Life with chickens, 
one year later

The chickens really couldn’t care less, but it’s their birthdays. Yes, the Chicken Five are 1 year old!

I’m celebrating, because this is important. I tried to make them celebrate, too, but they are immune to the joys of pointy hats and noisemakers. They’re downright terrified of balloons — is that a rotund hawk? Take cover! — and to be honest, they’d rather eat a pile of squirming earwigs than a cake. Meh.

Maybe I’m a little sentimental here, but the first birthday is a significant milestone, as many of my friends with children will attest. The first birthday means I’m not a terrible chicken mommy. They’re still alive! And still laying eggs! And they generally seem to enjoy doing their little chicken things in the chicken McMansion, when they’re not scratching around for bugs, mutilating my garden and flinging themselves off our hammock like it’s a roller coaster.

If you recall, Hubby finally caved in to this grand poultry experiment after enduring three years of pestering from yours truly. I’m very persistent, and he finally said, “FINE!” which I interpreted as, “Absolutely! Yes, dear!”

This victory came after I sufficiently weakened him with a diet of rice and beans on the Armageddon Pantry Challenge and we dealt with the Worm Massacre of 2013, in which 2,000 worms perished (RIP, worms).

A year later, he loves the chickens. Yes, I said LOVES because he really does, deep down. Maybe he just loves Little Geri, who went through a slight identity crisis when we thought she was actually Little Jerry and just turned out to be a very masculine hen after all.

But he loves them enough to deal with chicken manure, and I argue that a commitment to dealing with another living being’s manure over a period of time is evidence of love. You can find this in many relationships, evidently.

It hasn’t always been pretty. Living things die. Sometimes brutally, like when your jealous dog murders one of the chickens in front the neighbors. I still think that poor, mentally challenged chicken was sentenced to be buried in the corner of the yard when she was so unfortunately named (RIP, Dumbass). OK, so Hubby didn’t love all the chickens, it’s true.

But overwhelmingly, the urban chicken experiment has been a success. Learning about chickens is fascinating. I’ve met people who know a lot more about chickens than I do, who have provided invaluable advice and let me pick their brains.

While eggs are an obvious plus to keeping chickens, some other rewards came as a surprise. It turns out that chickens are a cheap source of hilarious entertainment. We could watch them all day long, puttering about their little chicken routines. We don’t even have cable TV, we just sit in the backyard and watch our animated lawn ornaments.

Yes, they eat bugs. Yes, they eat weeds. Yes, they provide a constant source of fertilizer. But more than anything, the chickens have taught me a lesson I enjoy learning over and over again: There is a certain satisfaction one feels when you harvest something from your own yard. When you know where the food you are eating came from, it draws you to your surroundings.

Somehow it connects the dots for me, and makes that food more valuable in the sense that I appreciate what it took for it to get here, on my dining table.

So here’s to a year, I raise my plate of scrambled eggs to you, dear chickens. Happy Birthday to Little Geri, Ofeibeia, Eleanor Rigby, Pollo Kata and Nugget. You’re an experiment worth continuing.

Erin McIntyre is an advanced master gardener, writer and Grand Valley native. Please email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with story ideas or feedback.


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