It was a cold, dark, blustery day where everything had gone wrong on the farm. The manure pump went down, the milker didn’t show up for work, fresh cow problems, just your run-of-the-mill bad day. When I finally came home, I was accosted by three excited, little blonde girls who happen to share my DNA, and they quickly informed me that they had a great idea – an idea so good that failing to follow through would be akin to some of the greatest military blunders in world history.
We, as a family, now needed chickens.
I glanced into the house and saw Mrs. Faber peeking around the corner to see if her preemptive attack had hit the target. It was becoming increasingly apparent who the mastermind of this little operation was, and she knew what weapons carried the deadliest payload.
You see, dear reader, this dairy farmer, who once laughed haughtily at the thought of spending great sums of money on companion animals, was faced with that very task not that long ago. Your author got the news that the aged family cat was going to need $800 worth of the most modern and expensive veterinary attention money could buy. As he turned around to talk with three young girls at the vet office about the brevity of life and difficult decisions we sometimes make, he was greeted with three blubbering, crying, blonde haired, blue-eyed little disasters. So, we still have our cat. Determining which cow to do a displaced abomasum surgery on apparently has no bearing on your ability to determine where to draw the line on the family cat.
In not-a-completely-unrelated event, our said family cat was tragically eaten by a coyote not six months later. That’s right, our local coyote had an $800 meal that could have bought him 10 of the finest ribeye steaks at the fanciest of restaurants.
Back to our current crisis, the one where we go to the store and purchase our eggs like 99% of the rest of humanity. Among the litany of reasons for getting chickens, besides all of the cool Instagram and Tik Tok people getting them, was that they were cute and fun. So, the lines were drawn. Mrs. Faber and the three girls wanted chickens. I didn’t want chickens. And now, we have chickens.
Mrs. Faber also launched a surprise attack on my father, also known as Grandpa, who at the behest of three bubbling children, quickly agreed to build a chicken coop. With the tragic passing of the family cat story ringing in his ears, Grandpa set out to build a veritable Fort Knox of chicken coops. It had heat lamps on timers, play areas, constant feed tubes and automatic waterers. This creation was more well equipped than my childhood home.
Finally, the day arrived when we had to buy six baby chicks. The children were ecstatic and have continued to faithfully water, feed, clean and pick up eggs from their chickens. It has been a great experience, and I think it may have been a good decision; just don’t tell Mrs. Faber that.
Sometimes our life circumstances are a result of good or bad timing, and in a weird way, this was too. You see, shortly after our investment in chickens, the avian flu was running rampant through commercial chicken farms and local stores were selling eggs for $10 a dozen. There were even stories of frantic shoppers fighting over the last dozen eggs in our local Walmart. Had we done it? Were we the only hobby chicken farmers to ever raise chickens and make money on it? Armed with a calculator, our family dove into the cost of chicken coop construction amortized over 15 years, feed, sawdust and free labor. After the final tally, we came to the final fixed cost of $18 a dozen. However, never fear, dear reader. We are losing money on every dozen, but we are making up for it in volume.