Saturday, June 10, 2006

Duck, Duck, Chicken?

I don't know when I started wanting chickens. Actually, I do. I just remembered as I was writing that line.

When I was in elementary school, my class had an egg incubation project. Any kid who wanted a chick after they hatched was welcome to take one. Looking back, this was a very impractical thing for an elementary school to do in urban Miami, Florida. Like me, I'm sure every other child went home and asked their parents if they could have a chicken.

It took my mother all of, oh, 5 SECONDS to respond after her initial reaction of shock. First of all, we lived in a townhouse with a concrete patio and no yard. Secondly, my working mother had learned from experience that the care of all animals eventually fell onto her list of things to do. The answer was an emphatic "no" to chickens, but being a diplomat and wanting to placate me, she offered a trade. That weekend, we went to the pet store to choose my parakeet. I wonder what happened to all of those chickens?

My want for chickens was dulled, but still remains. I have been trying to find out if chickens are legal in our city and county for over a year now. I have been reading lots of websites about raising chickens. Finally, Jon found an article in the Raleigh News & Observer about some folks living nearby that keep chickens! Surely they wouldn't go public if they weren't allowed to have them. Just to make sure, I called animal control (why didn't I think of that before) and was told that chickens were fine, as long as the neighbors don't complain about the noise (crowing rooster) or the smell (do chickens stink?). I am quite sure that I can supplicate my neighbors with fresh eggs.

The benefits as I see them are thus: pest control (they eat bugs), soil movement (they weed and till as they peck the ground for food), a readily available source of chicken poop compost, and fresh eggs. I have also read that they like to be petted and in my estimation, this is a plus. We do not intend to eat our chickens, just pet them and eat their eggs. The negatives are that it seems time and labor intensive to brood chicks and we already have more than we can handle, the possibility that our dog or feral neighborhood cats will want to or actually will attack them, and the need to find caretakers when we are out of town. We take our dog Tucker with us everywhere, but chickens are not so mobile. As Jon put it, "If I have to cancel a trip because we can't find chicken-care, I'm going to be really pissed off."

I knew that the decision was ultimately mine, because Jon is a willing accomplice for just about anything. When I very seriously told him that I thought we needed to get a good rhythm for the garden and yardwork before we take on another responsibility, he applauded the decision.

The problem is--I still want those chickens.

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