How Not to Keep Chickens (Know What You’re Getting Into)

| 11/29/2013 3:35:00 PM

A growing number of homeowners are realizing how useful chickens can be in the backyard: They offer pest control, fertilizer, comedy relief, and their business end doles out concentrated protein like a Pez dispenser. Unfortunately, novice chicken-owners can encounter problems when they expect more than chickens can deliver, either in food, companionship or general co-operation. If you are considering keeping chickens yourself, it is helpful to learn and avoid the most common mistakes, so that you can instead make an entirely different set of mistakes.

For example, you might think your chickens might see you as dogs do, as a god who strides among themChickens In The Winter Garden tossing manna. You would be mistaken: Chickens don’t think you are the same person who wore that different shirt yesterday. Chickens don’t think that your moving parts are part of a single life-form. Let’s be honest, chickens don’t think the same way we do. What I’m getting at here is: Don’t walk into a chicken run barefoot, or the birds will see your toes and give you what we in the business call “the full Hitchcock.”

To use another example, you might think that when you open the door of their enclosure and the rooster runs past you the other way, he would realize his mistake and go back where the food and sex are. In fact, you would be wrong. Instead, be prepared for the cockerel to run frantically in all directions until exhausted, occasionally banging his head on the fence as he repeatedly tries to go through it like a moth at a window.

When you successfully retrieve your cockerel, you might think you can lift him over the fence and gently let go, since a bird — with wings and feathers and all — will flutter delicately to the ground. If your rooster is like mine, however, be prepared for it to drop like a bowling ball out of your hands and into the mud, and glare at you the rest of the day.

Another thing to keep in mind, if you have both chickens and children, is that your rooster will go up to the chickens and … um …. raise questions. A lot. Not consensually. Emphasize to your pre-teen daughter that any teenaged humans acting that way should get a good talking-to — using the language of ninjitsu, followed by the language of police reports and indictments.

Don’t assume that a chicken is a chicken; there are docile and aggressive breeds, white and brown egg layers, and breeds that look like they stuck their beak in an electrical socket. Many of the more bizarre-looking breeds are purely for show, by people who apparently love forcing chicken sex to genetically engineer even goofier-looking animals. Others were bred for fighting by people who apparently love the mess of chicken slaughter without having to bother with the inconvenience of eating fried chicken afterwards.

12/3/2013 7:42:44 PM

It sounds like the author, Mr. Keller, is experienced in raising chickens, as I, too, have experienced many of the same things. That said, I don't find the tone of the article conducive to helping the learning and planning of would-be chicken owners. Nor is it funny. It sounds more snarky and cheeky than educational or funny. What information was there can be summarized as such: chickens will peck bare toes, get loose and not come back voluntarily, be too heavy to fly, will mate publicly, vary in personality and appearance, make poor choices, fight, and apparently want to be dead. Dumb.

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