Backyard chicken coops are all the rage now. There is even a name for women who raise urban chickens: femivore. This term doesn’t fit my lifestyle. I am not a suburban housewife with a high income hippie agenda. I work full time and still barely scrap together enough cash at the end of the month to pay my mortgage.
I do all the things that other femivorves do. I make my own soap, my own medicine, and my own jewelery. I can tomato sauce from my own garden beds. I tore out my lawn and planted blueberry bushes and strawberries for jam. I sew. I have even homeschooled my children when I couldn’t find a job that paid enough to leave something in my paycheck after daycare fees. I just do this stuff after work, not between soccer games.
Urban homesteading is fun. My mother, another working mom, taught me most of my femivore skills back in the 70s. We dried fruit leather in the garage. We cut quilt squares. We saved vegetable ends for broth. It was how the poor survived. We were proud of our ability to literally turn lemons into lemonade. The chicken thing was my idea.
I have been raising chickens in my backyard for the last 5 years. When my kids outgrew the playhouse under the slide, I talked my husband into converting it into a chicken coop. He is a contractor by trade. It was a unique idea that got him motivated. I think he was tired of framing at the time so the coop was an interesting diversion.
The baby chicks were irresistible. The kids couldn’t keep their hands off them. As a consequence, our chickens are more like pets than poultry. They sit in our laps and watch movies. They beg for food. They get carried around the yard like a Hollywood chihuahua.
I am concerned that other families will get swept up in the femivore trend and end up with animals that can’t or won’t care for. As an experienced chicken farmer, It is my duty offer advise to urban farmers who are considering adding chickens to their life. So listen up. If you don’t like teenage boys, you won’t like chickens.
Chickens, like teenage boys, are always hungry. They act starved all the time. They will run to you when you come home from work, not because they live by your love but because they think you are hiding a pizza in your purse.
Chickens, like teenage boys, fight … a lot. When you feed them, throw the seed in a wide arc and watch the battles begin. If one of the chickens has a molecule of cracked corn, the other chickens are instantly convinced that they must possess that molecule or life as we know it will end. It is like seeing 13 years old boys argue during a basketball game when they think teenage girls are watching.
Chickens, like teenage boys, are noisy. They cluck when they eat, which, as a mentioned before, is often. They crow when they lay an egg. They squawk when they fight. That said, my neighbors know the instant that my teenage son comes home from school. They did not know until my chickens were 6 months old that I had a coop 6 feet from their back fence.
Chickens, like teenage boys, draw flies. They poop wherever they are and with a certain professional flair. Their poops are huge. It is astonishing to me that it doesn’t matter how big the chicken is, the poop is the size of an egg. That is a lot of poop for such a little creature. Teenage boys draw flies too but usually not for poop-related issues. Teenage boys just smell bad. It’s either sweat or Axe. Either way, you have an eye watering experience that makes the urban farmer prefer the company of the poopers outside.
Chickens, like teenage boys, are poor judges of character. They can hang out together all day in a yard that they have known since they were big enough to molt and still get separated from the group by deciding to hop the fence. Last night, my oldest biddy spent the night in the neighbor’s yard because of such an ill-advised exploit. I shooed her back through the gate in the morning while lecturing her on hanging out with racoons and other undesirables. She pointedly ignored me. I think she actually rolled her eyes and muttered something about how times had changed since I was hatched. Sound familiar, fellow parents?
Many years ago, when I was learning gardening, sewing and food preservation from my mother, I thought that these skills were antiquated. It made them charming and quirky. Now these skills are hip and trendy. Chicken herding was something that I had to teach myself, however, what I didn’t learn form my mom, my kids taught me.
For successful poultry and child management, remember the basics: keep ’em fed, keep ’em busy, watch their friends and hose their poop off the pavement in the summer. Take note, fellow femivores, hip and trendy has it’s price. With a home cooked pizza and bar of handmade soap, you can do it!