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1.23.2011

Chickens or bees? Both or neither?

I get crazy ideas all the time (or at least my husband says they're crazy...). Last year, before we moved, I wanted to get a cow or a goat for our little farm. That was our purpose (my purpose) for our little plot of land... or more generally, to be more self sustained. But I've rethought the dairy animal. They require a huge time commitment, and in reality we don't consume that much dairy. I eat yogurt, and my husband drinks milk, and that is pretty much it. Overall my kids are over their dairy issues, but Izzy still can't drink fluid milk (she immediately gets a croupy sounding cough that lasts 4-8 hours) and Oliver just doesn't like to drink milk... like me. Sometimes he has some on cereal, or Izzy will eat a little yogurt. And we all like cheese, but I think cheese making would be far too much for me to accomplish right now. So the cost benefit analysis (how I make most of my decisions) didn't pan out. Maybe in a few years it will.


My other desire was for chickens. I would love to have chickens running around in my yard and collect eggs for our breakfast. Oliver and I love eggs, I think they are absolutely vital for good health, and we consume a lot of them. Plus in general they are easy to keep and care for since they don't take up much space.

I'm apprehensive about getting them, though. I don't handle the realities of nature well, meaning that, while in theory I love nature, I don't react well to animals dying. I can't watch nature shows because, even though I know that the coyote is going to die if it doesn't eat the bird, I still feel unduly sad for the bird. So what if a predator gets at my birds? Or something else happens? What if they freeze to death? And I have only dealt with chickens once in my life- in my teens I kept broilers for one summer. I kept them in my parents' chicken coop and fed them. That was it.  When butchering time came (that's what broilers are for) I was in school, so my parents did it all.  Now I'm kind of wishing they would have made me help.  Because while I primarily want them for eggs, I would also like to periodically keep some chickens for meat.  Which brings me back to my first apprehension- would I be able to knowingly kill and eat an animal I had raised?  I have no moral problem with meat- I believe that humans are omnivores and while I respect the choices of vegetarians, I think that eating meat is necessary for me to be healthy.  And I understand the reality of where meat comes from- I raised several beef cows when I was in 4-H, and I know where they all ended up.  But I've never had to kill an animal before.  It's not a moral issue.  It's an I'm a wimp issue.

But that's kind of the point- being more in touch with where my food comes from, and knowing what goes into my food.  And being self sufficient.  Even though I do not believe that the "end of days" is coming, I do think that the potential for major disasters is out there (like Katrina... granted, a gaggle of chickens and buckets of wheat wouldn't have helped any of the victims of Katrina...).  When I was in California my fear was "the big one," the 9+ earthquake that everyone says is coming.  Here it's a debilitating blizzard that has us stranded with no power for weeks at a time (making my husband's desire for a fuel cell seem more reasonable... I would prefer solar, but we don't get a lot of sun).  And call it my competitive nature, but if some unthinkable disaster happens here that affects the food supply I don't want LDS members to be the ONLY ones with food.  I know, that's a morbid thing to be competitive about.  (nothing derogatory is meant by that- while I don't necessarily agree with their spiritual beliefs, I think that their emphasis on stockpiling food for their families over a long period of time and gradually refreshing that stockpile is responsible and reasonable, and something everyone should consider doing for a variety of reasons).

Oh, and bees.  I want bees, but those scare me even more.  First, they sting (but none of us are allergic, so at least there's that).  Second, they're kind of fragile.  Or maybe I've just read the wrong beekeeping accounts.  I'm worried that I'll spend $500 on the bees and the equipment to keep them, and then they will all die.  And it takes two years to get much of a harvest.  While I think bees would actually be a better place to start than chickens (and my husband is more on board with the bees than the birds), I'm more worried about out and out failure with them than with the poultry.

It's all very scary, but every day I look out the window at our 2.75 acres and think about what a waste it is to not use every bit of it.  So, I'm going to try to overcome my fears and utilize our space, adding a little each year.  But what do I order this year- bees or chicks?  Ah, decisions.

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