This is not Chickenology 101 nor a “how-to” but a “why to” article. All the technical and educational information about raising chickens can be found anywhere. However, the sources seem to lack the back story about the experience of raising chickens.
I have always loved birds and held a secret desire to someday raise chickens. But before running to the feed store for spring chicks, I did some field research and asked my friends who have chickens one pointed question: “Knowing what you know now, would you do it again?”
A unanimous “yes” was given and thus, my relationship with chickens was hatched.
So why do we avian aficionados raise chickens? What are the reasons? Is it sheer admiration of the birds, with their decorative, beautiful plumage with rich colors and textures?
Is it the entertainment people get from watching the birds’ bobble heads and antics as they strut around on their dinosaur legs and curiously look at humans with their raptor-eyes? Or is it simply the relaxation from leaning on the fence just watching those feathered friends and listening to their sweet clucking?
Or is it a desire to have our own supply of eggs? There is great satisfaction that comes from having a natural and known connection with the food we eat. Those who enjoy a daily dose of delicious, healthy, golden-yolked eggs say they will never go back to commercially produced eggs again.
Whichever came first (the chicken or the egg) is a question that really needs no answer. People raise chickens for personal reasons but one thing is certain: They all share a common obsession with these amazing creatures that provide engaging entertainment and generous gifts of golden eggs.
It seems that those who raise chickens develop a relationship with them, similar to that of family pets. They are given names; for example, “Wynotte-Lay-an-Egg,”, “Russell Wilson” (even though it was a hen), “Red Butler,” Duchess,” “Flossie,” “Olivia Darwin,” “Sam,” “Buffy,” “Aurora” and “BatGirl.” A rooster was named “Stewart” or “Stew” for short, lest he forget his manners and be relegated to the stew pot.
Adding to the fun, even the hen houses sport names, such as Coop de Ville, Poultry Palace, Das Huhnerhaus and Chicks in Sticks. Decorative signs are even added with names such as “Gallus Gallus Domesticus” and “Ann’s Barnyard.”
Those who raise chickens love their birds and find everything about them delightful. They take the birds to wedding receptions and allow them to nest in the car. They spend great sums of money in veterinarian bills and put up with their favorite perennials getting overturned due to free-range scratching.
They also tolerate the yard becoming a moonscape with dirt-bath holes and put up with the ever-present poop — everywhere (neat-niks, pay attention). Hen houses get built with better construction than human homes and conversations are dreaded when children find out where chicken pot-pie really comes from.
These enthusiasts revel at hearing the first “cheep” from inside an incubated egg — watch the chicks have a fun food fight when they discover yogurt for the first time. The site of running chickens invokes laughter, as they look like crazy ladies scurrying about with their petticoats hiked up.
As they settle into lawnchairs with cocktails in hand, tossing cherry tomatoes into the pen, humans love to watch chicken rugby and to feed them popcorn and peas to create a piranha-like feeding frenzy. They are inspired by their character and beauty, and even create art work. And they weep when a predator sadly reminds them of how nature behaves, even in their own back-yard.
Raising chickens is relatively easy and comes with initial and ongoing expenses, but the returns on your investment are great. These charming animals have only a few basic and simple needs and yet provide tremendous entertainment and a wonderful source of fresh food.
Knowing what I know now, would I do it again? Absolutely. It’s been a hoot — or should I say “cluck?” And that’s no yolk.Many thanks for my poultry pals for sharing their tales from the coop: Ann, Jamie, Julie, Sara, Mary and Bruce, all of Bainbridge Island; Matt and Anna Joe, Suquamish (facebook.com/woodbearstudio) and Soks, Kingston.