The people's voice of reason

Tears & Laughter: Chicken fever will spike as spring approaches

Based entirely upon my casual observation, women seem to be more susceptible than men, and children ag it on, but for some reason many people who have never so much as grew a turnip patch suddenly will get the urge to raise chickens as soon as January is behind us.

All that has to happen for someone to catch chicken fever is to visit a farm supply store. A woman can go in there, maybe just shopping for a new pair of bib overalls, and then, innocently enough, she will see the cute little biddies chirping and hopping around under a heat lamp. The next thing she knows there’s a cardboard box full of baby chickens in her backseat and the kids are trying to feed them fries on the ride home.

It is easy for anyone to justify having a miniature farm. All you have to do is say it will be an opportunity for the children to learn responsibility and that the money saved by using the eggs the hens produce will offset the cost.

The average healthy hen with good genetics in the prime of her life with proper diet, housing, sanitation, and protection from predators, averages producing about 300 eggs a year – or 25 dozen.

A pullet, or girl chick if you prefer, will cost between $4 and $6. Some backyard chicken farmers say it is a waste of money to buy pullets because usually there will end up being a rooster in the mix anyway. So you may as well save yourself a couple of dollars and buy straight run chicks, which means might get both hens and roosters, and they will run between $2.50 and $4 each – depending on the breed of the chicken and the location of the farm store.

If you buy chicks too young you will also want to buy a heat lamp, and any business-minded chicken person will also want to calculate the cost of building a coop. I can’t quote the price of lumber and wire, but I do know you can buy a dozen large grade A’s at Piggly Wiggly for like $2.89. Or you can get a full-grown hen roasted and ready for supper for under $8.00.

But cost aside, once you get them home and get the pin built, you will be able to call yourself an official keeper of chickens and sleep as you have known it will no longer exist. You will find yourself lurching awake often in the night asking, “Was that a chicken?”

As it turns out, people aren’t the only ones who like to eat chicken. Coyotes, your dogs, your neighbors’ dogs, stray dogs, cats, raccoons, foxes, and possums are all very fond of them too. And a healthy chicken snake in the prime of its life with good genetics can eat over 300 eggs a year.

You won’t be able to just go peacefully back to sleep once you are startled awake by a squawking chicken. Because your kids are going to give every one of their ugly asses names like Sweet Baby Betty or Miss Sparkle Feathers, and the things die easy already. I don’t know why, but they have a high mortality rate, which is upsetting, so it won’t be the kids staggering out to the chicken coop with a flashlight and shotgun in the predawn hours of the morning.

You might tell yourself while you are there at the farm store that you will be happy with only getting five of them, half a dozen at the most, but you will be wrong. And don’t go near the ducks. You can’t tell much about what a chicken is thinking by looking them in the face, but ducks have vibrant personalities. They also eat more and are much messier.

If you ever get chicken fever, duck fever usually isn’t far behind. It is almost unavoidable. If you catch it, just remember you can’t put a price on a good time.


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