What No One Tells You About Keeping Chickens

The Definitive Moment…

When life changes, there is sometimes a specific point in time when the shift becomes the new norm. Life can feel like a whirlwind, but there are those quiet moments when it strikes you, moments when you think, yes, this is definitely different. We wake up and truly feel the turn our lives have taken.

One evening it struck me that this “moving to the country” thing was real. At that moment, I knew suburbia was in my past and life had shifted.

It was not the day I raced from the house to wrangle a horse.

After a phone call from a neighbor reporting one of the horses we board was grazing happily outside of the pasture fence – somewhat close to a busy road – I ran to the barn for a lead rope. Passing my first horse wrangling test, I managed to lead her back to the gate and into the safety of the pasture where she belonged. But I was certainly out of my comfort zone.

It was not my confrontation with a skunk in the front yard.

One evening our beloved, crazy golden retriever tried to romp with a black and white friend.  I thought at first that the other animal was a dog, and I think she did too.  But then she was surprised to be blasted in the face with a tenacious stench. Even a year later the distinctive odor reappeared whenever she was wet – which happens frequently around here.

wet dog farm

It was not hearing life from within completely intact chicken eggs.

My daughter and I had dutifully hand-turned those eggs in my dining room three times a day for 19 days, all the while meticulously maintaining the proper temperature and humidity range for incubating eggs. Then one evening, in stunned silence, we clearly heard tiny peeping noises coming from inside the eggs hours before they hatched into pecking balls of fluff. As we leaned in close to the incubator, the delightful sounds of life in the eggs were audible even before the baby chicks had made a single crack in their shells.

hobby farming

While all of these experiences are etched in my memory, they were not the defining moment when I knew – like Dorthy in Oz – I wasn’t in suburbia anymore.

It was the night I performed chicken surgery at midnight

Farm life, especially hobby farming, is often romanticized in the media these days. I can show you beautiful pictures of a red barn with horses peacefully grazing. I mean, doesn’t this picture look serene?

hobby farming


I do enjoy keeping chickens, and they are fun to watch while I’m out gardening, working in the yard,  or sitting with my son doing an Algebra lesson and occasionally glancing out the front window.

hobby farming


But once in a while I don’t want to go out in the dark on a rainy, forty degree night. I don’t feel like tromping through calf-deep mud to close the coop door so a raccoon won’t eat my chickens’ heads off while I sleep.

And every so often it seems like a real chore when, after a long day – when I just want to put my pajamas on and curl up with a book and a cup of tea – I remember the chickens need to be put up for the night.

One Saturday night after having friends over for dinner, cleaning up and finally getting the kids tucked in, I was almost asleep in my warm bed when it struck me that the chicken coop door was still open. I reluctantly got out of bed, put on my muck boots and zombie-walked down the driveway in my pajamas, through the barn and two gates, and out into the pasture toward the quiet chicken coop. As I walked, I had a conversation with myself in my head. If we still lived in our old neighborhood, I’d be asleep in bed right now. This is ridiculous. Who does this? It’s so cold. But those stars sure are beautiful. There could be bears or coyotes out here. Who thought this was a good idea anyway…

When I approached the coop, I opened the door and flipped on the light to see my little ladies lined up on their roost pole with their lone rooster, all quietly resting for the night.

The peaceful sight bathed in warm light from a dirty light bulb calmed my complaining mind.

It’s much easier to count chickens when they are not wandering around in a continuously moving flock. So when I close up the door for the night, I count them to make sure there has been no chicken murder during their day of foraging. As I was counting the sleepy, quiet chickens at eye level lined up on their roost poles, I noticed something peculiar about one of my red commets. She had something shimmering hanging from her …well…back side. Upon closer inspection, I could see that it was a soft, slimy, broken egg shell.

I learned later that chickens can develop eggs without the hard outer shell around them and, when they do, the egg sometimes ruptures inside the chicken. Poor things. As if it’s not enough that they have to give birth every day, they also have to deal with exploding eggs? And yet these good-natured animals still peck, scratch, and cluck all day with their characteristic chickeny cheerfulness. I’ll bet  don’t chickens complain in their heads.

That night in the coop, as I stared bleary-eyed at the horrific picture of the eggy streamer dangling in front of me, I wondered what to do.

I had never read any advice on a situation like this in those glossy hobby farming magazines my husband buys for me, and so I considered my options. I could leave her in her current state and go climb back into bed hoping nature would take it’s course. Or I could…help her.

Thankfully, I was wearing gloves. As I grasped the end of the egg membrane and pulled gently, she ruffled her wings in alarm, disquieting the chickens next to her as they balanced on the roost pole. But then after a couple of tugs, the rest of the egg shell slid out and I flung it into the pasture. She settled down quickly after that and I wondered how long she had been walking around dragging her egg.

As I walked back to the house, again through the pasture and the mud, while considering my evening, I knew this moment was somehow significant. These animals depend on us to care for them. We have taken on the responsibility to steward this place and these animals, and life had most certainly changed.

There is so much in this world I don’t know.

It bogles my mind to contemplate the vastness of the things I don’t even know I don’t know. So I am grateful for the gifts of the many valuable lessons about life received from living here. We’ve learned more about where our food comes from. We’ve learned it’s seriously hard work to grow your own food. We’ve learned to be better stewards of the food we have because we can more appreciate the gift of the eggs, meat, vegetables, and fruit God blesses us with.

chicken keeping

We’ve learned to value our leisure time – as it is contrasted by the required manual labor around here.

I had never imagined that one day I would help a chicken deliver its egg. It’s just not one of those things I thought about when I brought home my fluffy chicken babies. Honestly I don’t relish much of the maintenance they require. But I do love the fresh eggs. I love that I know where my eggs come from, what my chickens eat, and that they’ve never seen an antibiotic. I feel comfortable using fresh, raw eggs to make mayonnaise, a chocolate silk pie, or even to occasionally throw one into a smoothie. I love walking in from the pasture with eggs laid minutes before and making an omelette for lunch.

chicken keeping

Sometimes the hidden, unexpected work in life is the most valuable. Learning something you don’t know you need to learn can be an eye-opening experience. Even at an hour I wish my eyes were closed.


  1. Love this.

    1. Thanks Hollie! I miss seeing you!

  2. I love your farm. I also love learning about your adventures. This post is full of truth that is only discovered by choosing to “do hard things.”
    Thank you for sharing your experience.

  3. I relate to this on SO many levels!

    1. Yes, I’ll bet you do! I think of you often when some obscure farm thought crosses my mind. Like…why are there never enough buckets?!? I’ll bet Amy feels the same way. 😆. Hope you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading.

Comments are closed.