It is still snowing here in Michigan. There have been new records set for both amount of snow fallen and for the frigid temperatures. To say winter has had an icy grip on us for far too long is an understatement. Daily, I truck out supplies to my coop, and by truck I mean carry buckets, feed, bedding and unfrozen water. This is not impossibly hard work by any means, but it is work. The snow and cold are not much fun.
I am a backyard chicken keeper. I live in a rural village that allows us to keep a certain number of hens and no roosters. I may be a hipster, but I am not sure. According to the Urban Dictionary, a hipster is “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.” Hmmmm, I could still be a hipster. I got into keeping chickens because all my friends were doing it. Well, that is not true, but two really awesome ones were. Growing up, my family raised cattle and horses. Chickens were something that our St. Bernard carried over from the neighbor’s homestead. Being raised on a dirt country road, around tractors and livestock was all I needed to be hooked on raising my own food. However, my children are not fans of the dirt road as I am. Hence, small backyard flock in my little village. To be fair, I am in by no means a city. I have one neighbor and then an open field. My lot size is an acre. Chickens are my way to have that little bit of peace, country and comfort back in my life.
Raising chickens is therapeutic to me. In the spring, summer, fall, they are scratching about my yard. I love to watch them. I can sit out back with a cup of coffee and be content with the world as long as my chickens are just being chickens. My family eats the eggs that the ladies provide for us. We do not raise meat birds…yet. I am not opposed to raising meat birds. Winter, my ladies do not like the snow much and spend most of their time in the coop.
As Chick Days start across the country and fluffy, absolutely adorable baby chicks fill your local feed stores, hardware stores and post offices, I ask that you think long and hard about grabbing a few. Raising chickens has been a wonderful part of my life, but I have restrictions where I live and so I have to resist the straight runs and the pullets of Chick Days. Instead, we purchase our birds from a local farm or from poultry shows and 4H fairs. This way, I can be sure that I am not going to end up with a rooster. This may make safe me from the hipster label according to the New York Post. To be fair, I also contacted our local shelters and none have had an influx of unwanted roosters and older birds, however they are inundated with kittens. Please, friends, spay and neuter your animals.
Raising Chickens is not about labels or being cool, hip or even free thinking…even though it can be. It is about a way of life. Like owning any animal, chicken keeping comes with responsibilities. These responsibilities are rewarding and a great way to help teach your children life long lessons in animal care, nutrition, and accountability. Today, I waded through snow up to my knees…twice… to take bedding, feed and fresh water to my birds. Tonight, one of my boys will take a turn and lock up the coop tight from predators.
The moral of my story is this, hipster or no, chicken keeping is a commitment. As adults, we research, read, ask questions and then make informed decisions based on what we think is right. We live and we learn. Chicken keeping is an awesome thing in my book and the more people who are well informed and responsible keepers of chickens can be a wonderful thing.