Raising Poultry Produces Golden Moments
We live a famous feathered verse of “Old MacDonald’s Farm,” minus the rooster.
We own chickens. The joy first arrived with Chick Days at our local feed store. It multiplied with the postal service arrival of 25 more. Our kids, ages 4 and 6, spent hours in a corner room of the shed holding the fuzzy youngsters. They heard them chirp, watched them eat, and giggled when they pooped. Only Christmas morning could be as exciting.
But what frustrations they caused. Our family invested time to move to our farm an old half-ton building that used to house hogs on our main farm. We built a fence that refused to tighten. My husband and I knocked our heads on the building’s tapered rafter angle – several times. At one point, my husband threatened to buy KFC.
However, the first egg’s arrival diluted those tribulations.
Our daughter found the first.
“The chickens laid an egg!” she squealed, showing her brother and me. She then thanked the chickens. Really – she used her manners. The moment proved the worth of the literal headaches.
“I want two eggs tomorrow so we can make cookies!” she exclaimed as she carefully sheltered the egg in her hands. The beautifully shaped, smooth shell resembled the hue of weak chocolate milk. Before I returned to the house, she had rinsed and stored the egg in her Disney Princess lunchbox in the refrigerator.
For now, we care for just five hens that lay eggs nearly once a day. About three dozen eggs per week seem plenty for us and the grandmothers. Last spring, though, we raised 25 chickens for meat.
Those chicks arrived in the mail from an Iowa hatchery. The chirping chorus on the phone announced their arrival before the postmaster finished her first sentence.
Those birds grew fast, supported the local feed store, and provided great garden fertilizer. My son helped feed and water them almost daily. He asked every few days, “Can we eat them yet?” Comically, they must have seemed like chicken nuggets. Seriously, he understood the purpose for this meat animal.
The chickens provide an education in animal care and behavior. The kids notice when the chickens need feed, seem hot, prefer to rest or feel ill. They learn patience in waiting 18 weeks for the first egg. Meanwhile, they feel responsible. My kids understand that their birds’ livelihoods depend on us.
Before bedtime one summer evening, our daughter shared a philosophy with her brother.
“If we be nice to the chickens, they will be nice to us,” she said.
She formulated that on her own. At 6 years old, she defined the premise of any poultry or livestock farm. A well-treated animal proves more productive.
A few months into the chicken project, I pulled a childhood trophy from a high shelf. I still display it for fun, because the chicken figure on top seems more novel than a girl holding a baseball bat.
Twenty-five years ago, my meat chickens earned Champion Market Flock at our county 4-H show. Our 4-year-old son thought I won a chicken race. Our daughter accused me of actually earning second place, as the faded golden chicken atop the trophy rather resembled silver. By Olympic standards, I placed second.
Regardless, the experience itself earns gold.