Chickens R Us
Posted: Wednesday, May 6, 2009 8:01 pm
The Smartts are now chicken farmers. We recently acquired five baby chickens. If we had 10 chickens, we would be chicken ranchers. But wisely, we decided to start small. I’m 45 years old and I have never ever owned a chicken. Now I can check “own five baby chickens” off my bucket list. I wasn’t sure that at mid-life my heart could learn to love a chicken. The verdict is still out.
The chicken farming project is all about being a good parent for our younger son who should have been born in a barn. He would love nothing better than to move a goat, a chicken, a pig, a guinea, a cow and a hamster into his already crowded room. Yes, I realize that a hamster is not a farm animal. A hamster is a domesticated rat on sale now for $12.99 at Petco. Welcome to my world.
As optimistic as we all want to be about raising our five chicks to adulthood, I’m experiencing a crisis of faith. Because we live in the woods, my daily life is now accompanied by great fear and trembling. Our place is a dangerous war zone for small feathered creatures with an inability to fly. All kinds of seedy inappropriate felonies are committed here in the middle of the night. Raccoons in the garbage. Possums in the cat food. Foxes on the prowl. It seemed almost cruel to bring defenseless chickens into our crime-infested region unless we were willing to equip them with handguns and self-defense training. We were unwilling to provide them with handguns because a chicken’s natural lack of intelligence would render him or her incompetent with firearms. (Yes, I said “him or her” because we don’t know if we have males or females. Trust me. It’s complicated.)
My husband quickly became the lead farmer. He’s capable, decisive and had a clear vision of what needed to be accomplished. Priority one was to craft a critter-proof shelter. The crafting of such a structure would require wisdom and sensitivity. We wouldn’t want our chickens to feel incarcerated. But complete freedom wouldn’t be appropriate either. We felt like the parents of teenagers. How would we protect them from the harsh realities of life while still providing them with the freedom to become everything they were meant to be? (I know. People who tend to over-analyze things aren’t cut out for raising baby chickens in the woods. We know that now.) The chickens are currently in a safety-focused temporary shelter in the shed. Each morning and each evening, the boys provide food and water and check their physical and emotional health. So far no medical or psychiatric care has been requested. The baby chickens seem untainted by the creature felonies which occur just outside their door in the dark of night. All five are growing and thriving.
I learned a long time ago that life was meant to be relished and appreciated. We’re supposed to learn valuable lessons from even the most mundane of daily tasks. Chicken farming is no exception. We just wanna see our chicks stay on the right path. We want them to eat their food, develop some decent manners and not peck their brothers and sisters to death. I mean, is that asking too much? After all we’ve done for ’em, that’s the least we could expect from these two boys ... uh, I mean five chickens, right?
Editor’s note: Lisa Smartt’s column appears each Wednesday in the Friends and Neighbors section of The Messenger. Mrs. Smartt is the wife of Philip Smartt, the University of Tennessee at Martin parks and recreation and forestry professor, and is mother to two boys, Stephen and Jonathan. She is a freelance writer and speaker. Her book “The Smartt View: Life, Love, and Cluttered Closets” is available at The Messenger, The University of Tennessee at Martin bookstore or by mail for $10, plus $2 shipping. Send checks to Lisa Smartt, 300 Parrott Road, Dresden TN 38225. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 5.6.09