How backyard chickens can help you connect July 27, 2012
Occasionally, we run into a customer who has a great story to tell, and we just want to share them with you. Here’s a profile of one of My Pet Chicken’s customers, Kathy Bishop, and her flock of backyard chickens:
My Pet Chicken Customer Profile: Kathy Bishop
“You don’t look like you would have chickens!” That’s what Kathy Bishop’s friend told her once, after hearing Bishop tell her about her flock of pet chickens.
Bishop said, “It made me laugh, but I had to wonder, well… just what does a chicken keeper look like?”
The truth is that people involved in the hobby of backyard chickens are overwhelmingly similar to Bishop: well educated urban and suburban people who want to have more control over what they’re feeding their families, and who want to make sure the animals involved in their food production are treated in a humane way. They tend to be involved in a number of different homesteading activities, including gardening, canning/pickling, home brewing, beekeeping, soapmaking and so on. Bishop herself is a Master Gardener.
“I just always gravitated toward organic gardening and natural methods of doing things,” she explained. Bishop first got interested in keeping chickens from another friend, who acquired chickens two years before she did. When her friend got chickens and started talking about them, Bishop was reminded of her grandmother in Illinois, who always had a few hens.
Even so, she says that it was no one thing, all of a sudden, that moved her to finally take the plunge. Instead it was a number of things that got her thinking, some of them in her personal life, and some in the news. Slowly, Bishop began her research on what it would take to get started keeping chickens, and whether it would be something she could manage. The more she read, the more keeping chickens began to sound earthy and homey, like just the sort of thing she’d like.
“Eventually I decided that I was ready; I just had to get a few hens,” she said.
Then, for her birthday, her husband Mike and son Zach bought her a book, The Joy of Keeping Chickens.
Her family also created a little “coop-on” for her, stating they would make her a gift of her hens when she was ready. Even better, her husband and his friend started building the coop.
She was ecstatic “and maybe a little worried,” she confessed. But she made her order of day old chicks, starting with a small order from My Pet Chicken, since she could order sexed bantams and get just those few delivered. For her backyard, she only needed a few birds, not 25–and she wanted them all to be hens, even the bantams. My Pet Chicken is the only place in the country that offers sexed day old bantams.
When she finally got her flock, she loved them from the start. “They each have such different personalities,” she explained. Her silkies are tame and docile–quite easy to pick up–and are favorites with visitors. “The silkies are so broody,” she says. “And the little buff brahma bantam likes to hang out on my wheelbarrow for some reason. It’s just interesting that they all have such personal preferences.”
As for her others, “My Buff Orpington is a thief!” she exclaims. When Bishop scatters treats for the girls, she says her Orpington prefers to steal the treats from the beaks of the rest of the flock, rather than eat from the unattended pile of treats. “It’s so funny; she’s not interested in it unless someone else has it!”
Her favorite hen by far is her Red Star, Scarlet. “If I leave my sliding doors open, she’ll just walk right in. She’s a lap chicken, always wants attention. And she’s such a faithful layer. Since she started laying, she’s given us an egg every single day, without fail.”
She couldn’t be happier that she chose to get involved in keeping her own backyard flock, but there have been a few surprises. “For one, I didn’t realize how personally attached I would get to them, and how deep that affection would run.”
Another surprise for her was how easy it became to make an instant connection with other people who keep chickens. For instance, every year she digs and splits plants like daylilies, and shares them with other people. But once she started keeping chickens, she’s forged long lasting friendships with several of the people who’ve come for her plants.
“They found out we had chickens, too, and we became real friends. We correspond, share interesting or funny stories. I don’t know of any other animals where you get so excited to hear that someone else has some, too. I have other pets, but it’s not the same. I mean, people don’t get this excited about their dogs, cats or hamsters!”
Bishop says the bottom line is that keeping chickens has made her family more aware of where their food comes from; she feels that her chickens help her family live life more naturally, in a more sustainable way. “It’s brought our neighborhood together, too. It feels like we’re giving back to our community by sharing our eggs.”