I have to admit, when I was offered eight tiny, baby chicks four years ago, my first response wasn’t, “Oh yay, we’re going to get fresh eggs.” Instead I looked at those small fluffy packages of joy and thought to myself, boy are my six kids in for a great learning experience.
Since that humble beginning, we have built a henhouse, chased neighborhood cats from our yard, re-homed noisy roosters, mucked out (and mucked out) the coop, and we’ve tried many egg recipes.
We’ve not only figured out how to take care of our chickens but we’ve also paid attention to the life lessons we’ve learned from living in a flock.
1. A life of servitude is a noble one.
A hen’s life, like a mother’s, is one of caring and giving comfort. Hens will brood on eggs until they drop from exhaustion, the potential chicks from eggs being the most important things, the ultimate goal. A hen will forgo all food and water in order to keep those eggs of hers warm and protected.
And once those chicks are born, it is the mama hen who protects them, who keeps a constant eye out for lurking predators. It is she who, in the afternoon sun, spreads her wings and offers shade to little ones in order for them to take a nap in safety. Through the mama hen’s selfless servitude, a new generation is ensured. It is a noble task.
2. It’s okay to squawk when you push the egg out, but when the job is done, it’s time to move on
Sometimes you have to do things that you may not want to do. Think of the hen, every day whether she wants to or not, she lays an egg. She could fight it for all she was worth but in the end, like it or not that egg is still going to happen.
It’s okay to squawk about something you don’t like, just don’t allow it to ruin the rest of your day. Complain if you must, lay your egg, and then move on to a warm spot in the sun.
3. Poop happens. Again and again
Cleaning up the henhouse from poop is like a mom trying to keep the house clean with a bunch of kids around on a rainy day. No matter how hard she tries, it’s just not going to stay clean for very long.
With the chicken flock, you can wait until the poop takes over and the task is unbearably burdensome, or you can continually to pick up along the way. A little here, a little there and over time, things will be looking good enough for friends to expectantly stop by.
4. Sometimes being the biggest and brassiest is not the best strategy
We have a backyard flock in a residential setting. While hens are not a problem, we’ve had many a neighbor complain about our rather boisterous roosters. As some of our roosters tend to sneak in (unsexed chicks) with some of our new spring chicks, we never know for certain until (literally) the cock crows. Once we’ve identified the culprit, he is quickly removed from our flock.
Sometimes, especially with boys, it’s not the loudest and strongest who last the longest.
5. At the end of the day, despite all the bickering in the yard, everyone comes home to roost.
With 6 children, like a flock of hens, you are bound to get bickering. One child calls the front seat of the car, while another says that she called it earlier. It’s not fair, they cry, and the fight begins.
One hen finds a crust of bread and runs with it in her mouth to a safe spot, while others chase her, calling it theirs. It happens over and over.
When many are gathered together, there are bound to be squabbles, it’s the nature of living in a flock. But you know what? At the end of the day when all is said is done, a flock is a family and even those who were constantly bickering in the yard always come home in the evening to roost in the quiet and safe camaraderie that is found in the hen house.
For more lessons learned while living with children and chickens in New Hampshire, follow our family’s adventures at Lessons Learned From the Flock.