Chickens might be the most underrated pets of our time. My husband and I have kept backyard chickens for six years. While they’re not snuggly, keeping one flock of chickens offers all the richness of adopting one adorable mutt and requires only a fraction of the work. What they lack in snuggles they make up for in eggs. Still not convinced your family needs chickens? Read on.
Chickens offer a chance to discuss death with your kids
Although they generally live about eight years, they only lay regularly for three, four years max. If, like us, you adopted your chickens primarily for the delicious eggs, there’s no shame in letting them go when production peters out. If, unlike us, you have the energy to raise kids, keep houseplants alive, and nurture a bevy of dumb birds who give even less than an infant at the pre-smiling stage, I’d like some of whatever you’re smoking. Despite any of your plans for your chickens to meet their maker in a humane, cruelty-free way (there are farmers who can take care of it for a price), nature might intervene first, particularly if your coop isn’t super secure. Though it requires no planning and is free of charge, this method is highly inconvenient. Racoons and foxes leave a gory mess in their wake. At least, that’s what my husband said. I couldn’t bring myself to look. Of course, you can also do the dirty deed yourself. Pro tip: A sure predictor that you’ll have an impromptu death chat with your kids sooner rather than later is hearing your husband, who seldom curses, yell a string of obscenities audible from your backyard to your half-asleep ears at daybreak. Ask my husband about the YouTube video that taught him how to de-feather a chicken. (Sorry, I can’t share my hyper-local, super free-range crock pot chicken soup recipe; I invented it on the fly.) While it’s never fun or easy to talk to kids about death. I’m grateful we had the opportunity to broach the topic when our chickens kicked the bucket, rather than after the dealth of a family member or a friend.
Chickens are dumb animals
This makes it a lot easier to deal with the fact that they will not be your forever (or 10- to 14-year) pet. This also makes it easy to say, “Oh, hell no!” when your friends ask if you’ve stopped eating chicken. When we open the coop to feed our chickens, they try to escape. Never mind the fact that their coop supposedly provides them shelter from hungry animals with claws and sharp teeth (see Chickens offer chance to discuss death, above). Meanwhile, our backyard offers no such protection.
Chickens eat everything
This includes the buttery crusts of your kids’ grilled cheeses and the overly sweet milk remaining in their cereal bowls. For better or worse, having chickens means you can no longer nibble on your kids’ castaways in the name of avoiding food waste. Chickens eat anything that isn’t rotting, including cantaloupe rinds, the fatty edge of your steaks, and the Wheat Thins that you simply can’t have in the house because they rob you of your last remaining shred of self-discipline. They even eat chicken (cooked) and eggshells. (See also: Chickens are dumb animals.)
Chickens teach kids about the food system
Despite being dumber than playing Pokemon Go at the Holocaust museum, chickens are amazing teachers. For example, having chickens has taught my kids firsthand how much processing happens to your food before you find it waiting for you at the supermarket, as if by magic. Yes, kids, that brown stuff clinging to the eggshell? That’s chicken poop. No, the hen doesn’t poop while laying. It’s physically impossible. (In this regard, female chicken design is more intelligent than human female design. Go figure.) It’s just that the hen might have stepped in poop and then stepped on her egg, or else she laid her egg on top of a pile of her own feces. My kids know that, while store-bought eggs need to be refrigerated, we can safely store ours in a bowl on the counter. Unlike the commercial egg producers, we don’t wash away the protective layer known as the egg bloom.
Chickens can be your kids’ first economics professor
Not only do your chickens have the capacity to teach your kids a biology lesson or two, they can also offer real life lessons in finance. Our five-year-old is thrilled to help care for our chickens. As long as she keeps up her end of the bargain, we let her sell excess eggs to neighbors and friends. We are currently taking pre-orders, as our young chickens haven’t started laying yet. I can only imagine what our budding entrepreneur will take from the experience. We got chickens with the expectation that they’d give us tasty eggs, but they’ve given us so much more than that. And we’ve never even had to give them eye drops, take them to the vet, crate train them, or change their litter box. ?????? Still not convinced your family needs a chicken? Watch this: