After seven years of having babies, my husband and I decided to embrace a new kind of parenthood: raising backyard chickens.
As homeschoolers and budding homesteaders, it seemed like the next natural step. We were already growing our own vegetables, grinding our own wheat flour and getting our hands dirty with all kinds of educational, do-it-yourself projects around the house.
When it came to the care and maintenance of egg-laying hens, though, we thought we were out of our league. Neither one of us grew up on a farm or had any working knowledge of animal husbandry (thanks to Google and YouTube, a thorough education was quickly procured).
But as it turns out, the biggest source of experience for raising chickens was all those years of parenthood. Despite being two different species, young chickens and young humans have a surprising amount of things in common. Being parents had, unwittingly, more than prepared us for the work involved with keeping a happy, healthy flock of chickens.
If you’ve been dreaming about waking up every morning to fresh eggs from your own backyard, it may be easier than you think to make that dream a reality. Are you a parent? Then you already have all the necessary skills and experience! Here are all the ways raising chickens is exactly like raising kids.
They are always hungry.
With three boys in the house, I’ve been tempted to set up a feeding trough full of Cheerios just so I don’t have to spend my day answering questions about when the next meal or snack will be served. My kids are hungry all the time and so are our chickens.
As babies, they chirped incessantly for feed refills. Now fully grown, they swarm the gate to their enclosure every time my husband sets foot outside (he’s the one who feeds them table scraps and they know it). It doesn’t matter if they just ate or not. If our chickens could talk, they would definitely be saying, “Is it snack time yet?”
They fight over everything.
I once watched two of my sons brawl over who got to carry a piece of lint around in his pocket. I thought that was the height of absurdity, but then we got chickens.
Our birds squabble, scratch and peck at each other over the most insignificant things. Who eats the last piece of watermelon rind? Who sits in the middle of the roost? Who takes a dust bath first? It never ends (at least I don’t have to worry about my sons fighting over that big fat spider in the corner). Either way, there’s not much you can do to stop the sibling rivalry between your kids or your hens. Just try to prevent as much bloodshed as you can.
They poop all the time and everywhere.
Anyone who has brought home a newborn baby knows that when it comes to poop, there are literally no limits. The baby will poop anytime, anywhere — even while sleeping.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the same thing is true for chickens. They poop in their food dishes. They poop on their heating plate. They poop on each other, and yes, they poop while asleep, perched side by side on their roost.
If parenthood has made you immune to the bodily functions of other living creatures, you can definitely handle chickens. Arm yourself with some latex gloves and a tub of disinfectant wipes, and you’re good to go.
They grow up too fast.
I remember when we brought home our first batch of baby chicks. They were adorably tiny, fluffy and fragile. Two weeks later, they were... weird.
Their down was falling out and being replaced by feathers. Their formerly delicate feet were growing hard and scaly. They looked less like cute little newborns and more like awkward, pimply teenagers.
Though the process takes a bit longer in humans, all parents are familiar with this phenomenon. One minute your kid is a sweet, snuggly newborn who smells like baby shampoo and the next he’s a surly, sulky preteen who smells like testosterone and Axe body spray. It happens in the blink of an eye, so enjoy the cuteness while you can.