Tuesday, November 23, 2010

On Chickens

There is this very weird phenomenon going around the country today where people are "getting back to basics", or other such rubbish, and deciding to get chickens. Phenomenologically, I don't understand it, but the recent salmonella scare certainly hasn't hurt its spread. (By the way, I heard somebody use "phenomenologically" in a sentence the other day, and I, first, wondered if that was a real word (it is), and second, realized that I just had to find a way to use it!)

A few years ago, my brother-in-law-in-law came home with a chicken or two, and, to put it kindly, since that time he has gone loco for el pollo. Living in a place where people have big backyards, over the past few years he has slowly been evolving his yard into a chicken paradise. A full quarter of it (something like a quarter acre, but since I don't really know exactly what an acre is, I'll just say it's something like that) has been allocated for the exclusive use of his chickens. What was once just a few chickens has exploded into several broods of chickens, of varying kinds! (I had to look up what a group of chickens is called, and got various answers, including "clutch", "flock", and "peeps" -- I'm absolutely sure he knows which is the right word to use ...)

Is he a chicken farmer now? I'd say yes. Does he live on a farm? Most assuredly not, but his neighborhood is zoned for that kind of stuff as it is a very old neighborhood. Happily the chickens are quiet, clean, and mostly odorless; otherwise his neighbors would probably go buy pitchforks. The chickens, of course, produce massive quantities of eggs. With four teenage boys living in his house, this is not usually a problem, but he has so many chickens that even with four ravenous boys under his roof, he still has enough eggs to give or sell away.

Now that he has made himself into That Chicken Guy (he even subscribes to chicken magazines!), he never lets pass an opportunity to extol the virtues of having your own chickens. Salmonella is never a worry, you get free eggs (well, not quite, there is a cost ... but he doesn't talk about that), they're recession and inflation proof, and when the chickens stop producing eggs, you can have a good chicken dinner. He is regularly suggesting with a wink and a nod that my wife and I would be wise to get chickens.

However, we live in Southern California, with something like 1/100th of an acre available in our backyard. I always used this as an excuse, which suited my needs well, but to be honest, I just can't see ever owning chickens. We are definitely not zoned for chickens, but a good friend from up the street has had several for many years and it has worked out well for them.

So, imagine my surprise when I find out that my wife has been talking with said neighbor and discussing the possibility of taking her chickens off her hands! I love my wife dearly, and my first reaction was vehemently against it. But I love my wife, and she finds a way to get what she wants. Soon she had sold away the kids play yard/slide (which they didn't play on anymore), and pointed out to me that since the grass was already dead underneath that, it wouldn't be a big deal to put a chicken coop there.

I told her I had no interest in taking care of chickens (but think of the fertilizer for the garden!), and that I wasn't going to feed them (the kids are excited to do that!), and that we didn't have the space for them (but it will fit right where the play yard went!), and that we aren't zoned for them (but our neighbor has had them forever and they are quiet and not smelly), and that we'd have to buy food for them (but we already buy barrels of grain to make our own flour!). Drat, she had thought of all of my arguments against it.

I gave my grudging approval.

So, imagine my delight when I asked said neighbor about it on Sunday, and found out that it turns out that she hadn't actually spoke to her husband about it, and that he actually is rather fond of them and wanted to keep them. She seemed rather embarrassed by the situation, but I assured her with all the feeling of my heart, that it was totally okay with me. My wife and kids? Not so pleased.

I still can't even fathom being an owner of chickens. We have a hard enough time keeping our fish alive, and gave up on hamsters a few years ago. Also, consider for a moment that the focus of my professional existence is on the care and maintenance of robots that have been hurled to other planets -- that's a far cry from taking care of chickens.

Well, in any case, I may have dodged a bullet this time, but I'm pretty sure I haven't heard the last of this, because the kids are terribly disappointed and that dead spot in the grass is still there.

Worst of all, if we do end up with chickens, I will never live it down with my brother-in-law-in-law.


Clay said...

NOOOOooooooo... If you do then said Brother-in-law will have a victory and bug us into it... (our dog would love to eat them...)

Courtney said...

They will also eat the insects out of your yard. A lot of people have them up here. I've been debating it, but it's still not quite for us.

martysjotd said...

Raising day-old chickens is much more fun. And look, Fox Feed Discount Pet store is less than 10 minutes away!

"said Brother-in-law"

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