8 September 2012

Why I love keeping chickens

I was musing today about what would have to change if our normal food supplies - e.g. supermarkets - stopped. Maybe if the food became wildly unaffordable, or it just wasn't there. Jack pointed out that it would be just like District 12 in The Hunger Games.

The lawn would have to go, for a start, because we'd need the soil to grow food in. Driveways would be a luxury. Most ornamental trees would be taken out, and replaced with fruit trees. I'd have to learn smartly how to preserve fruit, vegetables and eggs. Yes! People used to preserve eggs because the hens of older chicken breeds don't lay in winter when the days are short.

And of course, we'd all have hens AND a rooster or two, and we'd be eating the ones we didn't need to keep for laying. Which got me thinking why I love keeping chickens.

A photo that Jack took of me holding my biggest and most beautiful hen, Cleverclogs.
10 reasons why I love having chickens
1. The magic of the fact that we feed them mostly grain and scraps, and their very clever bodies make elegant and delicious bundles of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, and give them to us!
2. They are easy, and visiting them to tend to their food and water needs is almost always pleasant.
3. They keep themselves looking so healthy.
4. They connect us with the thousands of generations before us who have kept fowl.
5. They are beautiful - some more than others. Our three brown shaver hens look lovely, but it's the older breeds that really grab me. Our black Orpington is stunning, with iridescent feathers that gleam blue and bottle green in the sun.
6. They keep us company when we garden, much like cats. Only the chickens have their bellies in mind.
7. They absolutely love to eat things we hate: cockroaches, snails, slugs, and those stinky green vegetable bugs that plague tomatoes and beans in summer. And turn them into aforementioned eggs.
8. They make very endearing gentle little clucks to remind us they're there.
9. They operate strongly on their instincts. When the sun sets, our hens are desperate for the highest possible perch. When that egg-laying urge comes, they desperately want a private place to lay their egg. When I stand over them, they squat down and balance themselves ready for me, their rooster, to mount them!
10. They teach us a lot about ourselves. Hen-pecked, pecking order, feeling clucky, brooding, in a flap and being chicken (scared). A few years ago Jack asked me why it is that he feels his needs are more important that anyone else's. I explained that we all feel like that, and asked him if the chickens felt that way. Yes they do, he said. (Parents excepted, of course. Suddenly there are little creatures whose needs are more important than ours.)

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