Raising chickens in the Midwest is not easy, but it can be an interesting hobby. At my house, though, the profit margin is usually very low and the maintenance is high. The children fall in love with those little chicks, and pretty soon they become pets. Emotions get involved, and soon those chicks become part of the family. Not to mention they can cause many rifts between a man and his wife.
My first attempt at raising poultry was in Missouri. My neighbor talked me into going halves with him on fifty chicks. “You raise them for the first six weeks, Bob, and then we’ll bring them to my house to finish them out,” were Roy’s words. I thought, “That seems like a good deal to me, since the chickens don’t eat much at first.”
So I built a little chicken wire cage, lined it with paper, and put it in the basement, much to my wife’s disdain. “You’re not keeping those chicks in the basement?” she asked rhetorically, to which I answered, “Sure, just for the first couple weeks.” The look on her face told me I had not yet convinced her, so I added, “Chicks need to stay warm at first, and we can save money by keeping them in the basement.”
My wife shook her head, knowing this was just one more crazy scheme that would turn to disaster quickly, but also knowing I could not be stopped at this point. She went up the steps mumbling something about marrying a hillbilly and something else about her mother being right. I didn’t catch everything, but it seemed she was doubting my skills as a chicken farmer even before I tried.
When the chicks came, I was ready, or at least I thought I was ready. I kept a close eye on those chicks, watering, feeding, and caring for them. They were so cute, and soon the whole family fell in love with the little yellow balls of fur. The kids named each one with names like “Hopper” and “Orville.” I replaced the newspapers at the bottom of the cage every day, but immediately a terrible odor crept into the air ducts on the main floor, sending my wife into a tizzy.
By the third week, Hopper and Orville teamed up in more than a few attempted escapes, eventually teaching the others how to free themselves successfully. Soon it was mayhem in the basement, with Hopper and Orville giving flying lessons to the others. But it wasn’t until the chicks found their way up the stairs that my two worlds collided.
I remember well the look on my wife’s face as she noticed Hopper and Orville perched on her curio cabinet, watching Sesame Street with the kids. They would have been fine, but the moment they saw Big Bird, they began to peep, and that’s when my wife kicked the whole bunch of us out to the garage– me included.
After six weeks, the chicks were getting big, choosing to roost in the garage on my wife’s car. It’s like they knew she didn’t like them, and they were getting her back by doing what chickens do all over her hood and windshield.
So I took them all to Roy’s house, where they could run free without the constraints of our garage or my wife– all except for Hopper and Orville, which my wife cleaned, dressed, and cooked for us the day the chickens left, in what seemed to me to be some kind of twisted ceremony celebrating the end of her cohabitation with Hopper and Orville. We never talked about this again, my wife and I, but the next time we ordered up chickens, she built her own chicken coop in the barn, complete with a straw bed for me. I got the hint.
See you all next week!