My husband and I have recently acquired a small flock. I don't remember how the idea came to us. Maybe it's the Nicaraguan in me, or the obsessive scientist in my husband, or maybe we were both just taken with the notion of having pets that make us breakfast every morning. However it may have been, we now have three chicks in a cardboard box in our laundry room.
My friend, who grew up on a farm with large flocks of chicken, soundly denounced this as the worse idea we've ever had. She went on to list a myriad of reasons as to why our chickens will end up sick, maimed, or dead. This was counter-balanced by another friend, who has no experience with chickens whatsoever, but was so thrilled when I mentioned the idea, she immediately encouraged me to ignore my city's zoning ordinances and get more chickens than was legal within city limits. (For the record, we have one more than legally allowed, but who's going to notice?)
Since chickens lay the peak amount of eggs in their first two years, we chose breeds that are good for both eggs and meat. That way we could just eat them when they start to fail to produce and replace them with new chicks. Cycle of life. Unfortunately, we also chose breeds that were known for their docile, friendly attitudes. One big orange one was described as "the Marmaduke of chickens." This was a HUGE mistake on our part. The minute one of the chicks climbed onto the crook of my arm, snuggled down, and fell asleep, the plan to eat them went right out the window. I think we may have been better off choosing ones that were hostile and aggressive, ones that go for the eyes whenever you enter the coop. That way we could have at least felt a sense of vindication when the time came for some fresh chicken cacciatore.
No to mention, how on earth will we explain it to Zane? I'm all for having kids know where their food comes from. I think it's healthy for them. I'm thrilled that he gets to help me gather the eggs and then watch me scramble them for breakfast. But he's named them (okay, we all named them). And the above-mentioned friend who grew up on the farm? She has this horrific story of becoming really attached to one of the lambs they were raising. One night, after a delicious dinner, her father turns to her and says, "We just ate Walter." To this day, she won't eat lamb chops.
So now we're not quite sure what we're going to do when the hens quit laying and it's time for new chicks. The things live for eight to ten years. I guess we could just keep them and hope the neighbors don't notice our flock keeps doubling every two years. But that's a steep, downhill slope to ending up on the news or in a documentary about animal hoarders. Good Lord, there's already an unused hot tub in our driveway and a claw-foot bathtub on our back porch. There's really no need to keep adding to the image. Are there retirement farms somewhere for elderly chickens?