This post was first published on the UK Huffington Post site. Yes, I am delighted to say, I’m now a Huff Post blogger.
If you’ve watched any of the Jurassic Park films it’s hard to believe that the Tyrannosaurus Rex’s closest living relative, the chicken, could be credited with restoring balance into my life. And, even further, actually changing my life.
These little feathered friends with their funny walks and inquisitive natures are fantastic, rewarding pets and I’m not on my own in enjoying them. Lady Gaga, Jennifer Aniston, Tori Spelling and Liz Hurley are all reportedly chicken keepers. But what is it about them that encourages a balanced life?
Prior to keeping chickens I was either working or looking after children. I had no other interests. Life became very small.
Then we bought chickens and life changed.
Here are nine reasons why chickens brought balance to my life:
1. Early Riser
Mornings were not my favourite time. But keeping chickens forces you to get up not long after sunrise to let them out and begin their day. I’ve discovered, though, that there’s something rather beautiful in getting up early. The world is quiet except for the dawn chorus. It’s like a secret world. Just you and your chickens. It’s a great way to start the day.
2. The Changing Seasons
Being outside early and during breaks you notice the seasons. And I mean really notice. You don’t say, ‘when did it become spring?’ you’re aware of the very first day it arrives. Your chickens start laying more eggs after laying less over winter. Blossom appears. Then the pungent smell of elderflower as you close the coop in the evening. The hum of bees. Summer is here. Until one day, as you open up the chickens, you notice a chill. A mist. Autumn has arrived. And you definitely know its winter when the cold hits you in the face as soon as you go outside and you’re defrosting the chickens’ water twice a day.
I welcome each season, relishing the change, appreciating each one. And feeling a special connection with nature.
3. Longer or shorter days
Chickens are clever. They wake up with the sun and put themselves to bed at dusk. So you become more aware, when you close their hatch at night, of the sun sinking at 10pm rather than 4.30pm. You witness spectacular sunrises and sunsets because you’re out there opening or locking them up.
4. Time out
Working from home I used to feel chained to the desk. If my brain became numb I’d aimlessly waste time on twitter. Checking on the chickens forces me to take breaks; getting me away from my laptop, resting my eyes and giving my brain a breather.
5. Those water cooler moments
Chickens provide me with someone to talk to. They’ll run towards me, being genuinely pleased to see me arrive. Henrietta will peck at my leg. Barbara used to sit on my foot. Hermione used to peck corn out of my hand. And they make me laugh with their different, engaging personalities.
Yes, I’m really lucky to work from home. (Though this isn’t a requirement for keeping chickens, far from it, they’re far easier than a dog.) Procrastination though is a curse for the home-worker. Chickens give me a routine that sets me up for the working day.
7. Loneliness and depression
Research has shown chicken keeping can reduce loneliness and depression in residential care homes. HenPower by Equal Arts brilliantly brings together older people and hens to improve well-being. I firmly believe the power of chickens can help.
My interest in chickens has extended to an interest in nature, wildlife and gardening. Something that I never thought I’d enjoy. Often I’ll be digging a hole for a plant only to discover a chicken has jumped in searching for worms.
There are sad parts to keeping chickens. We lost Dora recently. Barbara and Hermione were two of my favourite chickens and I cried when they died.
But my life is so much richer, rewarding and uplifting because of them.
If you’re interested in keeping chickens to add balance to your life please do your research first. There are books (I recommend Chicken & Eggs: River Cottage Handbook No.11) and many courses available.