• Post published:03/14/2010
  • Post comments:8 Comments
Photo by Katherine Wolkoff in the NYT

First you need to know that I raise chickens, and have for the past 30 years. I do not look like this, although I do have roses growing in  the Shed Bed, next to the hen house.

Peggy Ornstein in The New York Times today talks about “femivorism” and the part chickens play.

I did not get my chickens because I thought it was part of good parenting practice. My five children were teenagers or older by the time we got chickens, and if anything thought they were gross.  The grandchildren think it is exotic and fun to go out and collect the eggs, but then they are grandchildren.

I am fascinated by the mysterious trend to have a backyard flock, and I can only applaud it because I think chickens can raise your spirits. I raise chickens because they are domestic, cheerful, productive – just like me. I love using big fresh golden yolked eggs in my cooking, even if they come into the house with smudges of manure. Tip: NEVER wash an egg until you are ready to cook it.  Nature has given the shell an impermeable coating that protects the eggs. Don’t wash it off until the last minute.

Eggs from my hens

When people show photos of their backyard flocks they don’t show pictures of chicken house litter in use, moulting birds, or the inevitably work scarred equipment. It is not all picture perfect.

Though its not pretty, we gardeners love all that manure for the compost pile.

My hens

We usually raise meat birds as well. Even people with a few laying hens balk at that.  But it raises the  question, what does raising a back yard flock do for us? What does it mean?  Eggs? Meat? A pretty hobby? Pets? An environmental effort?  A lesson for the children?

What do you think?

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Tinky

    Thanks for the tip about washng at the last minute! I wish I had your patience or your geographic stability; then I would be a chicken girl, too………..

  2. Lisa at Greenbow

    To me it would be a hobby with the benefit of eggs and hopefully a few snails and slugs eradicated from the garden.

  3. Janice Sorensen

    You know how people will keep a goat in with the horses to keep them calm (it is where the expression “get your goat” comes from. A competitor would steal the goat the night before the race to upset the horses.).
    Chickens do this for me. Just seeing them in my yard steadies me. Their steady industry encourages the same in me. -janice
    And, I am housesitting this week for a friend in Kamerik, The Netherlands and was happy to find she has her own tiny flock.

  4. Pat

    Tinky – That is important information about eggs. Most store bought eggs are washed which I think accounts for the outbreaks of salmonella. Just a private theory.
    Lisa – The eggs are a miracle. Don’t let the chickens too near the vegetable garden or they’ll do in the lettuce in no time.
    Janice – I too appreciate their steady industry. Happy house and hen sitting. You must be having a great time!

  5. Frances

    Hi Pat, your chickens and their eggs are very beautiful to me. We have never done it, but our daughter Chickenpoet has been raising them for over ten years, so I know what a mess the coop area can be, especially with a lot of rain which always seems to happen. Boots required! But the eggs are without peer and the chickens themselves are so beautiful. Her sons are learning such valuable lessons from the experience too. She hatches many a baby chick, the world’s cutest babies. 🙂

  6. Pat

    Frances – I am glad you know the realities as well as the joys of chickens. I’ve never hatched any chicks, but I get so excited when I get the 7 am call from the post office telling me to come and pick them up.

  7. Christine B.

    I recall the words of a master gardener in my state who claims all her pets are edible. She uses her ducks, chickens, etc. in the pot as well as for eggs. Having had to pluck a chicken once, I don’t know if I would want to eat my chicken pets (had I any). It’s an awful lot of work for a chicken pot pie;)

    Christine in Alaska

  8. Pat

    Christine – It is a lot of work and while I have done it numberous times, I have also hauled the birds off to a slaughter house. One of the failings of our agricultural system at this point is the lack of small local operations that would allow small farmers to slaughter animals for sale, and allow ‘hobby farmers’ a way to produce more of their own food.

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