When people ask me “Why do you raise chickens?” the short answer is “for eggs, we raise them for eggs.” But really that’s not the whole story. If I never got another egg, I would still raise chickens. They are a part of our farm as much as the big red barn that glows in the sunset, or the way the fog settles over the hay field in the evening. They enrich our lives, like tying my Great Aunt’s apron around my waist when I bake a loaf of bread, or reading a letter in my Grandmothers cursive. They are more than egg producers, the way that apron is more than a length of fabric designed to keep the flour off my clothes. Here are 8 ways chickens enrich my life.
1. A sense of self reliance
It happened for me the first time I collected an egg from the egg box. I felt an overwhelming sense of excitement and kept repeating the phrase “It worked!” over and over in my head as I stared at the perfect little egg in my hand. For some reason I thought it would be more complicated. That there would be more to it, that maybe our chickens wouldn’t lay eggs for some reason. I remember seeing the egg in the nest box, the box I had checked so frequently in hopes of finding that first egg. And when it finally arrived, it took a minute for the reality to sink in.
Eating that first egg is even more delightful. Not only was our first egg delicious and beautiful, but there was a great feeling of pride. I was a part of this process, and now I can feed myself a nutritious food that I helped raise. It’s was wonderfully inspiring.
2. A sense of wonder and miracle
The first time I filled an incubator and watched a baby chick hatch out of an egg I was amazed. It was the first time I’d ever witnessed anything being born and it will stay with me always. The candling process is equally amazing, seeing the veins form through the egg shell, seeing the little heart beating…it’s wondrous. We are so lucky to have the egg. It provides an amazing window into the development of the unborn. Only a thin shell separates us from viewing the most base form of life and we can watch it grow with no more technology than a simple flashlight. Such a learning experience!
3. The trust in something larger than yourself
I’ve said it before on this blog, but it bears repeating. Our farm has a mind of its own. It acts almost as an independent being with a sense of purpose and goals that are many times outside of what we were planning. Sure, we’re there to feed the animals, give them water, and care for what we can, but life, death and the independent will of animals, plants and nature is something that you quickly learn you have little control over. Raising a flock of chickens was my first glimpse into that realization. Chickens will be chickens. They lay eggs, molt, hatch chicks, mate, and organize themselves among the flock with little input from us humans. It is a blessing to be able to witness instinct working right before our eyes.
4. Nature works, and it works well.
Throughout my years of raising chickens I’ve had different goals each spring when it comes to perpetuating our flock. Some years I’d like to hatch certain breeds to increase their numbers, other years we have too many chickens and I decide not to hatch any babies. But usually, no matter what I have planned, our chickens have something else in mind.
Our chickens free range, so other than being locked up at night, they are free to come and go as they please. They explore the woods and the meadow, they scratch and peck at bugs and grass and other than a supply of back up feed and water, they live a pretty natural life. In this natural life, we always get a hen that raises a clutch of her own. No matter how many times we discover her clutch and remove the eggs, she always finds a better spot and out-smarts us. No matter how much I didn’t want more chickens, I never stay frustrated long. When I see those adorable little peeps following Mamma, nestling under her feathers and climbing on her back, it just feels like all is right in the world. I also feel that the chicks that our hens raise vs the ones we hatch in an incubator are much more savvy.
5. Pastoral Nostalgia
If nothing else, chickens are nostalgic. The sight of chickens dotting the landscape, the sound of a rooster crow, a basket of eggs on the kitchen counter…it’s all so romantic. The bucolic joy that chickens bring is something that almost exists as a base instinct for many. It takes us back to our roots, to our grandmother’s farm, to a story we read as a child, to a quaint oil painting that hung above the sofa. It completes some picturesque idea of how the countryside should be, how it should sound…chickens are an integral part of that.
6. Company, laughter and purpose
Like all pets, they give us joy. Chickens are no different, and they provide food! Many evenings Zach and I sit for hours just watching the chickens. Watching them chase and peck and cluck their different clucks. Each one has their own personality and they always bring a smile.
7. A mini dream complete
I could garden till the cows come home but I didn’t truly feel like I had a slice of the farming pie until I got chickens. For those who long to have that farm, but can’t because of financial reasons, too little land, or are facing other various obstacles, chickens provide a taste of that dream. They are the potted tomatoes on an apartment patio to those who yearn for a garden. As a girl, I always wanted a farm with horses. My first chickens were a sign that I was moving in the right direction.
8. A reason to go outside at least twice a day
Sometimes the day is straining. We leave the farm, stand in line at the post office, sit in traffic, pay bills and fix the cars when something breaks. But it’s hard to be in a bad mood when I’m outside feeding the chickens, watching their funny little ways and collecting a shirt tail full of eggs. If nothing else chickens get you outside in nature twice a day. I’ve been known to hole up in my studio, drawing or writing the day away but the care of our farm refreshes me. Gets me outside my mind, relieves stress and centers me.
I’d love to hear how chickens enrich your life. Share your story below in a comment, or visit the Community Chickens Facebook Page.