You know how at the beginning of a relationship you are always so excited to see the other person, and think that everything he/she does is brilliant and charming and all the stories are new and breathtaking? And how, after time and exposure, the gilt begins to wear off because, seriously - you've already told me this story three times before (and it's really not that funny)? And then you start to see how annoying and selfish that person can be, but you stick it out with them since the positives outweigh the negatives? And then in a few more weeks you're leaving the bathroom door open while you take your morning dump, with yesterday's eyeliner smeared across your cheek and sporting the world's most atrocious morning breath because, well...you just don't care? Because you're all about honesty now, right?
Yeah, so that's sorta how we are with chickens now.
When we finally got our first flock of chicks, each fluff-ball was socialized daily, fed from hand and given a special name best suited to his/her personality. Special treats were lovingly offered each day, and every egg was a celebrated as a victory.
Fast forward three years later and we are so over that now. We currently have chickens that we've had for close to a year that don't even have a name. And since we haven't socialized them properly they get all Benny Hill theme music on us (forward to the 1:07 mark) when we try to get close. Bitches.
Don't get me wrong - I don't believe we loath having chickens. It's just now that all the gilt has worn off and I can be 100% honest with you about it all. To keep it organized, here are 5 truths about raising chickens that any experienced and honest chicken owner can tell you:
1. Chickens eat a lot. If you think running to the store because you ran out of dog food (again) is a hassle, just wait 'til you're feeding chickens...especially in the winter. Since they have less to forage on during the cold months, our girls eat way more feed in the winter than in the summer - pretty much a new bag every week. And unlike dog food (or cat food), the local gas-and-stop on the corner doesn't have a miniature bag of feed-n-scratch to get you through to the weekend. No, if you realize at 7:55pm that you are out of chicken feed then you better haul ass to the nearest farm supply store (which closes at 8:00pm) to get that bag. Unless you have enough stale cereal in the back of the cupboard to buy time. Otherwise, get used to the folks at the feed store calling you PJ's-and-Crocs (because that's how they're used to seeing you).
2. Roosters are assholes. Seriously. There is a reason the term "cock" is used to describe assholes. People will tell you stories about roosters that were sweet and gentle and loved to cuddle, but they're lying. Or drunk. Or both. And notice how their stories are always in the past tense. Rooster have built in shivs, called spurs, on the back of their legs. They will cut you! It's just like Wolverine, minus the adamantium and six-pack abs and cigar and...okay, scratch that Wolverine thing. Unless you are trying to breed chickens and raise chicks from eggs I really don't recommend keeping roosters. Doubly so if you have young children around.
3. Chickens die. Okay, this one shouldn't be a surprise, right? But lets just say that the death isn't always a convenient or peaceful one. We've had a stray dog wander on to property and personally pick out his own al fresco lunch (the owner that let that dog wander was a cock...see what I did there?). Occasionally one will go on a walk-about, while others disappear with nothing but a poof of feathers left in the grass (we suspect hawks in those instances). Sometimes there will just be one sweet little hen dead, near the front door, just in time for your elementary-aged daughter gets off the bus (fuuuuuck). Sometimes you find the body (or remains) after dark when you're locking up the coop. Sure, you could get to bed an hour later than expected by cracking out the shovel and giving it a proper burial. But tomorrow is trash day...
4. Chickens shit everywhere. No really - everywhere. High, low, sideways - it defies gravity and gets onto every surface. And even if you think you're all that and keep your chickens penned up (no free range poop for you, thankyouverymuch) guess what? You're going to go in to that pen for feeding and watering duties and bring chicken shit back into the house on your shoes. And then unknowingly smear it in the carpet. Because you're too drunk talking about a sweet little rooster to notice what you've done.
5. Chicken Math = Crazy Math. You're just going to start with eight hens, right? Er, better make that 12. Shit, how did it get to be15? Fuzzy math indeed, my friends. Oh, you're going to downsize your flock? Let me know how that goes - because the universe hears you and calls your bluff and that is exactly when it will bend time and space to steer people into your path that are desperately in search of good homes for chickens they cannot keep. I even know someone who had unwanted chickens dumped on her property in the middle of the night. I kid you not. I've decided I'm not longer going to announce when we are wanting to reduce the size of our flock - it's a bit too much of fate tempting. I'll have to come up with some code phrase. Maybe instead of saying "We're going to downsize our flock," I should say something like "I wish there was more chicken shit on the sidewalk." It'd be sort of a reverse-psychology-meets-no-tempting-of-fate approach. Legit.
I can easily think of four or five other things to add to this list. But don't get me wrong, chickens are fascinating and entertaining and there is nothing better than home-grown protein. It's just not always sunshine and roses.
Some days it's more like sun flares and thorns.