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.

One of the best things about backyard chickens

Lily and Galatea, enjoying the sunset in front of my window

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.

The best thing about keeping chickens - that quiet moment

This was the view from the porch last night, just after the chickens went to roost.

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?

Francesca Austin January 18th, 2013

What a romantic shot! I love my backyard birds because they get me outside more, and put me in touch with my property. I don’t have much land now (I used to have a farm and ten acres) but my coop is in a corner of my backyard strip and I have to go down 2 flights of steps to get there – I enjoy puttering around the coop and of course have to clean it up often and add to the compost pile (which me and the neighbors use). Thanks for sharing.

Tammy/Our Neck of the Woods January 18th, 2013

I absolutely feel the same way! Even if my chickens didn’t lay eggs, I’d still keep them around just for the companionship and stress relief! I told my husband the other day that my stress level is usually based upon whether I’ve had time to hang out with the chickens or not. And lately, they are in the coop when I get home so I don’t get much chicken time. I’m so looking forward to longer days!

That obituary paragraph is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read, and exactly how I feel as well. I think I would have been good friends with your great great grandfather, too 🙂


Tierney Clark January 18th, 2013

What a nice article, thanks so much!

I think one of the most satisfying things I have done is raise chickens. I think most people think they are stinky, dirty, and not to bright, creatures. I have probably been in that group in the past: but not any more.
I started out with 3 hens that my daughter left when she moved, and at first planned to come back and get, when she settled in. But by the time she could get them, I wouldn’t let her have them! I had fed them, and got the eggs and was beginning to really enjoy having them.
But even then, I didn’t realize what smart, clean, individual creatures they were. But I was hooked. I had to go to a new feed store one day, and low and behold! They had baby chicks for sell! And that was were it started. Now I have 17, with 4 more on the way and they are so much fun, it’s hard to describe how relaxing, watching them can be.
As far as maintaince, I spend a little time in the mornings with them, and maybe 5 minutes in the afternoon to feed the babies, but the rest of the time is just watching, holding, and laughing at my girls.
I have a Barred Rock, Ms. Holmes, (because of her black and whte “tweed” coat) who on her own has learned to jump for food like a dog, and will take food from almost anyone.
I have 2 white leghorns, who are supposed to be flighty, but waits on the deck each night, for me to come out the door and pick one of them up, to be carried to bed. And Ms Holmes got wise and now she has to have her turn as well. My leghorns have learned that in the mornings when the chicken house door is open (a converted 8×10 storage shed) she can come thru her entry hole, and slip out the front door while I’m not watching. Everyday when it’s time to let them out to roam, they are lined up against the fence like little soldiers, squawing to be let out. Then they follow me around to see if I will have a snack for them.
Something really funny is when it’s time for them to go to roost, they climb their ladder into the window of the shed, then the first one always stops and gets comfortable on the roost right in front of the window, and it’s a shoving match and fussing at each other as they try to get the offending girl to move. Most of the time it’s the my big ole 10lb Buff Orphington. She’s the oldest at about 7 and doesn’t lay any more, and she also isn’t good at suffering fools! hahah!
Nothing has been more relaxing, satisfying, or as much fun as raising my girls, and if anyone doubts the intellegence of hens, needs only to spend some time with some. There’s nothing like walking outside in the evenings, and being greeted by a whole flock of mixed hens, clucking and wanting their turn to be carried off to bed

SusieQ January 18th, 2013

Of course I love my chickens because they keep me entertained, but I loved them all the more when, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, we had fresh omelets every day even though we had no refrigeration, electricity, heat, or any access to a grocery store.

Stevee Salazar February 20th, 2013

My husband and I have been proud chicken owners of our chickens for about 6 months or so. What an adventure! We started when a friend gave us two (a rooster and a small game-like female) My dad saw our new pets and got the “chicken fever” and bought us two more and from there we were all hooked! I started researching chickens learning of all the beautiful breeds and interesting facts about them. My husband works 40+ hours a week and still found time to make our chickens a coop. Taking care of them gives us something virtually stress-free to do together and we love it. I find myself wanting to be out there in our yard with them more and more… finding eggs and spending time with them. It is so fun to see all of them running up to the gate to greet me with a friendly “hello, what treats have you brought with you this time?” !! I know they are thinking that! Our 3year old daughter likes going out with the chickens also… I’m grateful for anything that keeps her attention that has to do with nature and healthy food… did I mention that the eggs are so beautiful inside with orange egg yolks like a sunset! I am so happy that i have the chance to keep chicken. The only down side is losing one to a predator (happened to be my beloved poodle that i have had for the last 9 year. s or so) that broke my heart. We replaced the chickens we lost and buried the other chickens. We now have 24 happy chickens and I can’t wait to add more beautiful girls to our flock. We have names for all of them. They bring me peace and joy and I am thankful that we have our lovely chickens!!

Kim March 5th, 2013

My girls are re’coop’erating from END so they aren’t laying for a while.

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