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The Great Chicken Chase

by E.L. Martin 2 months ago in bird · updated 2 months ago
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Family "Farmyard" Fun

The Great Chicken Chase
Photo by Hana Oliver on Unsplash

If you had told me a year or two ago that I’d be raising chickens with my family, I’d have responded with “No way!” I thought of chickens as filthy animals that carried all manner of bugs and illnesses. They were not something I personally considered owning. No matter how much I enjoyed eggs or the taste of the birds themselves, I decided I would source out local farmers’ stocks instead of having my own. The road trips across the plain states where chicken farming was prevalent only further asserted my decision. I won’t forget the stench of those “damn birds” that burned my nostrils, yet here I am raising them and changing my position. Oh, but crow makes a fine meal doesn’t it? Now, my family and I are learning a lot about chickens. Part of our learning has been somewhat “shooting from the hip” or “learning on the fly”, but I’ve found that the birds aren’t so disgusting after all. We even enjoy their company.

The chicken stench depends on how many you have and the facilities you raise them in. We aren’t a large scale farming operation. At present, we have a total of three birds. Because we have a wooded property, our chickens free range regularly. They know where their food, water, and shelter are whenever they decide to utilize it. They are surprisingly low-maintenance for livestock, and much different from some of the farming experience I previously had. Their coop still has a “chicken odor” and I do have some allergies, but it is not near as bad as I had anticipated. I often joke that together my husband and I make one whole farmer; he with his rabbit allergy, and me with my chicken allergy. Yet, our allergies to the critters are actually more tolerable than the seasonal allergies we get in the spring so handling both is manageable for us. It is nice to have the chickens around, especially with the decrease in ticks and other insects we have had because of their free range dieting. They’ve been a positive addition with our family and the lifestyle we live.

"Chick Pic" (photo by author)

It was a fun experience raising these chickens from chicks; an experience I thought my toddler would also enjoy and learn from. I had no idea just how much he would enjoy it! My son is all energy and excited over the smallest things. He may be wild, fearless, and tempt fate a little more often than his momma’s heart can handle at times, but he is abundant in joy. From day one with the chicks, he was thrilled; always wanting to see them and handle them as much as we would allow. As the chicks grew, so did his enthusiasm. Before long, we noticed our chickens were escaping their enclosure. I was on the phone with my brother at the time talking and watching my son at the same time. I was about to hang up the phone when my child shouted, “Mommy, the chicken is out! I’ll get it!” To my surprise, I watched my son pick up the chicken properly and toss him over into the enclosure. I was a bit stunned, and laughed as I told him good job. That was the first instance of one of our chickens escaping. Obviously, more would follow.

As proud as I was of our son’s efficiency, willingness, and uncanny ability as a junior farmer, I’d soon learn that our docile chicken breed, Rhode Island Red, would be able to handle more stress than we thought. Their enclosure kept them safe from predators, including our dogs. When they began escaping, we had to teach our dogs to deny themselves their natural instincts. We still don’t wholly trust them alone with the chickens, but we do our best to maintain our presence when they are out together. That isn’t so tough, especially with our outdoor loving child. That same outdoor loving child, however, presents a whole other set of challenges.

"Joy of Chickens" (photo by author)

Our child LOVES these chickens. Our child also thinks these chickens LOVE to play with him. They do not. Pepper seems to be the most intelligent of our three birds. She is also the plumpest and I suspect she will be our best laying hen based on her body composition. The reason she is the plumpest is because she is the smartest; when she sees our toddler running she returns to their enclosure. The other two, however, have yet to figure this out. Around and about our property they go. Circling the house in frantic fashion to and fro! One lap, two, and the family chicken race is on! My toddler rushes in on the chickens from behind, then swoop, and scoop! Up goes a chicken! “Cuddles!” my child squeals with joy, holding the chicken close to his body! “Squawk, bock, b-gawk!” shouts the chicken who struggles to get out of his arms. Eventually, the bird stops struggling as my son proceeds to carry it around with him everywhere. He snuggles it and tells the chicken that he loves her then drops her for another round of chasing, occasionally placing her in our enclosure which she then flies out of once more. We worried for some time that our mild mannered chickens were going to have a heart attack from being constantly exposed to these chases and impromptu snuggles and roughhousing, but thankfully that does not seem to be the case.

"Chicken Cuddles" (photo by author)

We’ve learned a little bit about our toddler during this time as well. Apparently, he is a herding breed. All jokes aside, he is an excellent chicken herder. He also looks out for his “friends” anytime we are outside. Our chickens love to explore the wooded areas and creek bed just past our home. We often stress the importance of ensuring the chickens are kept out of open areas because of two hawks that nest very close to or on our property. Our son remembers this and watches out for them. He is always checking to see where the chickens are, and insists on locating them anytime they are outside of their normal areas. If they go too far into other territory, he actually helps by chasing them back to their enclosure. Sometimes it may take half an hour of chasing those chickens uphill to get them there, but it is pretty entertaining to watch and do. While the two chickens may not stay in there long, this action helps us keep better tabs on them and they usually stay in our sightlines afterward. Otherwise, to our surprise, the chickens are pretty good about putting themselves up for the night. They wind up telling us through clucks, squawks, chirps, and their presence at the coop entrance when they are ready for bed. We lock them up properly afterward, but it is a bit weird how self-sufficient they are.

Despite this, they keep putting themselves at our son’s mercy for play time. It has me wondering, “Do the chickens really dislike playing with our son, or do I have it all wrong?” I know that for years I’ll be fondly talking about our great chicken chases and the hilarious entertainment those chickens and our son provide. It is hysterical to watch them together, and as they continue to let him chase them, pick them up, and handle them, maybe they like it more than I originally thought they did. Perhaps, the great chicken chases are a game all of them enjoy. Regardless, I rather enjoy the fun “farmyard” frenzy we’ve welcomed into our lives, and I find myself at peace and happy with the choices we’ve made in raising both our child and our chickens.

"Child and Chicken" (photo by author)

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About the author

E.L. Martin

Powered by Nature, Humanity, Humor, Food, Lifestyle, Fiction, and Culture; Oh, and a questionable amount of coffee.

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