One of the best things about backyard chickens January 18, 2013
If you like backyard chickens, you can probably, without even having to think, count off many of the benefits of keeping hens: they produce eggs, they’re compost machines, they’re easy to care for, they eat bugs, etc. etc. And you’ll know, too, about the more subjective benefits. They’re funny; they’re pretty. They can make you feel as if you have a little more control over the food you eat. They’re bubbling over with personality. They foster community and family feeling; they’re something you bond over with the neighbors. But one of the best things about backyard chickens — at least for me — is simply that they remind me to slow down. They’re companions.
If you have read my other blog posts, you know I am lucky enough to live in beautiful West Virginia. We live on a ridge top with a panoramic view of the surrounding ridges and hollows, and we have a few rural acres to enjoy with our flock. I work from home, and one of the (many) reasons that’s wonderful, is that when I get to feeling harried or beset, most of the time I can just look out the window to be reminded: slow down, don’t worry. Life goes on.
In the evening, my chickens often gather on the porch in front of the window where I work. As the sun sets, they quietly file off to the coop to retire. With chickens it seems there’s always a quiet moment, that “quiet moment” a lot of people are always striving to find–or maybe they just forget to look for it. I may get busy; I may feel overwhelmed sometimes, and frustrated, just like everyone does. But as silly as it sounds, I have the chickens, and they go about their lives in a quiet, practical way that helps to remind me sometimes how to go about my own.
That simple reminder is truly one of the best things about backyard chickens.
My great great grandfather lived not far from here — my family has been in this county for generations. But when I think of appreciating small blessings and living in the moment, I think of him a lot. He was also a lover of home. He was a farmer. Unfortunately, he died very young; I never knew him. Still, I have such a vivid picture of him in my mind from family stories and other sources that I feel as if we would have been friends; we would have spent evenings on the porch together and watched the chickens in the fading light. Listen to this paragraph from his beautiful obituary from 1897, and you may understand why I feel such a connection:
He saw more beauty in the growing grass and the fields ripe for harvest than in the artificial glitter and display of social life, and in his silent, quiet way he taught many of his associates that the noblest and grandest life that can be lived is the quiet, unobtrusive life “far from the madding crowd”: the life that is divested of the mean and petty ambition which takes from us the noblest and best impulses, and substitutes therefore a morbid and overweening desire to follow after things which, if attained, never satisfy an honest craving of the heart.
As you can see, back in the day, obituaries weren’t what they are now: chiefly rote pieces, little more than a paragraph or two naming survivors and announcing funeral arrangements. Instead, they used to give you a real sense of who someone was; what that person cared about in life. My great great grandfather knew what was important. And it’s not the big things… it’s the little ones. It’s enjoying the company of your friends and family, and just watching the grass grow…or watching the chickens scratch.
Do you feel the same way? Do your chickens help you slow down, appreciate the little things in life more? What are the best things about backyard chickens for you?