In this post I will share with you one of the most valuable life lessons I have learned while venturing into owning chickens. Hence the title, Backyard Chickens & a Life Lesson. If you missed my first post that outlines my journey to getting chickens you can read it here. I hope you enjoy reading more about my experience with chickens!
My desire to own chickens started a few years ago. At first it was a fun thought I entertained. But that desire grew and I knew I really did want to have my own set of hens. I wanted chickens that I could name, raise and care for, and collect eggs from. I wanted my children to have experience with caring for animals of our own, and to see another example of how to “grow” some of our own food.
There were some barriers to work through before I could own chickens, but when those barriers were cleared I still had some hesitations to becoming a chicken owner. I was concerned because I didn’t know anything about caring for chickens. Where do you even buy them? I didn’t have a coop, where would I get one? How expensive will caring for chickens be? Will the eggs that they lay make up for the costs? What if we get sick from handling our chickens? We could get salmonella! What if we put in all of the work and planning and don’t even like having chickens? I also heardabout all of the possible things that could go wrong with chickens (and there are so many things like chicken diseases, predators, etc). These hesitations were true road blocks to my getting started.
Doing my Research
At this point I decided to learn and gather more information. If we can replace our worries with information and facts, it can alleviate some of the anxiety. I focused on learning about chickens and how to care for them. I read the books and I talked to neighbors that had experience with owning backyard chickens. We also visited small farms that had chickens so we could see what owning chickens might look like.
After all of the reading and learning I remember still feeling unprepared. I’ve learned more than once that head knowledge can only get you so far. I have experienced this as a dietitian too. Going to grad school, learning the facts and taking the exams were only the beginning to being an experienced and seasoned dietitian. To truly be a good dietitian you need to practice. You need to work with patients. You need to actually provide patient care along with other medical staff. And you need other dietitians to learn from and bounce ideas off of.
I am finding this is true in many areas of life! Another example is parenthood. You can read all of the parenting books, but until you actually become a parent, you will not truly learn how to parent or what it is like to be a parent. In short, you need to do the thing you feel uncertain about or unprepared for to become knowledgeable and good at it. Experience is the best teacher!
I decided that to learn how to become a good chicken owner, I would need to just become one and learn as I go. So that is just what I did.
I had done all of the preparation I could. Despite still feeling unprepared I finally decided to just jump in and push my concerns and uncertainties aside. After ordering my baby chicks through mail order, I waited 3 months for them to arrive. During that season of waiting we prepped a space for our baby chicks and also worked on building the coop. I made sure I had all of the items I needed to provide food, water and shelter.
Picking my chicks up from the post office, hearing those baby chicks chirp, seeing my children’s excitement and experiencing my own joy was a culmination of all that I had prepared for. But really we were just getting started in becoming chicken owners.
There is nothing like seeing that first egg that is laid. Or the feeling you have when you realize the hens see you as the alpha-chicken/rooster figure of the flock and they follow you around the yard. Or when you open the door and yell out, “chickens!” and they all come running (hoping you have a treat for them).
Setbacks and Challenges
Some of the challenges I had read about did occur during these first two years of owning backyard chickens. These challenges have served as learning points. I’ve had to figure out how to clip chicken wings because our chickens were flying into the neighbor’s yard. We’ve dealt with the hens pecking one another and so I learned how to sew chicken saddles. We eventually ended up rehoming two chickens that were being pecked; thankfully they went to a loving neighbor who has kinder chickens. I’ve also had to figure out ways to keep my chickens cool on the hottest summer days (chickens love fruits and vegetables that are frozen into ice cubes!). And in the winter we had to figure out how to keep our hens warm with construction plastic and a water warmer.
Almost two years later my family and I have really enjoyed owning backyard chickens. We love their funny ways and the eggs that they lay. I love watching the joy that my children have while caring for and “playing” with the chickens. I also love the way my chickens like to help me dig when I try to garden.
Growing Confidence & Thankfulness
After experiencing the uncertainty and finally making the decision to go for it, as well as the joy and the challenges, I can say I am on the other side of things. I am still newer to owning chickens, but I have so much more knowledge and experience than I used to. I find that I can educate others on chickens when they ask me questions. These are things I never expected to know or learn about!
The experience of owning backyard chickens has really given me a sense of pride. Yes, I am proud that I know how to care for chickens. But more than that, I am proud that I decided to try something I wanted to do, even though I was not confident in my ability to do so.
One of the most beautiful life lessons I have gained from owning backyard chickens is that when you want to do something or learn something new, you need to just go for it. Certainly educate yourself and prepare yourself, but in the end, the best way to learn something is to do it. Learn by doing.
I’ve also learned that you cannot be successful in something unless you try. Deciding to not try because you fear failure is already failing. Sure, we’ve heard these types of sayings before. And perhaps its easier for those who have been successful to say such things, but I dare you to try it out for yourself. Is there something you have wanted to try? Is there something you’ve thought about over and over again, but have been too afraid to go for it? I challenge you to do your research and then go for it!
At times we may experience failure or setbacks. If we treat them as learning experiences, we can grow and become better at what we set out to do in the first place.
My confidence in my ability to try new things and be successful at them has grown. And for that I am very thankful. When I am faced with making decisions on things I feel are right and good in my heart, but I am unsure I will do well at it, I pray that I can apply this life lesson to those situations.
If you have had a similar experience please share below in the comments. I love hearing about others learning by doing, and going for it when they may have felt unsure they could actually do the thing successfully.
Some of my Favorite Chicken Gear
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In this post you have seen some of the chicken gear I have really enjoyed using. See below for links to some of those items. Also, please check out my first post titled, Our Journey With Backyard Chickens.