The Way of the Chicken

7 years ago

If you met me coming out of my office, I am sure your first thought would not be, oh that girl keeps chickens.

Most people don't expect the four kids either.

Among the women in my office - this one and previous ones - I'm out of place. There are a lot of one or two kid mamas, most of them live in New Jersey or Westchester or even Manhattan. It's a busy, demanding work life in the big companies where I've been the last fifteen years - Fortune 500 monsta companies.

So there aren't many chicken farmers or big family women around.

I grew up a small town girl. I did not want to raise my children in a big city. I moved to small town upstate rural farmer ghetto hippie haven nearly ten years ago from London, where I spent my twenties. I was a one-kid mama, investment bank worker by day...pseudo farmer chick by night. My husband comes from Long Island. They "landscape", not so much.

I talked him into a veggie garden right away. I had always gardened as a child. We did corn first - and it wasn't spectacular. I missed the home frozen and home canned produce we always had, from my grandmother, my mother. So we kept at it. Our garden provides all we need in-season now - I'm working on the canning/freezing part still. My grand plan is that by the time we are feeding teenagers, the garden will take care of a significant part of our food costs (which are going to go through the roof otherwise).

The other thing is that I didn't want my children to grow up thinking food comes from the store - I wanted them to see all the fun and wonder of seeds turning into plants turning into food.

The chicken campaign took significantly longer. My mother grew up with chickens, my father did not. They laughed and thought with all of our land, why not. My husband was not convinced because unlike the garden, I had no idea and had to research. We bought a book. He thought it sounded like a lot of work.

After the fourth was born, he was all over the chicken idea but she wasn't an easy baby and I hemmed and hawed and finally, three years ago, we got chicks. Who rapidly turned into toys. Toys that poop, as the little people discovered. Toys that might play along with skateboard rides, trips to the back deck, informal introductions to the hound - but in the end, toys that poop.

The Poultry Palace joined all the other amazing yard constructions we have (clubhouse on stilts with attached swingset, other swingset mounted directly onto trees, woods swing, sandbox...quite the kid exercise complex). Poultry palace will hold up to about 25 chickens but currently we take care of eleven very nice girls.

We had four more. They formed a sort of Chickie Mafia - terrorizing the others, lording over the  nest, patrolling around en masse. The eggs stopped. The other chickens cowered. We gave the four bad girls to the Italians. When faced with the classic dilemma of the Italian-owned chicken:behave or be Piccata, they behaved. And the other girls decided to grace us with eggs again.

People do ask...why? Why do you do this commute? Why do you have so many kids? Why chickens and garden and all the other strange things we do (wood stove? clothes line?). Why?

Some of it is that I like the challenge, the income, the responsibility of the kind of job that I have but I'm not willing to give up a serene life in the country. Some of it is that I want my family to operate sustainably, independently - if food were suddenly scarce, we would have food. If clothes were suddenly scarce, I can sew, if energy were scarce we would have heat and light and ways to take care of our life. Most of it is that I am learning how to walk out Proverbs 31: providing for my family, diversified interests for myself and my family and mothering all at the same time. That Proverbs 31 woman was superwoman in the extreme, and I'm not sure I will ever get there. But it's a good goal for a woman who works and mothers and takes care of a home (and an extremely cute husband too).

Hence the chickens. We love fresh eggs. We like pets. We like assigning chores. We will have eggs as long as we have chicken feed (two siberian pea bushes planted just this spring).

Over time, the home pursuits will gradually take over the City thing, I hope. If not, that's okay. We will keep the chickens.

Jennifer Z.


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