- They are easy to maim or kill, especially if they're left unsupervised around eager young children. The only thing you can do when this happens is chalk it up to experience....and take it as a sign that you probably shouldn't have any more kids. If your child can't keep from squeezing a chick too hard, there's no guarantee that he or she will be able to keep away from a newborn's soft spot. Consider yourself warned.
- They like to spread disease. Well, it's not that they like to, but it's just so easy for them to do it when they're being handled by little hands with very vague notions of hygiene. Touching an animal and then putting your hands in your mouth = death. I'm just kidding! If that were true, there would be no Short children. But you can sometimes get a nasty infection. (Again, we seem to be a little immune.) Or at least just gross out some people.
- They grow into chickens. This involves molting, which is gross. Chickens can also be a little crotchety (they could maybe try to peck you). And they can really scare people who fear chickens. A friend of mine mentioned her fear of chicks turning into chickens (as many of them are wont to do), and said that more misguided parents should be celebrating the resurrection of Christ by giving their children ducklings instead of chicks because ducklings grow into ducks and ducks are cuter than chickens. I automatically replied, "There is no worse smell in the world than duck vomit. Just try and get that smell out of your car." (Once, while we were taking some animals to the county fair, a duck got dehydrated and threw up in the Montero. Thank goodness Mom had tarps down.) Which brings me to my final, and most important point....
- The children could wind up really liking that whole poultry-raising business and turn out like me.
My chicken adventure got started when I was 11. After raising the market lamb from Heck (he weighed about 3 times what I did and was mean), I showed him and sold him at the county fair auction. And they paid by the pound! I opened a savings account. And I thought it would be fun to raise some layers because.....I think Mom is to blame for all of this. She suggested I try raising a different animal than market sheep. My parents are both fans of chickens, and they realized pretty quickly that my temperament was very ill-suited to dealing with large animals. In retrospect, I really have to wonder why I needed to raise an animal to begin with. Maybe it was so I wouldn't be the odd kid out in our family. Bless their hearts. It was a noble effort.
So, anyway, I ordered some day-old chicks and equipment from the Murray McMurray catalog and embarked on a personal journey of ever-increasing dorkiness. Seriously, my parents knew what they were doing. I wasn't going to fall in with a wrong crowd or attract any of those evil boys now! I raised ornamental, heavy-breed, laying chickens. Then, I started raising broiler chickens (you eat them) because it was ten-week project that could be pretty lucrative if you placed high enough at the state fair. And some years I did. Not to brag--because you're probably not impressed--but I won Reserve Grand Champion once. Levi did it twice. And Laine actually won the whole show one time, which was weird. Sara made it into the auction (only the top 6 pens make the sale) at least 3 times that I can think of. And she even had some chickens of her own for fun. Levi went through a duck phase when he was much younger--it was cute. Especially one April Fool's Day when I put a particularly HUGE duck egg in his tiny, little, MALE wood duck's pen. The egg was about a third of that little duck's size. Levi was about 5 then and he completely freaked out. We all had a good laugh.
I just realized my homeschool background has never been more apparent than it is right now.
Um, so yeah. I really got into raising chickens and it really helped me become even more of a strange child, all the way through adolescence. I entered my especially pretty chickens at the county fair. And won. I even sold a lot of the 'farm fresh' (trans: unrefrigerated and just-washed off) eggs to people at church and some of the more health conscious homeschool moms. Those eggs probably weren't any more nutritious than the ones you buy at the store, but they were definitely prettier. Nearly every chicken we had laid brown eggs. Brown eggs have slightly stronger shells and that's really the only difference. I keep telling Cody that when he wants to get some. It's especially awful when he so much as looks at the free-range eggs. This typically happens when we're at Whole Foods. I wind up going on some rant about "Do you know where those chickens have been? No! Do you know what they've eaten? No! Unless those are your chickens eating your kitchen refuse and your insects on your place, you do not want that little 'extra' flavor that they've picked up from who-knows-where! Besides, free-range eggs can get a little too 'gamey' for baking projects." Few things are more fun for me than acting like an outright earthy redneck when surrounded by organic yuppies. Although, for the record, I love that extra 'gamey' flavor that comes from free-roaming chicken eggs.
In conclusion, I have no real point to make here other than what I've already said. Any purchase of an animal is a serious decision and should not be entered into lightly. You have to take into account all kinds of things like whether you'll have enough space for it, what your cities ordinances are on animals, whether your child hates animals, or if your child will fling him or herself into a new ridiculous and off-putting habit. And for your enjoyment, I've put up pictures of the different breeds we've raised over the years throughout this post for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!
(All pictures come from the Murray McMurray website. Now you know where to buy my Easter present!)