Have I ever told you why my little mascot for my blog is a chicken? It used to be a rooster. Now, it’s a hen.
These adorable little curvy birds are just one of my favorite things in life. They make me smile every single day. When I was a young girl (probably in junior high or so), my dad must’ve fulfilled a long-standing dream he had by building a cute little barn behind our garage in West Michigan and getting a whole bunch of meat-birds. For those of you who aren’t aware, this means that you get a bunch of adorable little peep-peeps that within weeks, turn into nasty, aggressive roosters, all. You don’t keep them too long — 8-12 weeks — and in that time those 100 birds smell awful, will kill each other if they spot a weakness, and grow to around 10 lbs. at which point we sent them off to the butcher and got a bunch of giant meaty birds in a freezer. Somehow, without signing up for it, my chores were to feed and water the nasties.
We had one deformed bird with only a top beak. His name was Hoover. We had another named Lazarus who apparently, was a weakling and the other birds were pecking him to death. My dad wrung its neck to put it out of its misery and then threw it out of the enclosure. Next day, there’s Lazarus, trying to get back in to all his friends!
We did this for only one or two summers, as I recall. Maybe the dream was fulfilled? Maybe it wasn’t what he had expected? Maybe my mother put her foot down to having to burn all the hairs off of the carcasses with a match?
Somehow, a dream sparked in me to have hens. Plus, I’ve always related a bit with that one story about that little red hen. :o) But seriously, how is it not the most magical thing to have a pet that makes you breakfast?!? Where we raised our children, though we had about 3 acres, the zoning prohibited chickens.
First order of business upon moving to our wilderness was to construct chicken dwelling places and learn all things chicken before acquiring our flock. We used a pre-fabbed shed as our coop, which was even smarter than we had expected because of the ability to clean it!! We designed and created a chicken run with two sections (one inside the other) which was also so smart as we could rotate grass areas and also have a place to separate new chicks until we could integrate them in to the rest of the flock safely. We fought off weasels and skunks and eagles. We eventually added the most obnoxious geese and ducks to guard the sweet chickens. In case you didn’t know, geese are truly one of the best guard animals you can get. They let us know when anyone arrives, they chase away predators, and also weed the lawn! These days, our sweet hens free-range in our yard and help try to make a dent in our bug population (specifically ticks), and come running when we call them in case we have a treat for them. Their favorite snack is cooked chicken. Hahahaha.
They give us so many eggs that we began to preserve some this year for the first time to be able to use when laying amounts are lower in the winter. Have you heard of water glassing? We’ll have to let you know how that goes. So far, we have about 70 eggs put up in a bucket with water and pickling lime!
I think there’s just something so satisfying about getting back to the basics and learning old methods of living that sustain our families. In the last ten years or so, we, as a little village, have learned collectively how to grow, harvest, acquire, and can our fruits, vegetables, and meat. We hunt and process wild game and most specifically deer. We have successfully raised chickens, sheep, ducks, guineas, turkeys,and geese.
Our friends all say that if the end of the world comes, they know where they’re coming. We smile at that. If you’re coming, you’d better bring something to the table! But, recently, when the end of the world felt too near, we surely did feel more prepared and stocked than the average bear. It’s been fun to learn and watch our grown children dig in and become so capable and well-rounded. They teach us so much!
What do you think? Do you think these older methods of living and food have any value in today’s world? What did you see your grandparents do that could have value and might be forgotten as time goes on? I’d love to hear your chicken-love as well — please comment below with stories!