An Unexpected Lesson

Organic eggs are expensive. So in an effort to eat healthier and save money I decided we needed to raise our own chickens. My husband wasn’t wild about this idea, but I talked it up all winter. In early spring my daughter and I were at the farm store when we heard a chorus of tiny chirps. We made our way to the back of the store, where we discovered hundreds of tiny chicks. Baby chickens are irresistibly adorable!  Next thing I knew we had seven baby chickens in a box on the front seat of the van.  The trunk was loaded with feed, chicken grit, animal bedding and a heat lamp.

Impulsive? Maybe a little, but what a great learning opportunity! We learned about the laying qualities and diverse personalities of the different breeds before we left the store. (Some of our chicks will even lay green eggs!) We also discovered first hand where the term “pecking order” comes from. But one of our hardest lessons came shortly after the boys constructed a cardboard brooder in the laundry room. All of the chicks settled into their new home except one. She continued to chirp loudly all day. The next day she wouldn’t open her eyes and she stumbled about on wobbly legs. A call to the farm store confirmed what we feared: that she probably wouldn’t make it. Neither my husband nor I had the nerve to end the chick’s life quickly, so we watched it die slowly over the next couple of days. That was a heartbreaking experience, but high chick mortality rates were only the beginning of all we’ve learned in the last month.

We’ve learned about chicken health, and all about coop design and construction. However, the most unexpected lesson was more personal. I learned that while raising chickens may be common and easy for some people, it was totally overwhelming for me. I read books, consulted friends, talked to experts and searched the Internet, but I still struggled to figure out what I was supposed to do with all these baby birds. Watching the chicks was so much fun but I muddled my way through much of this experience. As I’ve struggled, I’ve reflected on my children and their own learning process. How many times have I dismissed their complaints about the difficulty of learning something new? Sometimes as an adult it’s hard to remember that long multiplication wasn’t always easy, and writing a five paragraph essay can be very challenging.  I’m fairly certain that not everyone needs to get their own chickens, but I do think everyone should try something new and challenging. We all need to be reminded occasionally that learning can be joyous, and it can be difficult!