The circle of life is on display in our backyard, something that sounded much cheerier in that “Lion King” musical number.
My wife recently decided that having two young children, a dog and a fish just wasn’t enough. So she bought and built a coop and connected us to an animal swap held close to our home. Suddenly, our boys spend a good chunk of their day chasing chickens around our backyard.
Our fowl experiment hasn’t gone smoothly. We’ve learned that some chicken breeds can leap over our backyard fence if we don’t clip their wings – a process aided by an instructional YouTube clip. We also learned local critters not only roam our streets after dusk but love late-night snacks. We’ve since turned the chicken coop into a fortified bunker, but more often we place the chickens in our sturdy backyard shed for full protection.
And, let’s be frank, chickens poop at an alarmingly high rate.
It’s tempting to throw up our hands and quit this pet chicken business. What parent needs another time suck, let alone one that comes with the heartache over chicken mortality? Owning chickens still has its perks, qualities I’m not ready or eager to give up.
1. You can expand the educational possibilities.
Children typically get to know the animal kingdom through a dog or cat. Owning chickens expands the educational possibilities. Why doesn’t it hurt when we clip a chicken’s wings? Why is it a bad idea to pair young chickens with full-grown hens? Why do chickens of all ages spend so much time pecking at the ground even if it seems like there’s no food to be had? Did you know different chicken breeds lay a variety of egg colors?
2. The Meat-Diet Connection
Our most awkward dinner after buying our chickens involved, you guessed it, a chicken recipe. It’s hard to reconcile chicken ownership with a fried chicken feast when your kids are watching you, waiting for an explanation. It forced us to hold some age-appropriate chats about the food we eat and where it comes from. That’s a healthy way to teach youngsters about nutrition and the country’s food supply.
3. Chickens are stress busters.
They cluck. They strut. They let you pet them endlessly–assuming you can catch ’em in the first place. Best of all, there’s something calming about seeing chickens sauntering across your property, a sense that in our digital age we can still have an egg production facility in our own backyard.
4. They’re clucking conversation starters
Whenever we invite guests over the first thing we ask them is, “Do you wanna see our chickens?” Children adore our feathered friends. Adults have a million questions about chicken ownership. At neighborhood parties chicken ownership is a fun way to break the ice or chat up potential friends. And fresh eggs make the perfect gift, period.
Photo credit: Christian Toto
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