There’s this new word floating around (or at least it’s new to me), and that would be “Hipster”. I keep seeing it. I was reading a recipe blog the other day and in one of the comments, the commentator was calling the chef a “Hipster” for pronouncing a French style beverage in the “French” way. Then I saw it again describing a new trend in men’s jeans. Then describing effortless, messy hair styles… and the occurrences go on and on. (Just as a side note: I achieve an effortless messy hair style each morning when I roll out of bed, but I don’t think that’s what they’re talking about.)
Until recently, I haven’t given the word much thought. I wrote it off as a new generational term. Like “Goth”, or “Grunge” or “Imo” (which should not be confused with the large, Australian, flightless bird.). I was part of generation “X” which is a title I never quite understood. I mean, are we an algebra equation? Were they just lazy and couldn’t think of a name? Picking letters out of a hat? I dunno? At this point in my life, I’ve given up on keeping track of the latest language trends. I’ve accepted the fact that my 32 year old self is eventually going to be dated by my late nineties high school era. I say “cool” not “sick” or “wicked”, I over use the word “like” not in a Valley Girl sort of way…I just use it a little more often than I’d like to admit. And I thought “twerking” was a new social media spin off of “Twitter”…boy was THAT a surprise!
It wasn’t until I read an article from NPR that was talking about Hipsters raising chickens. Errrrr, say what? (Mental brakes came to a screeching halt.) Suddenly this term was hitting a little too close to home. I raise chickens, can you be a Hipster, and not even know it? Gasp! I scanned the article for symptoms… “20 to 30 years of age”…geez I was only two years over the cut off. So I went straight to the Web MD of pop culture…Urban Dictionary of course.
For you fellow dorks, (and you don’t have to admit who you are…I’ll take one for the team.) According to Urban Dictionary “Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.” So, those of you who enjoy “whitty banter” ya best watch yourself. You’re gonna be slapped with a label before you know it! You witty-banter-loving-trend-setters, you!
Hmmm, so what does that have to do with chickens?
Evidently, backyard chicken raising, local eating, farmers markets, farm to table, organic gardening…all that sort of movement is being adapted by said “Hipsters.” The problem is that some people are claiming that raising chickens is becoming too much of a fad. And that once people realize what goes into keeping chickens, they bail and the birds end up in shelters.
First let me say I wasn’t even aware that you could bring a chicken to a shelter. A farm swap? sure! Free on Craigslist? Absolutely! Or if you have a chicken that has some sort of personality flaw like a mean rooster, I’d say it’s a good candidate for the stew pot. But a shelter?
Aside from my ignorance, chicken shelters do exist and they are filling up with unwanted birds. The article that I read, Hipsters Off The Hook: The Truth Behind Abandoned Backyard Chickens, addressed this issue and seemed to think that the problem comes in the inability of hatcheries to sex chicks 100% accurately. So you get that odd rooster once in a while that the backyard chicken keeper isn’t allowed to keep because of city ordinances and they end up in shelters. The author’s advice and solution was to adopt an adult chicken where the sex is known.
While he makes a good point, and gives good advice, I feel like there might be a bit more to this issue. I am all for backyard chickens. I think it’s a wonderful movement and I would encourage anyone who has a heartfelt interest to add a chicken or two to their own backyard. It gives you a small sense of freedom to choose what you put into your body, you know where it came from, and you’re giving a chicken a better life than if it was cooped up in a large factory farm.
But even with good intentions, you still have to realize that when we decide to add animals under our care that there is a responsibility attached. And while keeping chickens is fairly easy, here are 7 things you should consider before jumping in.
1. Is It Legal?
Now this is a touchy question because many of the laws regarding chicken keeping are unclear, or not in existence. Many people are taking advantage of this wishy washy legislation to promote the backyard chicken movement. Around the country laws are being changed (or created) to allow chickens, which I think is great! In city areas or suburban backyards coops are sprouting up all over. But before you bring baby chicks home, know what’s allowed in your neighborhood. Many areas don’t allow roosters, and there is a limit as to how many birds you can keep. Have a responsible plan for rehoming an unwanted rooster. Or like the article states, adopt an adult chicken.
2. Lock Up and Let Out
Like any pet, chickens need daily care. Food, water, clean bedding and shelter. Depending on your coop set up and threat of night time predator attacks, the flock will need to be let out in the morning, and closed up safely in the coop each evening. Chickens are almost blind at night so they have very little defense against nocturnal predators. If you often have a busy evening schedule you might need a coop design that secures not only the living areas, but the run as well.
Unlike dogs and cats, there are no chicken boarding facilities that I’m aware of. So if you travel a lot you’ll have to find someone to come to your home and take care of your birds while you’re away. Make sure you have a committed person (or two) available.
4. Be Prepared to be a Vet
While professional chicken veterinary care is becoming more widely available, in many areas it’s still hard to find a vet that will treat a chicken. Before you get chickens, join some forums, learn about preventative health care and do a lot of research. Be prepared to do a lot of home-diagnosing, if a problem should arise. Community Chickens is a great place to start! There are plenty of articles on health, symptom check lists, how-to procedures and even first aid kits.
5. The Dreaded Winter
This topic is fresh in my mind as we received our first dusting of snow last Monday! You will need to find a way to keep your chicken’s water from freezing during the winter. You’ll also have to trudge out there through the cold and snow every day to take care of your flock. And be aware that your hard work will not be rewarded with a plenitude of fresh eggs on a cold winter morning, as most chickens naturally take the winter off from egg laying.
6. It’s Not a Money Saver
We raise chickens because we love them not because we’re getting a deal on free range eggs. I’ve read articles where people claim that they can raise chickens for cheaper than they can buy eggs at the store, but personally, I haven’t figured out a way to do that. If you have, I’d love to hear about your system in a comment below or on the Community Chickens Facebook Page.
7. Love the Work as Well As the Chickens
Chickens honestly aren’t a lot of work. But you do have to do some not-so-fun things like cleaning the soiled bedding, washing and disinfecting feeders, parasite control in the nest boxes etc. Personally, I enjoy this sort of activity which makes raising chickens really enjoyable for me. I like farm work, physical labor and the quiet satisfaction of spending an afternoon with a pitchfork and wheel barrel. If you’re that kind of person too, then chickens will be a great addition to your yard.
Labeling aside, raising chickens needs little more than common sense, and compassionate responsibility. If you have a desire to raise a flock of your own, I hope you go for it. They might be little birds, but they bring a lot of happiness to any yard.