I’ve wanted chickens for ages. I’ve also wanted a garden for ages, but I am not very good at keeping stuff alive. I am good at keeping children alive and that’s about it. All of my gardening attempts have fizzled out in pathetic, anti-growing campaigns in our backyard. Evidently, watering plants is important. We got Freckles a fish when she turned four and that thing stayed alive for a handful of hours or so before it went belly-up.
Also, apparently cichlids need more room than goldfish do. Judith the Fish may have died because her space was way too cramped and we didn’t give her a fish tank the size of a bathtub.
After that experience, we pledged ourselves to really making sure we knew what a pet needed before embarking on the journey of being Pet Owners.
So then we got a dog, and all of that was going fine until he got hit by a car and died.
Like I said, apart from keeping kids alive, we really don’t have good luck with living things.But the chickens? That’s been a hope and a glory in the making, a Long-Term Goal. And this is the first point I want to make:
We put off chickens and really a lot of thought in even a small garden plot because we weren’t sure how long we were going to live here.
We weren’t sure if this house was a transition home or permanent. We didn’t want to take on such big projects if we weren’t staying long. Our reasoning was exactly this:
We don’t know how long we’ll be here, so let’s not get chickens right now.
And, my friends, that is backwards thinking.
We finally realized:
We don’t know how long we’ll be here, so let’s get started on the chickens.
A friend and I share a love for Psalm 37 and this beautiful phrase tucked right near the beginning: Dwell in the land.
Dwell in it. Live in it. Really dwell. Take up the space, time, and energy of dwelling – which is different than mere existence.
Don’t keep your home House Beautiful because you might move someday and at any given moment a prospective buyer might examine your curb appeal.
Don’t keep heirlooms in storage because you’re waiting for the right way to display them.
Don’t keep your fancy china in the cabinet and reserve it for special occasions that never really come around.
Don’t put off a good book because since having children Inevergetanysleep and Idon’thaveanydowntime and Ican’tevengotothebathroomforthreeminuteswithoutinterruption.
Don’t wait on finding God.
Don’t not try the garden – again.
Don’t wait on the chickens.
Dwell in the land. Use your resources. Put Great-Grandma’s quilt on the bed. Quit fussing about sweeping the floor every day. Use the pretty plates. Prop the book open on the window sill and read that paragraph while washing dishes. Seek Him now. Scatter those seeds one.more.time. Get the chickens! What are you waiting on?
If you’re waiting on the right time, the right setting, the right amount of money, the right weather, the right conversation, the right lunar phase…it‘ll always be wrong. Don’t let a circumstance dictate your next move. The circumstance only has the power to fluctuate. Dwelling in the land is joined with the cultivation of God’s faithfulness, a factor which is exactly opposite a fluctuating circumstance.
But back to the hens.
I have two books on chickens and feel somewhat very well informed because of it. Also, I know people who keep chickens. That has to count for something.
Armed with Storey’s Guide to Raising Poultry (which I bought used for $5), and Know Your Chickens (which I got in my Christmas stocking), I was immensely elated when we were recently offered hens and a coop from a friend who was moving.
Lumberjack was a mite skeptical. I think he was envisioning the hens going belly-up like Judith. I think he was envisioning them being parched to death like all the plants I’ve ever tried to keep alive. I think he was envisioning them being hit by a car like Tucker – which, to my credit, was not exactly my fault.
Keeping chickens this year really was in the cards for us, I am now convinced. As proof the chickens were meant to be, we also have three thriving tomato plants, a yellow squash, a cucumber, and an okra plant all doing just fine, and a watermelon plant popping out melons whenever it’s not trying to strangle the tomatoes. If I can keep a 4×4 garden with the girls, surely chickens are suited to follow.
MAJOR TIP: You need A LOT more room than 4×4 for vining plants. I’m really terrible at this gardening thing. But the plants are – miraculously – still alive, so we’re eeking out this season and we’ll modify next year. But you know what? We finally started that garden because we weren’t sure how long we were going to be here…instead of not starting it because we weren’t sure how long we were going to be here. And it’s been a wild, weedy, vegetating success.
We brought the hens home yesterday. The girls were handed two fresh, warm eggs as we were getting the hens – fresh-laid that day. Scout may or may not have licked hers, which is just marginally more disgusting than when Freckles sucked on a Walmart shopping cart several years ago.
This morning I was excited to show the girls the color, texture, and flavor difference between the farm fresh eggs vs. the storebought eggs. I scrambled some and set them in a dish side by side.
“This is the real deal,” I exulted. The fresh eggs were fluffier, hardier, more robust in flavor, darker in yolk color. The storebought eggs were flat and rubbery, a pale buttery-white, and nearly tasteless in comparison. I was certain my girls would be as elated over the delicious new, rich eggs, laid by healthy, free-ranging hens.
My girls were not elated. They were not even remotely impressed. They expressed their preference for the mild, colorless, pathetic-excuse-for-an-egg.
“I don’t like our new egg,” Scout informed me. “Also, I was hoping there would be a baby chicken in there when you cracked it.”
I’m thinking that was really the source of her disappointment.
But here’s my second point:
It’s an easy habit to take the superior Real Deal and exchange it for a poor substitute.
And not just exchange it for a poor substitute – actually prefer the poor substitute. It’s what we acclimate to. I personally prefer fresh eggs, but this was the first time the girls had a chance to try them. And although they still prefer the garbage-eggs, I know they’ll eventually acclimate to the real eggs.
If you can acclimate one way, you can throw everything in reverse and re-acclimate the other way. Taste acclimation is a real thing. The first time my girls ate quinoa they thought I was trying to murder them. Lumberjack tasted it. “This tastes like dirt,” he announced. “This is terrible. Why are you making them eat this?”
“Because they actually do like it – they just don’t know it yet.”
I had the girls choke down quinoa for three days and GUESS WHAT. They actually requested it on the fourth morning. Quinoa is nice in that you can add anything to it, so we change it up for the variety.
I figure if you can acclimate to eating a bowl of dirt you can get used to just about anything, including fresh eggs. I fully expect the girls will come around.
Pursue the good stuff – the stuff that’s actually worthwhile.
Don’t wait on it.
Don’t give in to backwards thinking.
Go for the Real Deal.
Expect it to change you.
Acclimate to the excellent.
The sooner you pursue the Real Deal, the sooner you’re hopping in the exchange line to reclaim the good stuff worth your time and energy. That’s an exchange line worth standing in.