Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Chicken Coop

A friend of mine posted a link on Facebook to a New York Times article about the recent trend of regular households keeping backyard chickens.

I found the article fascinating enough to read the whole thing aloud to my husband. I was particularly intrigued by the idea that backyard farming hearkens back to the industriousness that brought women into the workforce so many years ago. The writer also suggests that this is not necessarily old-fashioned, but actually a progressive, modern way to live that could become more common.

Apparently it is more common in some areas than others, such as the writer's home of Berkeley, Calif. And a friend of mine in Lawrence, Kan., where I spent a few lovely years of my life, says backyard farming is the newest way to "keep up with the Joneses." A couple months ago I read an article out of Provo, Utah, where the issue of "urban chickens" was brought to the city council, who eventually decided that Provo residents were permitted to keep up to 6 chickens.

In  my own neighborhood, there are at least two families keeping chickens. One is the farm that used to own all the land our houses are built on, so they have probably had chickens for years. But just yesterday, when this topic was already on my mind, I looked out my back window and discovered a yard full of chickens in my neighbor's backyard.

I'm not compelled to go out and buy chicken wire, but it definitely makes me think about running a household in general. These families have assessed their own values and situations and they have decided to keep chickens, which is still fairly unusual, at least in my neck of the woods.

But do we allow ourselves to have our own "chicken coops" in our families, in other forms? Do you run your household the same way as all your friends and neighbors, or do you assess your own individual values and give yourself permission to do things your way?

Here's my example. My little secret that's not so secret. My 3-year-old son goes to bed late and sleeps in late. This allows my husband lots of time after work to spend time with his son, and we enjoy that time as a family. I know some people think we are crazy, and when bedtime starts to creep later and later sometimes we think we are crazy. But at our house, a perfect night would be for Charlie to be asleep by 9:30 or 10:00. That leaves  enough time for these night owl parents to play a board game or catch up on "The Office" on Hulu. We know some people would disagree with the way we do it, but it's what works for our family. We enjoy that we can take Charlie out to dinner with us and not have to worry about a 7:30 bedtime. And because he's our only child, we can do that because we don't have a school schedule to adhere to (yet).

Perhaps some experts would look down on that, but I wouldn't know because I don't consult them. There is definitely room for improvement in our household, but we don't seek to fit anyone else's notion of the right way to do things. I believe strongly in following your instincts as a parent, and the experts all disagree anyway. I generally don't bother consulting the experts unless my own instincts come up empty on a certain subject*.

Chicken coops and late bedtimes don't seem to have anything to do with each other. But the rise of the chicken coop has made an impression on me. Like I said, I'm not about to raise chickens myself, but it's nice to see families doing things their way, even though it might be a little counterculture.

*In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I have read one parenting book cover to cover. The Natural Child: Parenting from the Heart . It was a little extreme at times (for instance, she suggests that cribs should be banned), but I generally agreed with the author, and it has given me more confidence in the way I do things.


jen said...

i thought about getting some chickens. until i ran the costs and figured that was WAY too expensive just for some eggs. but i do like the idea of doing things in an unconventional way. and i like that you have found a way to spend more time with your child as a family. nothing wrong with that!! :)

Joel said...

I don't think that Charlie's schedule is crazy at all.

happyful said...

You play board games too? Awesome.

Watch out with those chickens. I hear they attract rodents. If your neighbor has them, you might be wanting to get a cat sometime soon. I hope not, but that's just what I've been told.

I don't think a late bedtime is odd at all. I'm not sure if I have a specific example of how I do things against the grain, but my mom calls me "a relaxed parent." I'm not sure exactly what that means, but probably in part that I let my son do more than other people would.

MommyJ said...

Good for you for doing what works for you, and for doing it happily. :) I would love to have chickens... I think the idea of fresh eggs sounds awesome. I live in the woods though, and my friend that has chickens is constantly having to worry about snakes and raccoons eating her chickens... which makes the entire thing seem a little counter productive.

Cheri said...

Okay I'ge got a few thoughts on this.
1st- I don't think there is anything wrong with your schedual. I've done it forever with our kids so that they could get maximum time with daddy! Until Ethan started 1st grade and has to wake up early now, we always did things the same way you do and loved it. It makes me sad now because with the kids bed time and the time Brett gets home from work, they only get to see each other for 2 hours during the day. That's awful.
2nd- I don't mind chickens, but at a gardening class I recently took part in at the University of Idaho, they said something about how raising chickens for your own eggs is actually more expensive than simply just buying eggs, but that is satisfying or something to that effect. Um, right. I'll save myself the trouble and expense and just buy my eggs, haha.
3rd- I haven't read that book, but I haven't used a crib since Lauren was a very small baby. I was glad to read I'm not the only freak who hates them.

Gi-Ann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
m said...

Good read! I was kind amuse with that “my secret, that’s no secret.” Well as for raising chicken, it really isn’t that hard. Yes I admit that you are right about that as a little counterculture. Thanks for posting this article pal.
Backyard Chicken

m said...

Chicken coop
I found this article fascinating to read. Chicken coops indeed. I am thinking lately to add the chickens that I am raising. As for that keeping to the limit of 6 for urban chickens, probably that’s just reasonable.

Anne Marie said...

No chickens for this household anytime soon! We did a late bedtime for Taylor for a few years, and it worked for us. Enjoy the freedom while you've got it! Public school swoops in much too fast and changes all that anyway.

Rachel Sue said...

I really liked this. It is so interesting. My neighbor has chickens, and I actually want to get some. Not so much for the money aspect, but for the self reliance aspect. For some reason lately, that has been weighing more heavily on my mind. I am a bit more gung ho about gardening than I ever have been before and I'm learning how to can.

Going along with that I really like the idea that I don't have to rely on stores to supply us with food.

Iggy said...

Fantastic article, well said!!

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JeejandDinda said...

We are a late to bed family. It's all about time with Dad. Plus, as a woman, I tend to get a little resentful about all the work I have to do, but when you sleep in all the time, it feels like you're on vacation, so how can you feel resentful.
We decided on homeschooling for several reasons, but one was so the kids could have more time with Dad. I do feel a little like a freak for having such a late bedtime, and sometimes I even consider getting more normal, but then logic takes over, and we keep our bedtime where we want it.

*LaUrA* said...

I agree...if we tried to do everything all the OTHER mom's are doing then our heads would be spinning around in circles all day.

Your bed time does not seem late to me at all;) Carter does usually pass out around 10:00 or 10:30 because we let him hang out with us until he is bedtime fights that people seem to have. Another pro...sleeping in...nice! I decided we have a good 2 years left to have such a fantastic(for us) schedule and then it is time to conform.

I liked this post! The reasons why people choose to do things is an interesting subject.

NIKOL said...

There are things about raising chickens that appeal to me: fresh eggs, chicken manure for my compost, and the fact chickens would eat all those icky earwigs in the yard. The thing that doesn't appeal to me? Chickens. Birds scare me. I wouldn't want to actually be near the chickens themselves. Guess it's good that our house is in an area not zoned for livestock of any kind. That might not mean chickens, but I'm still saying it does.

My oldest used to stay up until 10pm every night. It worked for our family. When we had baby #2, she stayed up until 9ish. Baby #3 had a 7pm bedtime. You adjust according to what works for your family. That's how it's supposed to work!