A Case For Chickens

One of my earliest memories is sitting in the farm truck wedged between my mother and father clutching a cardboard box with holes doting the top edges. An orchestra of miniature peeps held me captive to their temporary residence in my hands. I imagined they were suffering in their close quarters or terrified. Why else would they be so loud?

At home I helped scoop them up, settling them into their cozy bed of straw and newspapers where a glowing bulb hung, suspended like the sun. As each one landed and tottered about, they banded together as if they were one body. It was a clump of wiry legs and fuzzy feathers against the world.

Not much has changed now that I’m the adult bringing home a cardboard box of peeps, feeling a little like a mother again when they graduate to the outdoor run and eventually to the freedom of our homestead.

Our 26 girls are hilarious. Loudmouth cackles as if she is telling off all her buddies while Nosey Rosy plods around right under your feet. Drama queen squawks and scampers into the flock only to get run off by the others. There really is a pecking order. Girlfriend is losing her luster but we love her just the same as she ages alongside our younger batch of little ladies adorned in stunning black and white splinters of feathers.

From the moment they arrive, I can tell you that each ball of fluff rocks a personality all its own. They gravitate together when they are cold or afraid, but their level of curiosity, expressiveness, and assertiveness are evident immediately. Their unique character traits are fun to watch and the sophistication of their skills are interesting.

Chickens can distinguish between over 100 faces of their own species. That peaking order is worked out among them based on recognition, similar to the way we know our friends and family. They have predictable social structures as well. For example, we have groups that stray around our property based on their preferences. I refer to five hens as troublemakers because they wander into our side road and have little concern for distance from home and danger.

The larger group stays in clumps through the yard and call out with signals that alert the others to predators like hawks or roaming critters. We get a good laugh at their panic from time to time when they have an alert with no apparent threat that spooks a couple of hens into an erratic flight toward cover.

Then we have Bossy Betty and our one and only rooster, Elvis. Elvis sings all day like a rock star and is as flashy as they come. The two of them don’t pay any mind to lawnmowers, vehicles, or our tractor. Occasionally, one of them will hop on the front loader of the tractor and gladly go for a ride.

Homesteading is becoming more popular for several reasons. Growing your own food, attending to outdoor chores, cultivating the land, nurturing a crop or little creatures, and spending our energy on tangible products is physically and mental rewarding. Nutrition, exercise, fresh air, and the sense of accomplishment provide rewards that can’t be measured.

Window or patio gardens can bring the same results as can caring for a couple of chickens in your yard or learning the art of bee keeping. I do suggest staying away from roosters if you want to keep your neighbors happy. Not everyone would be a fan of Elvis!

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