Thursday, April 8, 2010

Backyard Chickens and Fashion?

Backyard chickens are sweeping the nation.  For the most part, this is a great source of joy to me.  I want others to learn how rewarding the simple life can be.  It is deeply rewarding to be responsible for your own food (well, the girls do help).  Not to mention how fun and funny they can be (more to come on that soon).  But, I just hope we realize that this is a real undertaking.  A homestead flock is not like an expresso machine - you can't just buy it then leave it out for your friends to drool over.

The trend towards a couple of chickens in the back yard has gone from an underground trickle to a mainstream phenomenon. I first started seriously scheming to get my own little flock the year I moved into Shadows End. That was around 2000, and I was uniformly told I was crazy. The only encouragement I could get was from such things as Mother Earth News and a few websites – mostly based in England. Last year, by the time I was actually working out the plans for my urban chicken coop, my friends and family still thought I was crazy, but there was a much larger support group out there and several excellent websites with information specifically designed to help enthusiasts.

Well now it is 2010 and backyard chickens are the subject of books. Even books actually available in our local library! The legal entanglements are being swept aside in many cities. Most telling perhaps, the hen has become an A list accessory now. Martha Stewart recently dedicated an entire show to chickens. To her credit she has had her flock for years and years and seems genuinely engaged in the subject. Additionally, Martha was her usual fact filled self and I thoroughly enjoyed the show.

But, I cannot help but think many chickens coops are sprouting up in yards where the fashion is to show off your exotic pet hen before you leap into the SUV to do lunch before the Junior League meeting. Chickens are adorable, funny and can actually be affectionate. But they are also a daily responsibility. They need fresh water every single day. They must have their coop looked after. Of course, there is the issue of poop. Even my deep bedding system needs a little scooping to help it out. In short, chickens are work, work with a wonderful reward both tangible and spiritual. But they are work – not fashion accessories.

Well, I didn’t mean to really complain. For the most part, the increase in backyard chickens is a good sign of Americans taking more responsibility for the food they eat and how it is produced. I am so very happy to see the information growing and all the media attention.  Just please don’t let me see designer names start to show up at Tractor Supply Company. I bet Paula Dean is already signing an endorsement deal as we speak.

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