Although I brought my first chicks home several years ago ( and have hatched out more since then), this past week I was thinking about those of you out there that are first time chicken mamas and families. I clearly remember the first spring I brought those peeping bundles of sheer cuteness home. The doting over them, the watching them grow at amazing speeds (blink your eyes and they lose their baby fuzz and look like gangly teens, blink again, and they’re all full grown) and of the fascination of discovering they all had their own personalities.
I remember, too, waiting and waiting for that first egg. Although the chicks grew at rates to rival any Guinness World Record, waiting those six months for an egg seemed excruciatingly long at the time. A. VERY. LONG. TIME.
But then one day, out in the nest box, a tiny pinkish-brown egg shaped gem. Smaller than the white, generic store eggs (they got bigger over time), this perfectly shaped lovely creamy brown egg made the wait worth it. I felt like throwing a party and inviting all the neighbors and friends.
“Look at what my darling chicken laid in the nest box today!”
Of course, I showed some restraint. No party. But I did take a picture of that miracle of the food that appeared in my backyard and sent it to everyone I knew. (I do have my standards, after all!)
For many people, raising backyard chickens is a way to take some control over their food. We’ve all seen too many images of those suffering hens, stuck in wire cages on top of each other, laying eggs without being able to move around. We’ve all heard scary reports about how the commercial eggs are laced with arsenic or salmonella or other varieties of not-good-for-you-stuff.
And frankly, many of us are tired of it.
One tiny step towards self-sufficiency starts with your own small flock of hens who will give you 2-6 eggs per week in their prime. Beautiful, glorious eggs in an amazing variety of colors and subtle variations of hues. Eggs that are better for you, too. Full of more beta carotene, vitamins A and E, and omega 3’s, while containing less cholesterol and saturated fat then their boring, white, generic store counterparts.
And they taste better too!
Although I could go on and on (and sometimes do, see here ) about the benefits of chicken ownership, this week, when I was thinking about you newbies out there, watching your cute babies grow and waiting for your first eggs, I was thinking about the miracle of the egg. BC (Before Chickens), eggs were a dime a dozen (well, maybe not that cheap, but you get the point). If I needed some, I went to the store and bought them. But having chickens completely spun me around. Each day, even now after years of this, when I collect the eggs out of the nests, I’m in awe of the preciousness of each egg.
It took raising a baby chick up for six months to get that first egg. And building a coop that almost killed me in the process (but that’s a story for another day). It’s doting and tending and feeding. And taking care of them when they’re sick. It’s monitoring the dog’s and the chicken’s recess times so they’re not out together (and then building a fence to simplify everything). It’s shoving pounds and pounds of poop, gathering fresh berries for treats, making them mud puddles on hot days, and learning all about fly control.
Every single one of those eggs is precious. I can tell you for a fact, before I had chickens (as an adult), the preciousness of the common chicken egg never crossed my mind. Now it does, daily. Every time I pull a lovely pink or brown or speckly egg from the nest box.
So for you first timers out there, beware. You’re getting more than your own food source in the backyard. It’s gonna flip you up on your ear. In a good way, of course. If you’re like me, you’ll never look back. Raising chickens is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’m pretty sure you’re gonna love it too.