Having backyard chickens has been utterly amazing. If anyone is even remotely considering it, I would recommend it in a heart beat. You will learn so much about the incredible sacrifice animals make so that we can eat. You will connect with your food in a way you can’t imagine. You will do anything to keep them happy and healthy. You will do strange, strange things for your chickens.
1) Trim a chicken’s nails with a Dremel. Liesl’s nails were out of control. Overgrown and twisted from a long, snowy winter, they were hindering her from walking and running properly. They had to be trimmed. Liesl is not the friendliest of chickens; she really doesn’t like to be picked up. But if you surprise her from behind, sometimes, her instinct takes over and she . . . ummm . . . well, she . . . “presents.” Then you can grab her. So while Will held her, I grabbed the Dremel and went after her nails. The Dremel made quick work of it, and I didn’t have to worry about hitting the quick because it would cauterize it if it did. I couldn’t get a picture of the process because it required all hands on deck, but I did get a snapshot of my nails afterward. Not so pretty.
2) Toss away a dead mouse like it’s no big deal. Confession: I used to be squeamish about mice. I didn’t like them alive or dead, but especially not dead. Seeing a dead mouse in a trap made me almost faint. Mice are everywhere in the city, whether you see them or not, and it’s not chickens that attract mice, it’s the food and water out in the yard. It’s just too tempting for them. So the traps must be set. The first couple dead mice were revolting. The next few were still gross, but didn’t make me want to faint. After about six dead mice, it simply became no big deal. I head out in the morning to check my “trap line,” dump the dead bodies, and re-set the traps. Done and done. Never thought it would be that easy to deal with a dead mouse.
3) Make a bowl of oatmeal especially for chickens on a rainy day. Yup, it’s true. The worst part is, I use the good oatmeal. No cheap quick oats for my girls; only steel cut will do for them. I think they appreciate a warm breakfast when it’s cold and rainy.
4) Wash and blow dry a chicken’s butt feathers. When we got our two new girls this spring, the little one had a dirty butt. She still had baby feathers that were being replaced by her big girl feathers so I knew it wouldn’t last forever, but after a couple days, it seemed to get worse. I was worried it would start to irritate her skin, soooo . . . I washed and blow dried her butt feathers. I think she rather enjoyed it. She looked so pretty afterwards – her butt was so fluffy!
5) Deal with copious amounts of animal poop. I may have grown up in the prairies, the bread basket of Canada, but I am a city girl through and through. The only animal poop I had any experience with was dog poop, which is easy to clean up when you have a scoop and a plastic bag. Then the chickens arrived, and they poop all over the place. All. Over. The. Place. They poop in the run, in the coop, in the water dish, in the yard, in the flower beds, and they’ve even pooped on me. And you know what? I don’t even care anymore. It washes off. Besides, their poop is gold for the garden.
(Don’t worry. I won’t post a picture of chicken poop)
As strange as these things sound, I wouldn’t trade these experiences for the world. The chickens have made me a better human. And for that, they can have all the warm oatmeal they want on rainy mornings.