Rise and shine – I am sure if one day I fulfill this destiny of becoming lord and mistress to a bunch of chickens, I may yet have a rooster crowing at some insane hour, telling me “rise and shine” even before it actually is time for that. My colleague, determined as she is to spread the gospel of chicken ownership, has talked up the different personalities of her chickens and, as if to assuage my fears about their noise potential, claimed that they are largely silent. She went on to attribute this to the breeds of chicken one gets – and opened the chicken bible I have already written so much about to show me pages and pages of glossy images of all the different breeds of chicken one can get. I really had no idea.
But then, who really does have any idea? People are fairly far removed from livestock, animals and food production. I recall having a field trip or two to a working farm but don’t remember anything useful (and I grew up in a place where most farms were flower-bulb farms anyway, so chicken breeds as a topic did not come up). All I can say is that as a consumer or as a baker or eater, I can see, taste, feel the difference in quality when comparing a real, whole, organic, fresh product and something from the store. I have never had a worse egg in my life than the ones that are sold in Sweden. I don’t even know how they can be called eggs. The yolks are slightly yellower than a pale vanilla custard, and the egg, when cooked, tastes like nothing. Very few things in Norway, in my humble opinion, are markedly better than something in Sweden. But eggs are high atop that short list.
These egg experiences do indeed make me question whether it is time to get back to nature and start doing something – some little thing – to at least get eggs that pass muster for me.
I would not be alone in this. I have read a number of articles lately citing the trend toward taking up farming… whether it is because people are inclined to “drop out and become farmers” (despite having no agricultural or rural experience that might lead them to think it was a wise choice), because people want to become more connected to the food they eat, slow down and do a small bit to fight against the overlord factory farm and get into “niche farming” – or just because people really have reached a saturation point (a combination of joblessness and dissatisfaction with the corporate world, whether or not they are actively part of it, and the real desire to escape the maze or jump off the hamster wheel that the world and life often feels like). Farming is difficult and hard work – but it’s undoubtedly rewarding work – very little can be as satisfying as enjoying the fruits of one’s labors. (No, I don’t intend to romanticize it, but sometimes doing something manual and inherently “good” – not at all ambiguous – sounds heavenly.)
And I do live in a place that at least allows for ideal chicken-raising capabilities and environment.
Some farming trends are about getting back to the earth, to something simpler, but even the enrollment in American high school club, Future Farmers of America (FFA), is on the rise. “No Plows, Cows, Sows: Not Your (Grand)Father’s Youth Farm Group” describes a club that is less about plows, cows and sows and more about food and agricultural science with a healthy dose of “law, public policy, entrepreneurship and bookkeeping”. The vast majority of those joining FFA are in urban areas and are not planning to go into large-scale production farming. But the movement reflects that people are growing more interested in learning about their food and where it comes from – at the very least (organic and “ethical” farming are also issues driving participation in FFA).
I will continue to contemplate my chicken situation – and read this book to find out how one cares for chickens. Then I will decide. Out here in the wilderness where I live, the chances of foxes getting into the henhouse are pretty good, and we actually love foxes so much, we might even be inclined not to stop them. That does not really bode well for future chicken residents.