You can learn a lot from chickens.
The first Saturday in April I bought my first ever flock of chickens. We have been on a learning journey together. In those cool early days I was a bit of a “helicopter mom”, always hovering over them, making sure they were all alive and well.
In a few weeks some friends came over and helped us build an inside pen in our Well House just a few feet from our back door. It is large and roomy, definitely a good amount of space for my small flock of 9 growing chicks.
As much as I enjoy watching them and taking care of them, for them it was definitely NOT love at first sight. For the most part I was the “scary monster”. I would speak in soothing tones, handle them gently, bring them food and water. But they all huddled as far as away from me as they could when I entered the coop. Slowly (so it seemed to me) I evolved from the “scary monster” to the “scary monster that brings the food”.
Twice a day our routine consisted of me coming in to freshen the water and refill the food dish. Whenever I had time I would crouch down near the food and wait quietly. I wanted them to get accustomed to my presence and be less skittish around me. At first they would give me the side eye (because that’s the only look a chicken can give) no doubt wishing I would go away so they could eat. Gradually, cautiously, they would inch forward and start eating. Any shifting movement or slight sound on my part would send them skittering away.
It wasn’t long before I began realizing their therapeutic value. While I cannot yet enjoy the higher quality and taste of freshly laid eggs from my own backyard chickens, for me, they are already paying for themselves. In ways I can’t explain, watching them, talking to them (yes, every time I go out 🙂 ) somehow helps to reduce the various stresses I feel. I have begun calling them my therapy animals.
Somewhere, somehow, at some moment I didn’t recognize our relationship shifted from “scary monster/bringer of food” to “move over, human, I’m eating”. I chuckled when I realized it.
They are of an age now where I can begin introducing them to the outside yard. I would be willing let them simply be free range. But we live not far from a very busy highway, on a fairly busy street, with neighborhood dogs that sometimes find their way over here. So, an enclosure that allows them both safety and liberty was necessary.
Most people who read this blog will understand the all-too-common issues of not enough time and not enough money to do all the things we want to do. In the the case of our chickens, that translates into our not yet having a good outdoor structure for them, although the plans are in the works. We will be building it ourselves, once we figure out how…we are new at this remember.
But lately they have been rushing to the coop door every time I came into the Well House. It was as if they were saying “Can we go out today?! Pleeeeaasse!!” We knew it would be a while before we could build a proper outside coop, but I still had to find away to give them at least a taste.
To be honest, I overthink. A lot. I like to have EVERYthing figured out and situated before I do something. Preparedness and excellence are fine. But sometimes, I let it keep me from doing something, because I fear “doing it wrong”.
But in a desire to allow my flock to experience the outdoors I had to do something. So this past weekend DH and I took the chicken wire leftover from building the inside coop, picked up a few supplies and hunted around for odds and ends in the garage, and hobbled together a small but adequate outdoor pen. It is not ideal. I cannot open their pen and have them walk right to it, like the permanent structure I envision will. It is draped at one end with a tarp to provide some shade and bird netting at the other end to keep them from flying out or the hawk that sometimes frequents our back yard from making an attempt. Because it is built on a slope we couldn’t get the chicken wire exactly flush with the ground. This meant finding whatever materials we had at hand; cinderblocks, pieces of wood and board, to place around the spots that had gaps so they couldn’t make a break for it. So believe me when I say, this will win no awards for design or beauty.
We carried each one to the pen and placed them in. They didn’t like this part at all, but once they were in the pen and could forage and scratch and begin to experience a life of air and sun, they seemed to think this was a big improvement.
As I sat in my chair watching them to see how they adjusted to this, they didn’t squawk indignantly at the patchwork design, or shake their heads disapprovingly. They stretched their wings and explored and found, I know not what, as they pecked at the grass. The scene was a lovely, quiet rural scene. In my own back yard.
My lesson from the therapy animals for that day is this: You don’t have to have all your ducks in a row (or a perfect chicken pen) to start. Again with the overthinking, I can do all kinds of preparation and research to start a project or learn something new, but when it comes to the point of beginning, I hesitate.
I need to get comfortable with the idea that I WILL do things wrong! I will also learn new and better ways as I go. The joy of it is the learning and growing.
So, to myself and to you, dear reader, I say this: By all means, do your due diligence as you lead up to something new, but in the end there comes a time to stop prepping and
Updated shots of my studio. Still a work in progress. Just like me.