If you guessed this City Boy, than you are correct!………..(ROARING APPLAUSE FOR DRAMATIC EFFECT) ” I want to say thank you to the members of the Chicken Academy,……….. to my beloved wife, who has continued to step around chicken poop on the deck for the last year,………. to my dutiful son and non-egg eating daughter for tirelessly listening to “chicken stories “around the dinner table,……… to our dog Stanley, who continues to protect the “flock” even in his senior years,……… and, of course, to Honda, Rosie & Swiffer for providing entertainment to you, the reader, for the last 8 months. But most of all, I’d like to thank Chickens Magazine for choosing my submission for the November/December 2013 issue”.
So without further adieu, here’s my submission:
A city boy finds solace in keeping chickens.
I think of hens as pets that provide their owners nourishment every day. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about my family’s dog, turtle, crayfish or deceased budgie and hamster. Don’t get me wrong, the dog does his job, but I’m not interested in eating what he leaves for me to pick up! As for the others, I never did see the purpose of getting additional pets, except to satisfy my kids’ pleading during momentary lapses in my own judgment.
It’s fair to say that I am in the midst of a midlife crisis. For the first time in many years, the kids don’t require the attention they once did, and I now have some time to discover and pursue some of my own interests. However, I don’t want a tattoo. I don’t want a vintage car (I sold my sweet 1965 Ford Mustang a few years ago and don’t miss it for a moment). And I don’t want another woman, because I love my wife (and I don’t want to give up half of what I’ve accumulated over the last few decades!).
With that said, last year I found myself daydreaming about getting a few chicks. Looking back, I think it had something to do with the onset of spring combined with an early Easter.
I mulled it over and then started to sneak around the Internet to see if keeping chickens was something I could realistically pull off.
To further complicate matters, I didn’t have any agricultural experience, except for a three-week stint bailing hay on a farm in the summer after 10th grade. There weren’t even any chickens on that farm, just some cows and a headstrong bull. Anyways, a farmer I am not, though I did manage to speak to some people who raised chickens in rural areas. For the most part, they were polite, but there were a few raised eyebrows. I think I heard a few inside voices laughing at the “city boy who wanted to play farmer.”
One day, I discovered a local garden center that sold day-old chicks. I left work that same day and headed straight to the garden center to take a look. I remember walking into the store and hearing the faint sound of peeps. I followed the sound until I came upon two brooders packed with tons of fluffy yellow chicks. I was totally hooked the moment I saw those chicks, and 10 minutes later, I was walking toward the front counter with two chicks, a brooder lamp, a waterer, grit and feed.
I like to think that I partially made the decision to get the chicks because it would be a positive learning experience for the kids. The reality is: I would have gotten them with or without the kids!
The Chicken Man Cometh
Fast forward four months to a hot morning in July when Honda, one of those fluffy chicks, now a hen, laid her first egg. I carried that egg around like a proud papa, waiting for my family to wake up.
When my daughter emerged from her bedroom, I showed her Honda’s accomplishment and told her we could share the first egg for breakfast. My daughter — the one who begged and pleaded for me to get chickens in the first place and who tenderly cuddled “her babies” in a blanket when they were young — looked up at me with complete disbelief and said, “I’m not going to eat that egg! Do you know where it came from? Besides, these are our pets, and I am not eating something that came from our pets.” (I know those rural folks are no longer laughing on the inside; I can hear them loud and clear!) To this day, my daughter “thinks” she doesn’t eat eggs from our hens; my wife tells her that her breakfast is made from “store-bought” eggs.
More than a year has passed since that day in March, and we’ve covered a lot of ground. In that time, I built an extensive run and coop; trained Stanley (our Labrador Retriever) not to eat the hens; took the girls to our summer cottage for the entire season; successfully introduced Rosie (a third hen) into the flock; and survived owl, raccoon and hawk attacks. Winter is now in full swing, but the hens continue to each lay an egg every day. I never get tired of walking out each morning to fetch those eggs!
My extended family and friends think I’m a bit crazy to raise hens in the city. They’ve made plenty of jokes at my and my hens’ expense. I received a plastic egg-carrying case on Mother’s Day, some kind of gadget that makes hard-boiled eggs without the shell on my birthday and a baseball cap with a rooster stitched on the brim at Christmas. Friends and family seldom call me Rick anymore; I automatically respond when someone calls out to the -“chicken man.” It’s interesting, though, how all these hilarious people keep asking me for fresh eggs …
I can’t say for certain why I am so enthralled with my hens. As I mentioned before, maybe it has something to do with a midlife crisis, or maybe it’s just a need to step back into a simpler way of life. But, whatever the reason, I can tell you this: I’m having a blast!
Rick Andrews hales from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with his wife, two kids, dog, turtle, crayfish and three ISA Brown hens. Follow his urban chicken-keeping adventures at http://www.cityboyhens.com.