"Hey, Kathy, I'm in the feed store - can you hear them in the background? Here, listen..... they just got a shipment of chicks! They're so cute!"
"No. No, we are not getting chickens."
"We still have the coop - it probably just needs cleaned up and repaired a little."
"No! When would we possibly have time for them? Especially when they're little - no one is ever home!"
"There are these really fun looking ones that - -"
"No. Sorry babe, I just can't do it."
There was a time when I rarely saw my house while it was daylight. The rat race of a job that probably should have been done by three people, and too many obligations I should never have said "yes" to, were gradually erroding my relationships and my health. I told myself my college freshman twins were learning to be self-sufficient, and worse yet, I pretended not to notice that my teenaged daughter was suffering.
One crisp October day, all of the plates I had thought I'd been spinning well, came crashing down. And all the super glue in the world was not going to be able to restore my crazy circus act to its former glory. There was absolutely nothing I could do but make some drastic changes. It was time to re-think life (and I wasn't even old enough for a mid-life crisis!) and my priorities.
One of the biggest changes came in the form of leaving my job to make myself more avaiable to my family, which included the biggest change of all - homeschooling my daughter. Frustratingly early in this process, it became clear that she and I had very few common interests beyond traditional school subjects. I'm a runner, and side-by-side physical work is my love language. She loves to do hair and make-up, and work of any kind, to her, is torture. Even art projects (we both love to draw and be creative) seemed to fall flat. There had to be something we both could enjoy doing together!
And then, I remembered my feed store conversation with my husband. I mulled it over for a while, took a walk out to the old coop out back, and surveyed what would need to be done to make it operational again (we had "acquired" 6 fairly spent hens that came with the purchase of our house 12 years prior.) Then - the moment of truth arrived - I broached the subject with my daughter.
In a period of life known for its eye rolls, shrugged shoulders, and the phrase of choice, "Whatever, Mom," I was not expecting much. So, you can imagine that when her entire demeanor changed - face (was that actually a smile??), posture (eager, upright), and voice (think Christmas morning at age 5) - and she exclaimed, "Chickens! That's a great idea!" I knew we were on to something good.
So, through a lot of trial and error - and help from some friends along the way - we began to gradually create and then increase our flock. I also turned our adventure into a bit of a school subject for her, which she officially calls, "Chicken Class." Folks outside the chicken community might think "How sweet" or "How odd," but any good chicken owner knows that "Chicken Class" is quite extensive! Biology, anatomy, physiology, history and genetics, not to mention issues like biosecurity, ethics, and economics, all come part and parcel to maintaining a quality poultry flock.
The academic elements alone would have made our venture worthwhile; but that's only part of the story. Those critters out back? They are what my daughter and I do. We have a common interest, we are working toward a common goal, and we share a heap of common affection for our beloved birds. And, lest you think she and I have been the only beneficiaries of this wealth, one of my favorite "Yeah, this was the right thing to do" moments happened about a week after we brought our first 6 chicks home.
Late one evening, I was awakened by the kitchen light and went to investigate. One of my 6'5" twin sons had returned from a late shift at work and was sitting on the floor near our laundry room brooder. He was ever-so-gently holding one of our wee pullets, having a little conversation with her. I stood as a quiet observer to this unexpectedly tender moment and allowed my heart to take a hundred photographs.
If I had asked my work-aholic self whether I thought chicken ownership could mend a broken relationship, challenge me academically, and simultaneously melt my heart, I would have brusquely declared, like I did to my husband all those years ago, "No." And, I would have been wrong.