it was difficult to take him to crowded places. I was worried. Facing a second pregnancy and finding out your current sweet child had more difficulties. I worried again about my parenting. So my father in his age old wisdom tells me that we need some chickens. I will honestly say my first reaction was something along the lines of "WTF?". How do chickens help my situation? I mean I am struggling with balancing my many plates and he wanted me to take on more animals. I already had 2 dogs, 1 cat, and three tanks of fish. Where do I put chickens? I hate waking up in the morning. I had so many questions and not enough answers. My father calmly explained that chickens are good for kids. Buddy would like some chickens and it would be good for his health. Here is some insight, my father grew up in rural Jamaica (no not nyc). He had to care for pigs, chickens, goats etc. More importantly he had a mother who made her children earn their keep and respect hard work. So I think my father has totally lost his mind at this point. He keeps showing me articles in the newspaper about fresh eggs and chicken keeping. I keep him at bay, I mean its the suburbs and chickens are illegal. I can't keep chickens dad, and no my son will not grow out of these problems, but I can work with him on how to cope. Then one day it hits. My hometown newspaper displays a huge article about chickens being legal and how its becoming more popular. Same month my favorite gardening magazine (mother earth news) prints an article about how healthy homegrown eggs are. I don't even eat eggs but this idea of something more fresh and healthy is appealing. I mean I started growing my own produce three years before because I wanted my kids to appreciate healthy home grown veggies that had better taste. I often wondered in the back of my head if all these children's allergies are from pesticides and preservatives. So the search for education began. I called the town to confirm that I could have unlimited hens but no roosters.
I had thousands of questions but here were my main concerns:
Are fresh chicken eggs healthy for my kids?
How Many Chickens do I Need to keep a family of six happy?
How Much Space does each Chicken Need?
How Much Time is this going to take ?
How Much Money is this going to cost me?
Was it safe?
I had so much to learn and I had a brand new baby to take care of. It actually worked out, all those midnight feedings I sat with my library books on chickens and read. I took everything I read with a grain of salt because half of the information out there was contradictory. Basically I realized chicken keeping sounded kind of fun. I slowly started aquiring knowledge and the basics and built a folder of information that I felt would help. I got my husband on board and started picking out some breeds known for egg production but not white eggs (I didn't want common white eggs! lol) . I didn't want to show chickens but I didn't want sick birds from unknown sources. Craigslist didn't have much for me to pick from in my area. I ended up ordering hatchery birds from My Pet Chicken after six calls for information etc from their lovely customer service people. Who all but helped me with calculations and numbers for space etc. So Husband is going to revamp a shed we had on our property for the chickens. I ordered my girls and we set about buying supplies. Chicken Math hit and I had to add on to the order. Chicken math hit again and I stopped myself because the shed had so much it needed and we hadn't started.
Chick day arrived on Oct 9th week and I was so excited I couldn't sleep. I was worried and scared and what if my chicks didn't like me? Stupid right? I meant what if they didn't like being handled. I mean I read on BYC about horror stories of people getting mean hens and chickens that just didn't like people and chickens flying away. What if they came sick? Or what if they are roosters? I prayed my neighbors wouldn't hate me. Chicks arrived shortly after my son got on the bus. I drove to the Post Office and brought them home. One had passed away and I was glad I hadn't told my son how many we had ordered at that point. A few hours later another died. We had thirteen but with two dying we had eleven when he got home. He saw the chicks and thought they were fun to watch but had a similar reaction to the fish. Fun for a few minutes but that was that. After a week of being in the house I decided to setup a play pen and let the chicks run around the floor in the chicken pen. That is when my son Buddy really showed interest. He got to hold them and he named one and it was awesome to see his little face light up. The giggles and squeals of enjoyment are so contagious. It became a nightly thing. Sadly Hurricane Sandy Hit and that interupted the process. The Chickens got moved downstairs as they had gotten too big for upstairs. They lived in a dog pen downstairs for months. As we recovered from the Hurricane and tried to get our lives back in order the chickens had been moved to the back burner. Myself and my brother in law to be handled them daily but quickly. Christmas came and by now the girls had become used to my visits and being held and fed from my hand. I was in love but had it really helped my family?
As Spring approached the girls got moved into a run outside in the new shed (not their coop shed, that had gotten some serious damage and wasn't going to be worked on in the near future). I worried and had to put a light and heater in the shed for them. The girls did well and I was happy with them. As my sons birthday in March approached and Easter around the corner I was expecting eggs soon. So it happens I was surprised one day when five eggs appeared. My brother in law to be had been feeding and caring for the girls but not checking for eggs over the Easter weekend. So when I went out there was five EGGS! The entire family was around and everyone got an egg to eat. At that moment it became a family thing. Everyone laughed and enjoyed these bright orange eggs that tasted so good. Now the girls had fans. My father drops off strawberry tops everyday to the girls. My son comes home from school and wants to go talk to the chickens. Yes he talks to the chickens, he feeds them scratch, he even plays swords and lasers with the chickens. You know whats best? They don't mind one bit. They will eat from his hand and walk on his feet and let him run around through them as they happily pick bugs from the grass. He talks about his chickens and he shows us how the chickens eat. He is turning out to be an awesome five year old. He loves his chickens eggs and he holds them like they are his 'precious'.
Today is his little sister's birthday and this week she got to touch her first chicken. She giggled with excitement at the soft sweet feathers of our Jessica (RIR) and she looked concerned as they flocked around a handful of scratch. Mostly she enjoyed being outside with her Parents and brother watching the chicken tv.
So Now I ask myself:
Are my chickens eating enough healthy foods?
Was what I was doing before healthy?
How much space can I use in my yard for chickens?
How did we live without chickens?
How much is this passion going to cost me?
We follow some strict rules about hand washing and I use "Chicken Clothes" for doing major cleaning etc. I have "Chicken Boots" I also don't allow the children to handle them without supervision. I will always question if I am doing what is best for my children and family. From many days of sitting and watching the chickens I know that I am doing something natural that just feels right. As long as I wonder if I am doing a good job, I must be doing something right.