As we drive into our drive way after having run errands for a couple of hours, I call out, “I am in need of some “chicken checkers! Who will help me?” As I say those words I can hear myself parroting the familiar story of The Little Red Hen. Eagerly responding, I hear my two happy kids’ voices saying, “I’ll do it!” Once we park, they both jump out of the car and head for their chicken boots. (The rule is we wear our chicken boots whenever we go in the coops so that we don’t track chicken “stuff” into the house on our regular shoes. This is one of the many new “rules” I’ve instituted since getting our chickens about two months ago. Having these systems in place has made everything run smoother and causes less work for Mom in the long run (the ultimate goal – right?)
We’ve had our 15 laying hens now for about six weeks (and 25 additional chicks who are not yet layers. That’ll come in the fall.) Every morning and afternoon we check for eggs and collect between 10-12 eggs a day. The beautiful shades of tan, some dappled with chocolate-brown freckles, others a pale tan, almost vanilla are such fun to see. Each egg is as individual as the hen who laid it. And every day my two kids get excited to see how many eggs are waiting to be gently scooped up. They each have their own basket, decorated pink for the girly girl and blue-camo for our down home boy! I got the baskets at Hobby Lobby and then had each child pick out their favorite ribbon. I then used a glue-gun to wrap the ribbon around the handles and voila – individualized baskets.
So my “chicken checkers” are at their post daily. And new lessons are emerging daily, too. They are learning to help each other with coop duties when I am not available. Our littlest has trouble with the big coop doors (they are very heavy) so his older sister being bigger and stronger (for now) can help him open and shut the doors. When I see this happen, I find my motherly endorphins shoot off like rockets when the spirit of cooperation out-rides the temptation to annoy one another. Peace reigns, the eggs get collected, and a habit of helpfulness is once again instilled. Just one of the many benefits to having chickens in the first place. It creates opportunity to help one another towards achieving a common goal. This is a life lesson: one that will be used with their parents (us) as we all grow and mature, in their own marriages, with their own children, on the job with their employer or as the CEO of their own business. Learning to work together – especially when you are of different ages or generations is a huge asset one can bring to the table in this journey of life.
Having chickens is fun and tasty – but let’s not forget the unromantic part of keeping this (sometimes foul-smelling) fowl. Mom and Dad play a huge roll in the success of this hobby. A perfect illustration of this occurred when cleaning the coops last weekend. I try to do the deed on the weekend as there are less things pressing on my time. Additionally, I like to get it done early in the morning when the heat of each summer day has not yet hit its peak (although we’ve had about 10 straight days of 100+ degree days – ugh!). Yet, last weekend as my husband headed off to do errands, there I was, in my oh so attractive grey “mom-shorts”, black tank top and my aqua and brown argyle chicken boots (about the cutest thing I was wearing that day). Oh and let’s not forget my pregnant belly of 6 months. Anyway, he calls to me, “I’ll be back soon.” I look up, standing in 6 inches of stinky chicken shavings, the fragrant chicken air just hanging around like Chevy Chase’s cousin Eddy in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, my pregnant belly growing by the day, holding my snow shovel which I use to scoop up their shavings each week, and sweat dripping off my face and forehead. Forcing a smile, I respond, “Ok, see ya soon!” To be clear, I was not unhappy with the best husband in the world, just anxious to get this part of my day over. But I have to say, just after that moment, I had a change of heart. I realized that not only was I getting the coops cleaned, but I was getting a great workout to boot! It really was a win-win! So the rest of my time, as I listened to the rock hits of the 80’s, was quite pleasant.
And so it goes, another life lesson…for me and the kids. Sometimes, having the quality results you desire (i.e.: fresh eggs on a daily basis) has a price. It takes sacrifice, discipline, persistence in tending to the responsibilities on a day-to-day basis. It’s not a sprint to the finish and collect your reward. It’s a slow and steady race, with ample opportunities of humbleness sprinkled in for flavor. And perhaps, as I reflect, the bigger benefit than even the fresh eggs…it’s the character growth for me, the husband, the kids. And to give my hubby the props he deserves, this weekend he was right by my side and we cleaned the coops together. You know that “working together thing” I talked about earlier? Well, we did it today, and it was such fun! Clean coops in about 40 min. But what benefits do the kids get from this? Happy, united parents, forging a team of cooperation and giving that they expect from their “baby chicks.” It’s about a family who works to contribute – to each other and their world around them. Looking to make their little world a bit more beautiful and fun at the same time. It’s a gift we work to give to our “Chicken Checkers” daily. Is it always neat and tidy (and pretty smelling)? Not in the slightest, but that’s when the character is cultivated and hopefully rooted in solid ground. I
like to think of it as “Less take, more give.” It really fills a heart full!