If you’re like me, puppies make you smile, kittens make you purr, and ducklings make you “awww” aloud.
Pets, especially family pets, are good for the soul, and they are also proven to help your mental health and decrease depression. They make you laugh so hard you pee your pants a little. They frustrate you and teach life lessons, even when you’re 45 years old! Obviously not everyone is a pet person, and I’ve met my share of people who definitely wouldn’t pass the patience test. However, most people appreciate pets and the joy they bring to someone’s life.
COVID restrictions, quarantines, and lockdowns made me and my family (well, mostly me) want more pets, more animals, more joy. Even our relatives who swore up and down they’d never get a dog now have one. Pre-COVID, we already had two big dogs, a tortoise, and a gecko, too.
We Added More Pets to Our Family During COVID
But my whole life, I’ve wanted chickens. Yep—the birds that squawk and peck and smell. But they are givers, too—an egg every day! My husband, bless his heart (I’m from the North, so I mean that literally), finally caved into my begging after 20 years. (Marriage advice: ask a million times until he caves.) He must’ve been having a weak moment, but I came home about a month into quarantine with three chicks! We didn’t have a coop or even a smidge of knowledge about how to raise chickens, but YouTube and Pinterest were a big help.
It took a lot of laughter, some tense conversations, lots of money, and hours spent perusing the internet to learn as we went. The most fun was naming these little ladies; we settled on Rachel, Phoebe, and Monica. Friends chickens! Their home is aptly named “Central Peck,” and it’s a fortress.
My mostly grown children (22, 20, and 17) have taken varying degrees of interest in my little urban farm experiment. My 22-year-old lives in a different state, so her perspective is usually the most comical. My 20-year-old lives in the same city but not with us, and he avoids all responsibility around the chickens. My 17-year-old, on the other hand, is a chicken whisperer. The chicks love him!
My husband tolerates the chickens since I love them so much. Our dogs are curious but also somewhat afraid. In the city, we cannot have free-range chickens, so there is no risk of our dogs causing harm. But it is humorous to watch their interactions between the wire.
The Inside Scoop on Our Chicken Coop
It took these girls forever to lay an egg. I thought I had broken chickens for a while. The internet told me to expect eggs when the girls were 20 weeks old. Well, they were closer to 28 weeks. When we got our first egg, my husband exclaimed, “That’s the most expensive egg ever!”
Eventually they all figured out what their purpose was in my yard. Stranger yet, for a long time, I thought Rachel might be a Ross. Seriously. She had the personality of a rooster. Thankfully, she’s just a strong and powerful female—we aren’t allowed to have roosters in the city. Crisis averted.
Then came winter, and we live in Michigan. Basically, Michigan in the winter can be an extension of Canada and the tundra. This year, winter took awhile to show up, but when it did, it stayed for a long time with no reprieve. My chickens weathered the frigid cold better than most other animals. Our boxer has to wear a coat when it’s 30 degrees, so chickens are clearly the more evolved animal. We purchased a teeny little chicken heater that took the edge off, but when it’s below zero outside, it’s still really cold (trust me, we have a thermometer in the coop).
Then in February, in the middle of the cold spell, our sweet Monica had a seizure and passed away in the middle of the night. I was heartbroken. Monica was the sweetest of the girls. Always timid, but always quick to come and say hello to me before running off in fear of me scooping her up to have a deep conversation. If you’re wondering how I know she had a seizure, it’s because we set up some webcams in our coop. Huge eyeroll from my husband, but he knows me so well. I watch them all the time like some sort of chicken fanatic.
After Monica’s death, Rachel and Phoebe grieved for a few days. It was still frigid, so I was even more worried about them having one less body to stay warm with. They didn’t lay eggs for two days either.
Now we’re in the start of spring. In Michigan, spring lasts about five months (seriously, summer lasts about two weeks, and then fall arrives). I’m anticipating getting a few more chickens to even out the coop a little. Rachel and Phoebe obviously will rule the roost, but Carol, Susan, Janice, and Regina Phalange will round things out nicely.
Life Is Good, Even When It’s Weird
I never in my wildest dreams expected to love my chickens, but I do. I saw them as the means to an end, a food source, if you will, (we only have laying hens) and an interesting hobby. Yet, now I can’t imagine my life without them. Our little urban farm is growing. We even have an Instagram page to share our failures and victories with the world (@bluetuliplife).
Having pets has given me the insane opportunity to dream big. I daydream regularly about my someday hobby farm and how many chickens, goats, and other animals I’m going to raise and how that hobby farm will help teach others about animals, flowers, plants, and more.
My capacity to love is greater than most people realize, thanks to the unconditional love of my animals who are all members of our family. And if you’re interested in teaching your kids about animals, chickens are a great way to do so. My animals have taught me so much about love, life and death, dreaming big, and how to be self-sufficient in a world where self-sufficiency often seems to be a fleeting thought.
So while COVID has been devastating for so many and continues to wreak havoc on our country and our world, I was able to find a little place of joy in my own backyard. Oh, and just this morning, my husband agreed to getting a puppy. Life is good, even when it’s weird. Hang on, friends. We’ll get through this, even if it is truly one day at a time.
Pets, especially family pets, are good for the soul, and they are also proven to help your mental health and decrease depression.