Dr. Chicken Mom
As Psychologist by training and a Midwesterner at heart, marrying an Appalachian historian may have been more than I bargained for. When Joshua began this blog he invited me to author some posts as well. While I am certain I will be called upon to write about mental health, particularly in the region, I wanted my first entry to be slightly more fun.
When we first started dating, Joshua introduced me to canning. The privileged Midwesterner in me saw it as a novelty and a fun way to spend a Saturday, but as we processed hundreds of jars during our first months together, Joshua taught me the history and necessity of canning as he knew and grew up with it. Since then, we’ve always talked about being good stewards of the earth together. A large part of our relationship has been spent daydreaming about ways that we could move toward self-sustainability.
When we moved into our little abode on Firefly Rd, the first thing I did was squeal over the black raspberry and blackberry bushes that lined the property and creek-banks. Our first summer here was filled with black raspberry ice cream and silly adventures avoiding thorns. Our first spring was spent clearing the land to create space for what became a fabulous garden.
Recently, we’ve talked about bees, composting, worms, and a ram pump—all practical efforts to move our sustainability forward. Then, one evening we were at our favorite local brewery having a beer with some friends. Our dear friend Susan shared that she had bought a 3-chicken coop with the hope of having 2-3 chickens to raise for eggs. My glance caught Joshua's as we had toyed with the idea of chickens for a while. Susan went on to share that when she went to get chickens, she had to buy 6, leaving her with 6 chickens and a 3 chicken coop. Now I'm no mathematician, but even I know that doesn’t add up.
Susan and I laughed over our beers as she went on to say that she had bought a 6-chicken coop and was now stuck with 2 coops and twice as many chickens as she had originally anticipated. I schemed that I would take the 3-chicken coop and 2 chickens off her hands, half teasing and half hoping that my chicken dreams could seamlessly become a reality. Our husbands looked at us with a loving sort of resignation as they realized that this might not be a joke. I teased for the next week that we would soon have chickens to raise. Little did we realize that chicken raising is a slippery slope, friends.
The next weekend, after Joshua and I had spent several hours in the rain tying rope to landscaping timbers for bean trellises, I texted Susan asking about our chicken plan. As it turns out, her family had bonded with their chickens but they were still more than willing to share their 3-chicken coop. So, Joshua and I warmed up and dried ourselves off before heading to Tractor Supply with the intention to “look around” and see what they had.
Within an hour we were on Robert and Susan’s front porch with our very own cardboard box with SIX chickens. As it turns out, they really did only sell baby chicks in half-dozen quantities and I'm no good at window shopping. Robert and Susan shared their brooding materials and we headed home to get settled with our girls. Naturally, I spent the first night in the guest room with our new chirping babies and Joshua spent a tortured night trying to convince the 3 dogs that these birds were their sisters and not their dinner.
The next day, the girls took over Joshua’s wood shop and the boys settled down slightly about our new flock. We eagerly began searching for the best plans for a chicken coop and run, because now we were in the same predicament that our friends had been in just weeks before, not enough coop for our chicks!
We quickly discovered that being parents to baby chicks entailed more butt checks and dust than we had anticipated, but we were smitten. As it turns out, I was not the only one giddy over chickie peeps and the idea of an abundance of eggs, and Joshua came home that Tuesday with 3 more girls to add to the flock. So far it has been a sweet adventure watching the grow over the past 2 weeks. They eat more food than seems possible, and they're rapidly outgrowing their brooding space. They've enjoyed some outside adventures and we have settled on a plan for a coop to be constructed in the next few weeks.
As we look forward to not buying our eggs off the grocery store shelves, my dad has playfully joked that his most educated daughter is "going back to the prairie." It doesn't take a terminal degree to understand the ethical benefits and community impact of living sustainably, and not unlike our adventures canning, Joshua has reminded me of the historical necessity of such practices.