What the Cluck? Why We LOVE Our Backyard Chickens

backyard-chickensAs I was growing up, my grandma always kept her backyard full of chickens.  When she lived in town, she kept 5 or 6 chickens and a handful of ducks waddling around her property.  She would wake up each morning to refill the plastic kiddie pool out back for her ducks to splash around in.  

My grandmother eventually moved to an acreage in Northwestern Oklahoma.  She expanded her hobby farm to include goats, peacocks, turkeys, geese and emus.  YES… Emus.  Going to her house was thrilling.  We would gather the eggs, water and feed the animals, and, if we were lucky, we could play with the new babies on the farm.  

After I started my own family, and my grandma kept pestering me to get chickens for the kids.  “It will be good for them,” she would say.  “It will teach them responsibility, and how to care for an animal,” she added.  But, no matter how many times she would send baby chicks or ducklings home with me, I would tote them back to her acreage to live out the rest of their days. 

My grandma is 92 years old now, and I finally bit the bullet and joined the “Crazy Chicken Lady” club.  (This club is second only to the “Crazy Cat Lady” club.)  I am a city slicker through and through, yet, I have managed to keep 6 chickens alive and healthy for the past year.  If I can, so can you!  If you are on the fence about chicken keeping, I am here to convince you that they have been the best addition to our family.  Let me tell you what we have learned from our backyard flock.  

Chickens Taught My Kids Responsibility 

She was right!!!!  My grandma was totally spot on, these ladies have given my three children opportunities to learn alllll the life lessons. They have learned how to care for others that are dependent on you.  They have become more gentle and cautious, because handling baby chicks takes a calm demeanor.  Each night, my four year old counts the eggs as he puts them in our refrigerator, impressed at the chickens’ hard work for the the day. 

So many practical matters can be discovered in having backyard chickens.  Teaching our kids about the source of our food, and the difference between healthy and unhealthy options is now simple.  The kids know that chickens can only eat “real food” scraps and not processed food, causing them to distinguish the difference daily.  

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Chickens Helped My Family S L O W D O W N

The rhythm of chicken-keeping forces our family to pause twice a day.  Each morning we must go outside and let the chickens out to graze.  We feed them and water them before leaving the house each day.  Just being outside for a few moments, gives us the opportunity to breathe in some fresh air, and pause from the hustle of our morning routine.  

At night, the kids take turns shutting the chicken coop and collecting the eggs. We celebrate the eggs each night.  We have talked with the kids about the dangers of not shutting the chicken coop.  Chickens are defenseless animals, who can’t see at night, so leaving their coop open will invite predators in to harm them.  This has made them extra cautious in making sure the coop is closed each evening.  

Culture moves so fast these days.  Our society embraces the go-go-go mentality and keeping chickens forces our family to find a small nugget of stillness admit the chaos going on around us.  

Chickens Are Just Plain Fun:

Chicken owners can pull up a seat in their backyard and enjoy some “chicken TV” to cap off their day.  Each hen has her own specific personality and watching them interact is comical.  Our most assertive hen is known for steeling scraps, nibbling toes, or even high-jumping to get the first taste of scratch from the bucket.  We also have a gentle hen, who will hop into your lap if you are sitting still long enough.  She will even close her eyes if you pet her just right.  Have you ever heard of a lap chicken? I hadn’t either.

The kids have named each hen, and they watch carefully how each gets along with the flock.  My daughter scolds the assertive chicken for stealing food, and my oldest son coddles the timid chicken, giving her extra attention when he can.  

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I realize not everyone can own backyard chickens.  Maybe someday we can live in a world that embraces the flock, and appreciates what they add to the community.  But, for those of you who live in a location that allows backyard chickens, I encourage you to take the plunge.  They are well worth the work and add so much to your family.  

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: Always wash your hands after handling poultry.  Our children have a special hand washing ritual they do after coming in from handling or feeding the chickens.  We also have special outside shoes that do not come into the house, to stop the chicken droppings from being tracked in.  

 

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12 Responses to What the Cluck? Why We LOVE Our Backyard Chickens

  1. Heather Duncan's #1 Fan December 15, 2016 at 7:55 pm #

    Another great post! My grandma used to have chickens as well!

    • Heather Duncan
      Heather Duncan December 29, 2016 at 9:45 pm #

      I am sure your memory of her chickens is something you hold dear. Thanks for reading.

  2. Debbie Priest December 15, 2016 at 10:24 pm #

    Heather that was yet another fabulous post! it almost made me want to get a chicken, LOL! But then I came to my senses and realized I could just come to your house and experience the wonderful benefits of seeing the chickens and you! Much love and keep on cluckin’!! ??

    • Heather Duncan
      Heather Duncan December 29, 2016 at 9:46 pm #

      Thank you! I think you would be a great “chicken lady”, ha!! But you can come get a chicken fix anytime you want.

  3. Melissa Garand December 21, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

    My mother-in-law is a pathologist. She cautioned me against having chickens with small children. Google it. The diseases they transmit far outweigh the benefit of fresh eggs and outdoor time. The risk of Salmonella alone convinced me, besides the case studies against encephalitis. There are really good reasons chickens aren’t allowed in neighbors and there’s a huge fight in Edmond to keep them out. Even with the disclaimer, this article is more nostalgic than practical. It’s really irresponsible.

    • Lainee Copeland December 27, 2016 at 6:29 pm #

      I am so sorry your mother in law gave you this bad information. Backyard hens are such a fun, wonderful blessing.
      Having backyard hens poses no greater risks than cats, dogs, turtles, ect.. Basic hand washing will take care of salmonella from pets. Separate outside shoes for chicken chores is also a great idea. Really for biosecurity purposes if you happen to visit other homes with hens or if like us, you visit urban farms to pick up milk and veggies.
      Education is the key and I have faith that people can learn great animal husbandry practices just like they did years ago when chicken keeping was the norm and our government supported it!
      It’s a return to basics that can enrich family time and bring together communities.

    • Bethany Hutton December 28, 2016 at 9:34 am #

      In 2015, there were more cases of salmonella linked to cucumbers (907 and 6 deaths) to live poultry (252, 0 deaths) https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/poona-09-15/index.html (source). In fact, salmonella affects more than 1.4 million people a year, most of which are caused by food-borne sources. So, you’re 5 times more likely to get salmonella at a restaurant than from a pet chicken. (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/160942.php) I’m unclear where you’re getting your info on encephalitis because after taking your suggestion and Googling it, nowhere is this illness linked to keeping chickens. Chicken pox, yes. But not chickens.
      (http://www.emedicinehealth.com/encephalitis/page2_em.htm#what_causes_viral_encephalitis). You can get toxoplasmosis from cats. You can get hookworms from dogs. As with any pet, the common sense practices of hand washing and supervising young children typically do the trick. So, if these are the reasons neighborhoods are keeping chickens out, it seems they’ve gotten false info.

      Contrary to your statement, chickens are probably one of the most practical pets one could keep and this article does an excellent example explaining why. Edmond is far behind the times in allowing backyard chicken keeping. In fact, Forbes’ top 20 places to live in the US featured Edmond as one of them. Fifteen of the other cities allow chickens and there is a group over 700 strong petitioning the city of Edmond to allow them. Unfortunately, it’s bad information that is discouraging others from having truly beneficial, fun, practical pets and continuing this false information would be irresponsible.

      Thank you, Heather, for a well-written article.

    • Lainee Copeland December 29, 2016 at 4:57 pm #

      I found the same thing when I researched encephalitis Bethany! I had heard nothing about it being linked to chickens ever, so I was very curious. I even asked a nurse friend.
      I hope people will chose to learn about urban chickens before rushing to judgement.

  4. Hannah December 21, 2016 at 7:52 pm #

    We grew up with chickens and I so wish we could have a few here in the City! So far though, we aren’t allowed to because we have less than one acre.

    If anyone else would like to see this change, you can go here to find out what ward you are in: https://www.okc.gov/residents/ward-map And here to get contact info for your ward representative on the City Council.

    (And as for possible health hazards, all creatures come with risks, and simple precautions like hand washing and keeping your pets healthy go a long way.)

    • Heather Duncan
      Heather Duncan December 29, 2016 at 9:50 pm #

      Thank you for passing this information on. 🙂 And thank you for reading. Hopefully, one day your family can enjoy a flock too!

  5. Hannah December 21, 2016 at 8:01 pm #

    Whoops! Forgot the second link for contacting our ward representatives about chicken laws: https://www.okc.gov/government/city-council

  6. MillerMomYukon December 27, 2016 at 5:51 pm #

    We have 4 chickens in our small suburban Yukon backyard and can relate to every word! Thank you for spreading the positive word – hopefully OKC and Edmond will soon pass legislation allowing small flocks with fewer restrictions.

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