They stay in a spacious chicken coop, slightly larger than my first apartment. We don’t let them free range, although I suspect the coyotes, chicken hawks and our resident owl would love that idea.
My idea for us, as a family, was to become more familiar with where our food comes from and become a bit more self-reliant. My wife liked the idea of not buying eggs anymore and the kids just loved chasing flightless birds.
In fact, we had our first chicken “breakout” which required a Ryerson family roundup. In a scene right out of a television sitcom, we were all running around the yard waving our arms, throwing chicken feed and yelling, “Here chickie, chickie, chickie.” Somehow, someway we eventually coaxed all five chickens back into the coop with zero casualties ... a small miracle.
When I wondered aloud, “I can’t figure out how those chickens broke out,” my son simply responded, “The spring on the door broke and the wind blew it open.”
“When did that happen?” I asked him.
“Yesterday when I fed them,” he responded flatly.
“Why didn’t you tell me so that I could fix it?” I asked him.
“I didn’t think they wanted to get out,” he responded without looking up.
Alright, how can you argue with that logic?
If you know anything about chickens, you know that five hens can, and do, lay five eggs a day. The initial thought there is, “Good, we’ll never have to buy eggs again.” After a week, my second thought was, “Wow, we now have 35 eggs in the fridge. How do we get rid of them?”
At the same time that our refrigerator doors would not close due to overflowing eggs, our son started asking for a game that he saw on television. When I asked him how much it cost, he told me $30. For a child who used to like Hot Wheels cars at .99-cents each, his tastes have become a bit more expensive. This situation quickly became an opportunity to teach our son about responsibility and the value of a dollar. We made him a deal. If he takes care of the chickens, feeds them and collects eggs, we will let him sell the eggs and earn money.
He loved the idea and quite honestly has taken the responsibility seriously. However, when we had our first dozen and a buyer was lined up, I asked him, “How much should we sell a dozen eggs for?”
Pondering that question for a moment and clearly thinking of that game, he simply answered, “$30.”
While I understand his logic, I shared with him that might price him out of the market, another great learning opportunity. However, he has quickly become a shrewd negotiator so if you are looking for tasty organic eggs at only $15 per dozen, don’t hesitate to give my son a call!
(Editor’s Note: Matt has a family of six: a beautiful wife, a son, two daughters, the family dogs — Tucker and Boomer — and five chickens that are now considered my son’s first employees. Matt’s column appears every other week in the Cleveland Daily Banner.)