It starts out innocently enough. You figure you'll just get a few chickens to try for recreational use. Heck, everybody's doing it. You won't even go full-force because you'll just get a few hens, no roosters. There's no commitment then; you can quit any time.
You get a few eggs a day, and everything is fine. But soon you find you don't have enough eggs to satisfy your cravings for souffle and quiche. You can't go to the store and buy eggs. They just don't seem natural any more.
You make the leap and get a few more hens, and someone gives you a rooster. Pretty soon the rooster is doing his job, and the hens are setting on eggs. A couple of hatches of chicks occur, and you find you have too many chickens. Now you've gone from recreational to production. A few too many roosters get hatched, and BAM! You're butchering chickens in your carport.
Be careful; dabbling in these birds can lead to harder stuff.
(Photo — Baksteendegeweldige via Wikimedia Commons)
Pretty soon chickens start to lose their excitement. You've got this whole egg and meat thing figured out. You start to get bored and begin to dabble in other livestock products. Someone gives you a few gallons of goat milk, and you experiment with yogurt and ricotta cheese making. It's OK; you can quit anytime. It's not like you own any goats.
Then the cravings set in. Your friend's supply of goat milk dries up, and you get the shakes trying to choke down a cup of Yoplait. There's got to be a better way. You find yourself surfing Craigslist while no one is watching, looking for deals on goats.
You buy a few pregnant goats and shove the chickens out to make room for the goats. All of the sudden you've got kids and milk running out of your ears. You're desperate to move product. You start making under-the-table deals and gas station drop-offs to supply other lacto-addicts.
Pretty soon you're so hooked you have a permanent milk mustache. You start expounding on the benefits of raw goat milk to anyone who will listen. You become convinced that oppression of raw milk producers is all an evil plot by "Big Agra" to kill the little guy. Pasteurization becomes a dirty word.
You love the goat milk and eggs, but you start to think about other possibilities. If a glass of milk and some fried eggs is great, wouldn't some home-grown bacon be just fantastic? Besides, pigs can drink any extra goat milk, so you're kind of recycling. It's called "synergy." You start looking at other agri-combos to augment the farm. If pigs are good, adding some cows would be better. A few beef cows would really up the annual meat yields. Maybe a sheep or two so you can start making your own yarn. Why should we pay "Big Cotton" to make all of our clothes when we can do it ourselves?
And on and on it goes until you get fired from your job because you spend seven hours a day at work on small farming forums and reading farming blogs. Your boss got tired of you calling in from work with a lame excuse like your goat is having babies or your chicken is sick. Plus, your co-workers didn't appreciate you coming in smelling like a barn all the time. You get pulled over by the cops for towing a livestock trailer with one working taillight and no brakes. Friends stop calling you when you don't answer the phone because you are always in the barn. Your family stages an intervention to get you to stop talking about the size, shape and consistency of goat poop at the dinner table. You spend more money on grain and hay than on your own groceries. You become known around town as the "Crazy Goat Lady" or the "Crazy Chicken Lady."
It's a slippery slope from recreational chicken owner to hard-core farmer. Not only can chicken usage lead directly to goat owning, but you could make the leap right into something very provocative, like emu farming. Let's all be aware the dangers that a few chickens can pose. Friends don't let friends raise chickens (unless they give you free eggs!).
Rose Bartiss lives in Vermontville.