The global bird flu crisis is prompting many folks to think that they should buy chickens and raise their own eggs and I just wanted to share my experience as someone who has raised chicks and kept them in my backyard for about 8 years.
The first thing you need to know is that you need to check with your city and county to make sure you abide by all laws regarding chickens. Almost every city has its own local rules about raising hens and for good reason as you will see soon.
The second thing you should know is that you DO NOT need a rooster. I’m not sure why humans think hens need roosters to lay eggs but it’s the most common misconception. Your wife doesn’t need you in order to make eggs. Just sayin.
In fact, a lot of jurisdictions explicitly forbid raising roosters because they are noisy and violent. You know how in Jurassic Park the raptors have that special claw? Roosters also have a special claw, called a spur. We don’t like spurs around here. But seriously, though, an adult rooster can give you some severe wounds and since they usually walk around in their own shit all day, if you get wounded by a rooster you can get a serious infection. And roosters aren’t afraid of you. They will attack your ass if they even remotely think you’re a threat to them or their hens.
Sometimes, when you buy chicks you’ll accidentally get a rooster. Guess what? You’re going to have to get rid of it. What do I mean by “get rid”? Well, unless you can find some place that will take it, I mean, “you’re going to have to kill it.” This is one of the unfortunate realities of owning chickens: you may have to kill some of them. I suppose you could take them to a vet and have them euthanized if you’re squeamish about doing it yourself.
Ok, so, we aren’t even close to done with the gross stuff. To recap so far: cities have rules about owning hens and roosters suck. So, you think you’re ready to raise chickens? Well, I hope you like chicken shit! When I bought my first hens I was blown away by how much chickens shit. If you keep them cooped up you will need to clean the coop every week – you’re getting your hands dirty! If you let them free range, you will need to clean their coop every month and your entire yard is now going to be covered in chicken shit. Hey, it does make for some GREAT fertilizer – my yard had the best worms I’ve ever seen – but good luck growing anything anywhere chickens free range.
If you’re going to free-range chickens in your back yard, I recommend special shoes just for the yard, and a decontamination zone between the house and the yard. You’re going to be going out there every day for the rest of their lives, so you’re going to tramp around in chicken shit every day.
Also, as hinted above, chickens will destroy your yard. Chickens have a biological drive to scratch and dig. On the one hand, this is great! You will never have to mow a portion of your yard again because they will scratch it bald. On the other hand, you can never plant anything near them again. I planted a tree – A TREE – in their area once. Lol. They LOVED that freshly turned ground and within a single day had dug the roots bare. I had to rebury the tree and place a thick plastic barrier around the trunk to keep them from digging it up again.
And they dig holes everywhere. I’m not kidding you: you will break your ankle one day on a chicken hole. Like one day you’ll be out there with the chickens – probably feeding them – and you won’t notice some hole one of them dug and bam, there goes your fucking ankle. I often joke that if the USA ever wanted to attack another country the most effective way to destroy a city would be to just drop a million chickens on it.
All right, so, we aren’t even close to done with all the bad stuff, lol. Hens are pest magnets. I mean this in terms of mites that they attract but also larger pests like rats, squirrels, racoons, and other birds. Rats are insanely attracted to chicken feed (I mean, DUH) and within a month of having hens you will have rats in your yard. You probably already have rats but what I mean is you will have so many rats that you will now SEE the rats, in broad daylight. Having an outdoor cat helps with this but you will probably still need rat traps. HAHAHA. Now you’re a fucking farmer, welcome to the 4H club!
A lot of people think racoons are cute. “Trash panda, lol.” Racoons are predators and they are incredibly smart. I have never had a brood of hens that weren’t attacked by racoons. Really fun to be awoken at 2am with the entire coop screaming bloody murder (literally) as one of the hens is having her head bitten off. Racoons don’t usually eat the whole chicken, just bite the head off and eat the guts.
And if you have foxes, you will have them getting into the coop as well. Coyotes are also attracted to chicken coops. Are we having fun yet?
Let’s say that you build a Fort Knox of a coop. Cool. Hens are mean to each other. Ever heard of “pecking order”? It’s real. One of the hens will literally peck the feathers off all the other hens in your group. You’ll come out to feed them one day and notice that all the other hens have had their head feathers pecked off. Despite being domesticated, they still compete for food and are biologically driven to establish dominance. I’ve only once experienced a brood that didn’t have a pecking order. It was kind of nice, they were all sweet hens.
Chickens are also susceptible to various diseases and disorders. They can and do get bird flu (which they can and do transmit to humans) from the wild birds which will get into your coop (to eat the food). Bird flu is so prevalent in the world bird population right now that it is killing millions of birds around the world, and is the main reason why eggs are so expensive as it expands from wild birds to the farmed birds.
Chickens can get mites which is disgusting. Chicken mites are basically bed bugs for chickens. Yep! Once you get mites, you will probably never want to own chickens again because it’s sad to see the hens in distress and such a pain in the ass to treat. I was lucky, my hens never got mites.
So, if I haven’t put you off the hens yet let’s talk about some other practical matters!
What about the eggs, Tim? Well, yes, ostensibly this is the reason why you want hens: you want eggs. And not just eggs, you want those mythical “wow, these yolks are super orange” eggs. Ok, so, not all hens lay eggs every day. In fact, a lot of hens will only lay a few eggs a week. And as they get older, all hens stop laying (if they live long enough). Other factors slow down laying: disease, etc. Roosters don’t have anything to do with laying. I know I said that already but I thought I would say it again.
Also, it takes months for your hens to start laying.
If you want the most productive chickens you will need to do your research. Make sure you get chickens that will do the best in your climate and will lay the most eggs. Hens that make blue eggs and other tricks like that are generally terrible layers.
But all chickens stop laying at some point, hey, their “biological clock” has just stopped ticking! Those birds are what farmers call a “freeloader” and when a hen stops laying, they are usually culled. Which is a nice way of saying “fuckin murdered”.
I was going to say at this point that you shouldn’t try to eat that bird but I changed my mind. You should totally eat that bird, lol. It will be the worst meal of your life, not just because the meat tastes awful but because in order to get to the eating, you need to slaughter and pluck a chicken. I just love the idea of you, a person who went into this whole thing blind and stupid, just wanting eggs, not knowing how any of this works, plucking a chicken. HAHAHAHA.
Back to the eggs!
So, you’re still not put off chickens? Ok, you might be ready! A few more things to know. I’ve raised chicks to layers before and basically, what you’re doing there is bringing the whole shit show indoors for a few months. HAHAHAHA. Literally. My mud room was basically covered in chicken shit. You’ll need a warming lamp for the chicks and patience. It takes a few months before you can put the birds outside. Alternately, you can buy what are called “pullets” (from the French word for chicken “poulet”). These are adolescent birds. Pullets cost more and are more coveted, so they are harder to come by. They also can come to your house with mites and other diseases. So, make sure you know your supplier.
Either way you go, it’s going to be a few months before you get your first egg and around 9 months before they are producing eggs reliably. And how many eggs? Maybe 1 a day per bird. Lol. Maybe. They slow down in cold weather or if they are stressed or if they get any diseases. You want a dozen eggs a week? You’ll probably need three adult birds.
You’re still down for chickens because you’re in this for those mythical orange yolks that everyone talks about! Well, you’re going to pay for them! You can’t skimp on the feed. You need to give your hens a high protein/high fat diet. This is probably the easiest part of the whole program! Just buy them expensive, high protein food. Give them plenty of clean, fresh water, make sure they have crushed oyster shells, feed them the right amount of treats (too much is bad), and keep them immaculately clean and disease free. I estimated that I paid about 50¢ per egg (cost to buy the birds, paying for food for the layers and the freeloaders, labor, etc.) and the yolks still weren’t all that great.
Chickens are also incredibly stupid. I once had a chicken (named Billy, she was white and белый, which sounds like “bielly”, is the Russian word for white) who refused to roost with the rest of her sisters. She instead insisted on roosting in a tree. At first I’d gather her and put her in the coop but she kept climbing higher and higher up the tree until I couldn’t reach her. She was killed by a racoon a few days later.
Werner Herzog summed up chickens perfectly when he said “Look into the eyes of a chicken and you will see real stupidity. It is a kind of bottomless stupidity, a fiendish stupidity. They are the most horrifying, cannibalistic and nightmarish creatures in the world.” He also added later “I would note: chickens are living manifestations of death, bred only to be domesticated and killed. When we look into their eyes, we see the part of ourselves of which we are most afraid – our ultimate destination, death.”
It wasn’t all death and disease. Some chickens are quite cuddly and cute (most of them aren’t). And some of them even have a personality beyond just being driven to eat or peck their sisters. You can get attached to your hens and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve cried nearly every time one of them died (except Billy, the night she died I literally told her “fine. climb the tree. you’re going to die tonight you stupid fuck”). I remember all of their names and I have a little chicken graveyard. Sadly, the sweetest ones are usually the first to be picked off by predators.
This is the reality of where your food comes from, folks. Raising chickens in my back yard has given me a profound respect for farmers, especially small farmers, and the animals I eat. Raising chickens you’ll either never eat chicken again or you’ll develop that respect for animals and farmers and the meat that you eat. Avie refuses to eat chicken because of his experience with chickens. I still eat meat but I pray and sending thanks to the earth and farmers every day for the food I eat. Every single morsel that touches your filthy lips was produced by a farmer who had to slop around in shit, had to care for sick animals, and spent their life making food for you. Every piece of meat that enters your worthless body was an animal which lived, ate, had feelings, and died. You should have respect for them and the earth you live on. The earth we live on just happened to have the perfect climate to let dinosaurs become chickens and apes become humans. This planet was a goddamn garden of eden.
But the reason eggs cost $10 a dozen right now is BECAUSE WE HAVE RUINED THE GARDEN OF EDEN WITH OUR AVARICE, GLUTTONY, AND SLOTH. The avian pandemic which is killing millions of wild and farmed birds is caused by factory farming of chickens. THIS IS OUR FAULT because we need our KFC.
Werner Herzog was right. Chickens have an almost bottomless stupidity. Left to their own devices they will destroy the environment around them. Chickens can’t control themselves. They are too stupid. The only thing that stops chickens from destroying the entire planet is that they have predators. Sound familiar?
Anyway, I won’t raise chickens again. It’s just devastating. Because every time I look into a chicken’s eye I see the ultimate destination of the entire human race, unless somehow we start to act slightly smarter than the chickens.
Maybe if I see that, I’ll start raising chickens again.
That helps explain why Spurs have a chicken on their crest.
My brother-in-law owns a chicken farm in Missouri. Raises them from tiny chicks to the size where they can be sent to a processing plant to be turned into McNuggets and other tasty options.
The chicks are raised in huge bio-secure warehouses. Positive air pressure, so avian flu and other nasties don’t come in on the outside air. And you de-contaminate feet and hands before going in or out.
The little ones are pretty cute, though ten thousand of them running around peeping is kind of overwhleming. And there’s random dead ones here and there that need to be picked up and disposed of on a daily basis.
Visiting was a good exposure to the world of factory farming.
The other thing people need to know about this is that birds go from chick to mcnugget in just 6 weeks. these are genetically engineered livestock bred to do just one thing: make themselves into meat.
If I knew how chickens were processed, I wouldn’t eat chicken.
If I knew how plastics were “recycled” I wouldn’t buy plastics.
If I knew about the horrible things our elected leaders have done, I might not vote.
I recognize that these things are morally fraught, but I eat chicken, buy things in plastic containers and vote to place possibly perfidious strangers in positions of undue influence anyway. I do these things because they are socially acceptable. More importantly, they are convenient. Even more importantly, they’re baked into our everyday lives to such an extent that we don’t know how to live without them. If I’m shopping at the crunchiest local farm stand with those reusable produce bags, I still can’t buy basic things like sour cream without the plastic container. Ditto chicken, which also comes exclusively wrapped in plastic wrap and tray. But it’s a simple, tasty source of protein that won’t give me gout or colon cancer and works in lots of ways and lots of recipes, so I purchase and consume chicken pretty much every week.
We are practically immersed in immorality at every corner. You get into your car to burn fossil fuels. You park on a concrete surface where living things used to be. You wear clothes and buy household items made by exploited laborers in Asia. You live in a country built on the back of slavery and genocide, stains that can never be erased. You enjoy a privileged lifestyle of plenty while millions around the world have nothing. All the while you produce massive amounts of waste that corrupt the natural balance of the planet. And you do all that simply by being born anywhere in the western world. You should be ashamed of yourself, shouldn’t you? You should do as Jesus teaches and give away all your possessions to the poor. Or as Karl Marx teaches and distribute all of the wealth of society evenly. Well, let’s face it: nobody is going to ACTUALLY listen to Jesus because being homeless absolutely sucks. And the Marx thing has already been tried, didn’t go well.
So then how do we reconcile our self image as fundamentally moral beings while living in a society that inevitably immerses us in fundamentally amoral behaviors on a daily basis? We can ignore it and quietly enjoy its many benefits to ourselves. I think this is the most common path. Went to the store, picked up some sour cream and chicken, stopped on my home to vote for Gertrude Gingerbread, watching the Patriots tonight. Job well done or going to hell? You decide.
The second path is to rage against it and try to burn it all down. This is the path to extremism and inevitably leads to violence, which in my opinion voids the moral value of any cause that it purports to represent. I believe violence may be physical or psychological. Bullying people on Twitter who disagree with you is a form of psychological violence, a bit like road rage. Decent people don’t let themselves indulge it because it’s just wrong.
I believe the best way is somewhere in the middle, a process I’m going to call selective adaptation. A selectively adapted citizen recognizes the moral wrongs of small actions inherent to our society, but understands that they are not directly responsible for them and that not all things can be changed. They identify a few small ways they can make a difference locally and they consistently apply themselves towards that goal. It doesn’t take over their life, and it doesn’t take the form of bullying or coercing, only helping where it’s needed. They still live within the same society as everyone else and can get along with people who don’t share their views, but they are steadfast in their own belief of the inherent beauty of life, the value of service to others and the wisdom of moderation in all things. I believe the few people who can actualize this way of living are the happiest in the world.
you, specifically, need to raise chickens.
Great piece Tim – I grew up in the 70’s and my German parents raised chickens and rabbits, so I’m very familiar with the whole routine. I shoveled a lot of chicken shit back then to compost for my mother’s vegetable garden and decapitated a few when the weasels would get into the coop etc. I am still an omnivore, but my sister was never again to eat rabbit or chicken and is now totally vegan. Looking forward to a good performance today!
THREE GOALS THREE POINTS!
Tears in my eyes, man. Not kidding. And it wasn’t just Peter Drury’s word perfect description of the end. NLD? No, sah. This is the match.
Absolutely massive three points! Ben White was having a bad day, and putting on Tomi was exactly the right move.
That late Trossard run which led to the Nketiah goal felt like the sort of play an experienced player would make.
Frankly, I am really not sure Jesus would get back in ahead of Nketiah. When Martinelli is not firing, Nketiah still provides plenty of off the shoulder threat.
That Saka goal is a goal of the season contender.
So many thoughts.
I thought we started poorly. I couldn’t believe that they had more possession than us. That shouldn’t happen. We had the individual as well as tactical advantage in this game but failed to use it in the first half.
I thought Tomiyasu played his best game of the season for us. His energy was a difference maker in the second half. Ben White must have been carrying an injury because he looked completely gassed with 35 minutes gone.
I thought we completely controlled the second half and put in a fantastic defensive performance. The jammy Martinez goal was the type of flukey thing all teams give up once in a while. The Rashford goal was elite individual brilliance, the type of goal only he could score. Beyond that? MU produced a total of 0.39 xG compared to 2+ for Arsenal who had a season high 25 shots. This was a bit of a hiding and the two goals flattered them.
I thought Zinchenko was the man of the match. He drove us forward, controlled possession, set up chances, kept us going. He is special. Oh and that passion when we scored the winning goal? It’s the stuff of Arsenal legends. He’s going to be on the stadium wall one day next to Saka.
I spoke about Eddie after the Newcastle game. I thought that performance was a real bellweather for his ability to make a difference at the highest level. In this game, he added the goals to prove it to absolutely everyone. But if you’ve been paying attention, all the signs were there that he belongs. I was wrong about his cieling. He’s every bit as good as Gabriel Jesus.
I thought Martinelli had another stinker after a stinker at Tottenham. I didn’t mention it then but now it’s a bit of a trend. Is the Mudryk thing in his head? When Trossard came on, he immediately improved our link play. Martinelli needs to add that to his arsenal on a more consistent basis. He works so hard to improve, I have no doubt he will get there. Until then, it’s good to have a viable alternate.
I loved the Saka celebration trolling Rashford! And I love love love Bukayo Saka. Is he the best player in the premier league? For me he has to be in that conversation now. Game after game after game he just turns in the goods that keep this title challenge rolling, no matter the opponent, day or venue. He’s simply amazing and we are blessed to have him.
My theory on why they were keen to bring in a left wing is they know Martinelli is a) tired and b) needs competition. Smith-Rowe is too injury prone and might be months away from peak form. Trossard will push Martinelli, now. Trossard though will not hug the touchline and spread the defense. I almost wonder if he’ll combine better with Tierney who can provide a more traditional overlap.
A friend described the fascination with hens:
Hens, the new Black Lab.
I’ve been watching on in amazement all season, but today was something else. Beating United is the most precious feeling has to be Arsenal fandom.
Agree, the scoreline didn’t reflect how much we outplayed them. And yes, seems like White must have been under the weather or carrying a knock. Replacing him with Tomi at half was the right call.
I will say, I’m glad it took United as long as it did to get rid of Ronaldo and replace him with Rashford. They’re a much better team with him in there.
This was an amazing victory. It really did feel special. And to have all Arsenal goals scored by Arsenal academy boys? Dreamland!
If we keep this thing going for just few games more, and if maybe former student Arteta can show former teacher Guardiola a thing or two…
I’m booking an open top bus in Islington in May, and you’re all invited.
Comments are closed.