Once you live with chickens, you never really go back to "normal life." It's not that owning chickens is hard or impossibly draining (like raising human babies)—it's not. These feathered friends just manage to take up a weird amount of space in your head and heart. It sneaks up on you. A morning cup of coffee now always triggers the thought: "Better let the chickens out of the coop." Eggs become some sort of indulgent treasure to be coveted and gifted to the very best of friends. Bad stuff will probably happen, too. That's unavoidable. We lost two hens this December, taking our flock from five to three. It's not the first time a raccoon has found its way into the coop. I will tell you: You get used to this, too. So why should you go for chickens this winter?
1. It makes composting so very fun. Throw your compost in the corner of the yard and the hens will snack on/mix the stuff for you and add in their natural fertilizer. They'll also eat pests like candy, and your garden will be more lush than ever, provided that you keep the hens away from anything you intend to grow.
2. Hens are adorable, and I swear they lower your blood pressure just looking at them pecking away in the yard.
3. You'd need to act now if you want layers by Easter.
4. There is nothing better than fresh eggs when the sun is shining.
Let's be honest. The sun isn't shining so much these days, and I haven't come across a fresh egg since Thanksgiving. But come spring and summer, I look forward to the egg hunt yet again. What new strange place will they find to plop their pretties? There are plenty of mornings in the summer when I can go in the backyard, grab two eggs, pluck a fresh tomato off the vine and a few herbs and make my own little backyard breakfast—no store-bought grub required. This, my friends, is the real magic of chickens.
Feeling freaked? It's OK. Dare 2 Dream Farms in Lompoc is hosting a beginners backyard chicken class, where they'll answer every crazy question you may have ("Do they poop and lay out of the same hole?" "What if the chick turns out to be a rooster and my neighbor threatens to shoot me?"). They'll even deliver to your door baby chicks and teenaged pullets nearly ready to lay. But reserve your spot early, because these seats will sell out quicker than you can shout, "raccoon!"
Dare 2 Dream Farms is located at 890 Lasalle Canyon Road in Lompoc. The Beginners Backyard Chicken Class is slated for 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 17. Reserve your spot at dare2dreamfarms.com. Δ
Hayley Thomas Cain is starved for fresh eggs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.