It all started with 11 secondhand chickens that friends packed into plastic bins and drove to our house.
Those original 11 birds reproduced themselves, and the widescale slaughter we’d expected at the hands of predators or disease has yet to occur. At the moment, my family shares our property with 23 chickens and seven ducks; another three ducklings arrive later this month.
We raise poultry for a variety of reasons, including:
-Half of our daughters have a deep affection for these birds. (The other half is either ambivalent or wants nothing to do with anything poultry-related.)
-Poultry-keeping chores teach our children the value of hard work and responsibility. (That is, when they’re willing to drag themselves out of bed on cold, dark winter mornings to do their chores.)
-We haven’t had to buy eggs in two years – and we have eggs to spare. (Current tally: six dozen eggs in the refrigerator and another couple dozen in a bowl waiting for a carton to open up. I choose recipes based on how many eggs they use.)
-It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Whatever the reason, once we’d invested in the birds, coops, feed, and fencing, we felt a certain responsibility to keep them alive. Our dog did not share this sense of responsibility. Our dog wanted to do what came naturally: Snack!
One of the challenges of living with multiple species is navigating the fine line between the freedom of one species and the survival of another.